Late last year, Ron Wilson, who is the Editor-in-Chief for our partner Altera, posted a great article – DRAM Controllers for System Designers – that provides a deep dive into DRAM controllers, and how they work. As with every other element of electronic system design, you need to get this one right. As Ron says,
The proper operation of the DRAM controller can make the difference between a system that meets its design requirements and a system that runs too slow, overheats, or fails. Either way, ultimately the system design team—who often have little access to information about the controller—will bear the responsibility.
Ron’s article delves into the full complexities of having an advanced DRAM controller playing intermediary between the innards of a system-on-chip (SoC) and external DRAM, and concludes with some suggestions for systems design.
I’m not going to attempt a summary of the article here – it is most definitely worth a full read for anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of DRAM and DRAM controllers: how DRAM works, and the complexity involved inside of DRAM and a DRAM controller. Most of us who design electronics products don’t typically have to get in at this level, but it’s always good to know what’s going on down there. And to know that if you require control over how the DRAM controller functions, you have the option to do so if you work with an FPGA or design your own ASICs.