Super Talent goes green to make green

It's a win-win move

SUPER TALENT just announced a line of DIMMs it is calling ‘green’ because they use less raw materials and packaging. It’s a good idea with an attractive marketing spin for the company, but the truly important ramifications are more subtle.

If you look at the low profile DDR3 DIMMs for blade servers that Super Talent put out last week, they look eerily similar to its new ‘green’ parts.

Super Talent claims that its new green DIMMs use 38% less FR4 PCB material, 33% less copper and 47% less packaging material, weigh 35% less and take up 57% less volume. That is ‘green’, right?

Yes, no question. Using less materials is better for the birds, bees and trees. However, before you think that Super Talent did this to mollify any eco-protesters who might have been chaining themselves to the gates of its headquarters, think again. Saving materials like this is not just good for the environment, it is also good for Super Talent’s bottom line.

Things labeled green tend to sell for a premium, usually because they are more expensive to produce. Organic farm produce usually costs more because it is harder to grow without all the chemicals that increase growth and kill pests. Limiting ingredients or having to use more of a less effective ingredient also costs more money in green labeled cleaners.

Green parts usually cost more in the electronics world too. When it comes to things like computer parts, green generally means more efficient but also more expensive up front. Green PSUs use solid state capacitors that are much more efficient but more costly than standard fluid filled ones. Using more power phases can be more efficient when devices run cooler, but they also cost more to design and build. Extra cooling makes everything run more efficiently, but more fans and especially liquid cooling parts cost money. And so on, you get the idea.

With its green DIMMs though, Super Talent has hit on the best of both worlds by using the same materials, just less of them. The DRAM chips themselves cost the same, but they are put on a smaller PCB. That is harder than it sounds, engineering tolerances are pretty tight on a standard DIMM, so the cost of designing the smaller green DIMMs goes up a bit, but that is a one time cost.

Once designed, it is all cheaper from there. Less PCB material means you can get more of them from a given sheet of FR4. Less copper used is a huge savings. Less volume means you can get more into a shipping container, and less weight means that container costs less money to ship. Packaging materials are usually plastic, so by using less packaging Super Talent will be that much less sensitive to oil price fluctuations.

That means the only additional cost is engineering the parts, or does it? The Very Low Profile (VLP) DDR3 DIMMs are listed as 0.72 inches tall, a standard server spec. Super Talent has to make these if it wants to compete in the server space, as blades and 1U servers require this form factor. DRAM vendors charge a premium for these parts because they are expensive to design, build and sell in relatively low volumes compared to the mass-market desktop DIMMs.

It looks like Super Talent simply took its VLP DIMMs, removed the buffer and the ninth DRAM chip, and called it green. The total cost for taking this approach should have been very low, if anything. From there, the new green DIMMs cost less to manufacture and ship, not to mention amortizing the cost of the VLP parts. Lower cost is a win for Super Talent, and if it can also charge a small premium over its non-green DIMMs, this suddenly becomes a real money-maker.

So, Super Talent took DDR3 DIMMs, a commodity product, used mostly existing engineering to downcost, and has the possibility to sell them at a premium. In addition, these less expensive parts really are green, the DIMMs do use less resources, and they really will save the planet. Brilliant job guys.S|A

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 Super Talent goes green to make green

Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and SemiAccurate.com. SemiAccurate.com is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of SemiAccurate.com, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also a council member with Gerson Lehman Group.