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MEC 2001: The 64-bit question

Thanks to the rise of the 64-bit chip, the future is full of memories. But does more memory make the most sense for your business?

While 64-bit Windows computing is still in its infancy, users should start thinking about it now. That was the message of Chris Amaris, CTO of Convergent Computing, at MEC 2001.

Right now, the clock speed of processors is still limited to about 800 Megahertz, while 32-bit chips go up to 2 gigahertz, Amaris said. But an increase in memory is what makes 64-bit computing so powerful.

For example, a 64-bit chip has 1 terabyte of virtual memory compared to just four gigabytes in 32-bit processors. To put this in perspective, one terabyte is 50% more information than all of the printed material in the Library of Congress, though the operating system limits the memory.

Such computing power is still mainly the domain of specialized users. For example, the extra memory is ideal for digital video editing, scientific computing and large file and print server operations. The extra computing power is also ideal for large database and Web servers. The extra memory comes in handy for in-house applications that are pushing the limits of the platform.

Earlier this year, Microsoft released operating systems for both servers and workstations with the new chips in response to Intel's 64-bit Itanium processors. More than 300 software vendors such as BMC, Computer Associates, IBM and SAP are in the process of migrating products to 64-bit.

Windows Advanced Server, Limited Edition scales up to eight processors, can cluster up to four nodes and can handle up to 64 gigabytes of memory. The OS has the same look and feel as Windows 2000, so no new skills are required, Amaris said. Limited Edition also comes with IIS 6.0, Active Directory and file and print services.

On the client side, Microsoft also offers Windows XP Professional, 64-bit. Handling up to two processors, this OS is geared for digital video editing, game development and financial and engineering modeling.

Users who want to ease into 64-bit computing are in luck. Both 32-bit and 64-bit boxes are interoperable. In fact, 32-bit applications can easily run on 64-bit machines, Amaris said. Desktop applications and tools will run, but server applications will not. However, the required emulation eats up any speed gains, so the applications may actually run more slowly.

The first thing to consider when contemplating the 64-bit plunge is how the technology will fit into business goals, according to Amaris. "An application may run a lot faster but it may not help your business."


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