Survey says: 64-bit on readers' minds

New 64-bit technologies are coming fast and furious from Microsoft, leaving many customers with questions about what the new technology will mean for them. Expert Laura E. Hunter breaks down results from a recent SearchWinIT.com survey, and sheds some light on what Microsoft has planned for 64-bit.

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 laurahcomputing@gmail.com.

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