One of the major hardware advances on the horizon for Microsoft technologies is 64-bit hardware, which provides a significant increase in memory and processing power. In a recent survey, SearchWinIT.com editors asked you, our readers, a number of questions about your plans for implementing 64-bit technologies, including the following:
What are your plans for upgrading to 64-bit hardware?
Where are you in the planning cycle for 64-bit hardware?
What will deter you from moving to 64-bit hardware in the next year?
If you are planning to move to 64-bit hardware, where in your infrastructure will you implement it?
According to the survey results, SearchWinIT.com readers have the following plans for 64-bit hardware:
Around 10% are already deploying 64-bit hardware.
Around 15% are planning to deploy 64-bit within the next 12 to 18 months.
Another 15% or so plan to deploy within two to five years.
40% of respondents indicated that they have no plans to move to 64-bit, even within the next five years.
This last number is a bit surprising given the benefits of 64-bit computing, as well as numerous indications from Microsoft that it has big plans for 64-bit technology. When our readers were asked why they weren't making the move to 64-bit, the reasons included the cost of 64-bit hardware, as well as a lack of applications available in the 64-bit space.
What's Microsoft doing about 64-bit?
Microsoft has already drawn a proverbial line in the sand with its plan to make the next version of Exchange available only for 64-bit. The technology is also making inroads into current desktop and server operating system standards: Even the current Windows Server 2003, Windows XP and SQL Server 2003 technologies have a 64-bit version available. Longhorn server will be released for both 32-bit and 64-bit, but both the planned R2 version of Longhorn and the Longhorn version of Small Business Server are slated to be released in only a 64-bit flavor.
And third parties?
If you're concerned about the compliancy of your third-party applications with 64-bit technologies, Microsoft has compiled an extensive list of vendor applications' compatibility with the 64-bit architecture. This list shows which products currently are available in 64-bit, or an expected release date for those products that have announced plans for new releases.
It's not just about the performance benefits…
To illustrate the difference in performance that you'll see with a 32-bit system versus a 64-bit one, consider the following: A 32-bit system can address up to 4 gigabytes of virtual memory, while a 64-bit system can address up to 16 terabytes. This allows much more information to be accessed from RAM instead of from a system's hard disk, which can improve performance even on a desktop. For resource-intensive applications such as high-end graphic design, 3-D modeling or scientific applications, 64-bit computing can reduce the time it takes to process huge amounts of data from several minutes to several seconds.
From a cost perspective, 64-bit hardware is becoming much more accessible even to small businesses. Entry-level server hardware, some even priced under $2,000, comes with 64-bit processing capabilities.
Lifecycle management matters too
Making the jump to 64-bit also makes sense from a lifecycle management perspective, since the server you purchase today will likely still be in production four years from now when 64-bit computing is far more prevalent (and possibly even mandatory for the applications you'll want to be running at that time.)
In short, making plans for 64-bit computing is something that should be on almost anyone's short- and long-term radar. Start planning for software compatibility -- and to reap numerous performance benefits for both clients and servers.
About the author: Laura E. Hunter (CISSP, MCSE: Security, MCDBA, Microsoft MVP) is a senior IT specialist with the University of Pennsylvania, where she provides network planning, implementation and troubleshooting services for business units and schools within the university. Hunter is a two-time recipient of the prestigious Microsoft "Most Valuable Professional" award in the area of Windows Server-Networking. She is the author of the Active Directory Field Guide(APress Publishing). You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.