CUDIMM Standard Set to Make Desktop Memory a Bit Smarter and a Lot More Robust

While the new CAMM and LPCAMM memory modules for laptops have garnered a great deal of attention in recent months, it’s not just the mobile side of the PC memory industry that is looking at changes. The desktop memory market is also coming due for some upgrades to further improve DIMM performance, in the form of a new DIMM variety called the Clocked Unbuffered DIMM (CUDIMM). And while this memory isn’t in use quite yet, several memory vendors had their initial CUDIMM products on display at this year’s Computex trade show, offering a glimpse into the future of desktop memory.

A variation on traditional Unbuffered DIMMs (UDIMMs), Clocked UDIMMs (and Clocked SODIMMs) have been created as another solution to the ongoing signal integrity challenges presented by DDR5 memory. DDR5 allows for rather speedy transfer rates with removable (and easily installed) DIMMs, but further performance increases are running up against the laws of physics when it comes to the electrical challenges of supporting memory on a stick – particularly with so many capacity/performance combinations like we see today. And while those challenges aren’t insurmountable, if DDR5 (and eventually, DDR6) are to keep increasing in speed, some changes appear to be needed to produce more electrically robust DIMMs, which is giving rise to the CUDIMM.

Standardized by JEDEC earlier this year as JESD323, CUDIMMs tweak the traditional unbuffered DIMM by adding a clock driver (CKD) to the DIMM itself, with the tiny IC responsible for regenerating the clock signal driving the actual memory chips. By generating a clean clock locally on the DIMM (rather than directly using the clock from the CPU, as is the case today), CUDIMMs are designed to offer improved stability and reliability at high memory speeds, combating the electrical issues that would otherwise cause reliability issues at faster memory speeds. In other words, adding a clock driver is the key to keeping DDR5 operating reliably at high clockspeeds.

All told, JEDEC is proposing that CUDIMMs be used for DDR5-6400 speeds and higher, with the first version of the specification covering speeds up to DDR5-7200. The new DIMMs will also be drop-in compatible with existing platforms (at least on paper), using the same 288-pin connector as today’s standard DDR5 UDIMM and allowing for a relatively smooth transition towards higher DDR5 clockspeeds.