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Is 2005 the year for 64-bit computing?

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In a previous post we talked about whether 2005 was the year for Linux, in this post we'll discuss whether this is the year that 64-bit computing really takes off both in the enterprise and on the desktop.

I have spent the last week sitting in sessions at an internal Microsoft conference called Envision. Today I have just finished sitting through a couple of sessions that were discussing 64-bit computing and what Microsoft has to offer in this space. What was most interesting is the realization that a number of you out there probably already have 64-bit capable hardware today. Most of the newer Intel Xeon processors already support the 64-bit extensions. Additionally, for those of you running AMD, a number of those processors are already 64-bit too. In fact, the most recent PC I bought for home is actually an AMD Athlon 64 machine. Part of the reason you may not be aware of this is that x64 platforms also run x86 Operating Systems.

So how does Microsoft fit into this? Microsoft is actively working with the hardware partners to ensure that we have solutions in place to support both 64-bit with the Itanium Processor Family (IPF) and 64-bit with EM64T and AMD64 (which I'll call x64 from now on). To that end, Microsoft has been shipping Windows Server 2003 for Itanium for a while now. For x64 based systems, there are a couple of things in the works. Windows Server 2003 for x64 is currently available to Beta customers. If you are more interested in the desktop side of things, we also have Windows XP Professional x64 Edition available as a Customer Preview.

I have been running Windows Server 2003 x64 on my home machine for a month or so now and have had no real problems with any of the software that I use. However, the most important thing to remember in moving to Server 2003 x64 or XP Pro x64 is that you need to have fully 64-bit drivers for all of your hardware. Additionally, any software that has kernel mode drivers will need to have those available 64-bit. As for the rest of the Microsoft products, SQL Server 2005 will be supported on both x64 and Itanium systems, and from what it looks like (from my earlier post) the SQL Server 2004 SP4 will add support for running in WOW on x64 platforms.

What this means for most of you is that may already have the hardware in place to try out some of the new x64 versions of software that are available in pre-release. Take a close look at that new machine you have at home, you never know, it may just be a 64-bit machine that is running a 32-bit OS.

Let me know what your experiences with 64-bit have been and if you are running a 64-bit system with Microsoft software.

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  • Is 2005 the year for 64-bit computing?