What to expect for DDR5

Amidst great anticipation and an extensive development cycle, DDR5 has finally arrived- albeit in the very early stages of its launch cycle. Although the new memory standard is still in its infancy, let’s take a quick look at where DDR5 stands now and the benefits it will bring to servers and data centers.

Development cycle

DDR5 is the fifth-generation iteration of DDR (Dual Data Rate) SDRAM (Synchronous Dynamic Random-Access Memory), which has become the standard class of memory since the early 2000s. The development of DDR5 was announced by JEDEC (Joint Electron Device Engineering Council) in early 2017 with a projected launch date set for 2018.1 However, the launch date was delayed to Q3 20202 due to continuous refinement of the memory standard and architecture.

Compared to earlier iterations of DDR SDRAM, recent generations have seen longer development cycles as memory manufacturers have worked to optimize memory performance in ways that are cost-effective and scalable for mainstream consumption. As was the case with its predecessor, however, the long development time should pay off greatly as DDR5 is expected to bring massive performance increases that will set new standards for DDR SDRAM-based performance.

Fifth generation advancements

DDR5 brings about general enhancements and changes to traditional DIMM (dual in-line memory module) architecture. Some of the benefits of these architectural changes include:

Higher clock frequencies:

DDR5 runs twice as fast as its predecessor at base levels. While the base clock rate for DDR4 is 1600 MHz, DDR5 operates at stock frequencies of 3200MHz, handling around 3.2 billion commands per second. Because DDR SDRAM uses a dual-data rate bus interface which sends and receives data on the rising and falling edges of the clock cycle, the amount of data transferred per cycle is effectively doubled. This translates to a 6400 MT/s (mega transfers per second) DDR5 transfer rate. DDR5 also implements a DFE (decision feedback equalizer) which increases memory bandwidth. As DDR5 technology continues to mature and RAM timings are tightened, transfer rates will eventually push the 10GHz threshold. The faster RAM speeds optimize communication between the RAM and other components, improving server performance.

Higher RAM capacities:

For DDR5 memory modules, the maximum die density is four times larger than the die density of DDR4 at 64 gigabits per die as opposed to 16 gigabits per die, increasing memory density on equivalent surface area. With greater memory density, DDR5 greatly outclasses its predecessor with its offering of 512GB per module. DDR5 DIMM architecture also provides support for die stacking, allowing manufacturers to stretch capacities to TB territory. Given that most modern servers utilize multi-core processors, the higher RAM capacity enables servers to multi-task more efficiently in a multi-core system.

Increased power efficiency:

Memory voltage requirements have been trending downwards from generation to generation and DDR5 continues that trend, reducing power consumption from 1.2 volts to 1.1 volts. Unlike previous generations of DDR SDRAM in which the motherboard was in charge of memory-based power management, this task is now allocated to the DDR5 memory modules themselves. PMICs (power management integrated circuits) are directly implemented on the DIMM to give DDR5 memory modules full control of voltage regulation, increasing server power management efficiency.

Integrated ECC:

The introduction of on-die ECC (error code correction) for DDR5 also presents a major change from previous generations. Much like the power management features, DDR5 moves functionality from the motherboard to the DIMMs themselves. The built-in ECC is designed to detect errors and correct them before data is sent to the CPUs. DDR5 also supports standard ECC which offers error detection for errors made in the data transfer process to the CPU. Both on-die and standard ECC protect the system from errors and maximize server uptime.

Other features:

Unlike DDR4 which has one channel per DIMM, DDR5 features two independent channels per DIMM, both of which can issue separate commands. This enables the user to set up a quad channel configuration with just two DIMMs. DDR5 also utilizes extended burst chop and burst lengths, doubling the lengths of DDR4. With extended burst chop and burst lengths, more information can be transferred in each transmission between the RAM and CPU, increasing bandwidth.

Long-term impact

It’s important to note that DDR5 is still a work in progress. As of the moment, current generation platforms do not support the new memory standard. With no DDR5-ready platforms currently available on the market, DDR5 is still a ways off from mainstream consumption. Although DDR5 has yet to make an impact on the memory market, this will slowly change with the upcoming launches of next generation platforms. Reports have indicated that next generation CPUs will likely support DDR5.3

With that said, memory manufacturers have already tested the new memory modules on prototypes of next generation platforms due out next year and early benchmarks of DDR5 are promising. Early reports have shown that it can already deliver up to 1.8x higher speeds of DDR4.4 DDR5 is poised to make great strides as we move into 2022 with mainstream deployment just around the corner, but it will take additional fine tuning for DDR5 to fulfill its lofty expectations. According to reports, industry experts expect DDR5 to take over the majority share of the DDR SDRAM market by 2023.5 The rise of DDR5 couldn’t have come at a better time given the steadily increasing core counts and skyrocketing performance demands.

Stay updated on news of DDR5 development with Axiom

From the first generation of DDR SDRAM to DDR4, Axiom has been a leading memory solutions provider. Our OEM alternative memory solutions have helped businesses in multiple industries build high-performance servers with top-tier memory performance. Axiom carries its extensive experience to the next generation memory standard and will be working closely with its partners to develop a line of DDR5 SDRAM solutions. Stay tuned with Axiom for updates on the latest news regarding DDR5.

As manufacturers are increasingly allocating resources to DDR5 development, legacy memory solutions are high in demand. Axiom has a multitude of DDR4 and legacy DDR options in stock, helping businesses keep their servers up-and-running. Contact an Axiom representative today to check the availability of our DDR4 and legacy memory solutions. Click here to view our full lineup and learn more about our memory solutions.

1 “Next-generation DDR5 RAM will double the speed of DDR4 in 2018,” Ars Technica, accessed August 5th, 2021, Next-generation DDR5 RAM will double the speed of DDR4 in 2018 | Ars Technica
2 “Feast your eyes on the first DDR5 memory modules,” The Verge, accessed August 10th, 2021, Feast your eyes on the first DDR5 memory modules - The Verge
3 “Intel 'Alder Lake' CPUs to Support PCIe 5.0, DDR5 RAM,” PCMag, accessed August 10th, 2021, https://www.pcmag.com/news/intel-alder-lake-cpus-to-support-pcie-50-ddr5-ram
4 “DDR5-5600 RAM is ready and waiting for the first compatible CPUs,” PC Gamer, accessed August 10th, 2021, https://www.pcgamer.com/ddr5-5600-ram-is-ready-and-waiting-for-the-first-compatible-cpus/
5 “DDR5 Expected to Overtake DDR4 by 2023,” PC Gamer, accessed August 5th, 2021, https://www.tomshardware.com/news/ddr5-adoption-huge-by-2023