Microsoft releases 64-bit Windows

Network World Fusion –

Microsoft Corp. has cracked the seal into the 64-bit computing world with the release of Windows 2000 Advanced Server Limited Edition.

The software is designed for Intel Corp.'s new 64-bit Itanium chip, which was released earlier this year. The OS is built on the Windows.Net code base, formerly code-named Whistler, and includes several of that software's features, such as headless support and improved driver support.

The OS finally brings Microsoft in line with rival Linux vendors, which have been shipping 64-bit Itanium versions of their Linux distributions for months. In July, Linux vendor Red Hat Inc. began shipping a 64-bit version of its server operating system, joining 64-bit OS software from rivals Caldera Systems Inc., SuSE Linux AG and TurboLinux Inc. In addition, Sun Microsystems Inc. and IBM Corp. have had 64-bit Unix architectures for years.

The 64-bit Windows server is only available through OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and several hardware manufacturers said they would ship systems in the next 30 days, including Compaq, Dell Computer, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM. Fujitsu, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, NEC and Unisys will ship systems later this year.

In addition, Microsoft will release a 64-bit version of Windows XP Professional, the desktop version of the OS, on Oct. 25. A 64-bit version of Windows 2000 DataCenter, the high-end server platform that supports up to 32 processors, will ship in the first half of next year.

The 64-bit Windows server, however, likely won't find its way into enterprise networks anytime soon.

"This OS needs to be in the lab, sandboxed and used as a test environment to help IT decide what to do with it a year or two down the road," says Dave Kearns, a freelance writer and Network World columnist. "Also, I wouldn't recommend an Itanium-based server in a production environment."

Microsoft officials concurred saying adoption would follow a slow curve. "Enterprise customers will want to do thorough testing and benchmarking of their applications," says Velle Kolde, lead product manager for Windows Enterprise Servers. But Kolde said the OS eventually would meet the needs for high-performance databases and Web servers. The 64-bit server supports up to eight processors, 64G-bytes of memory and comes with 25 client access licenses.

Another major limiting factor is the lack of applications designed for the 64-bit platform. Microsoft and IBM are working to port their respective databases to the platform. Oracle has shipped a version of its database running on Linux on Itanium. Computer Associates, J.D. Edwards, NetIQ, SAP, SAS Institute and Veritas also are working to port software to the 64-bit platform.

Microsoft officials say applications that require large memory and improved mathematical computation would be ideal for 64-bit Windows. Such applications could be Web caching, data warehousing, complex mechanical design and analysis, and scientific applications and research.

Johns Hopkins University is using Itanium-based servers in a project to map the galaxies. The university is in the process of porting its scientific number-crunching applications from Tru64 Unix on Alpha to 64-bit Windows on Itanium.

While industry experts agree Itanium-based servers will take time to become widely adopted, the processor family is eventually seen as a competitor to 64-bit architectures designed by Sun Microsystems and IBM. The 64-bit chip processes data in chunks 64-bits long, as opposed to 32 bits, which is what Intel's previous "Wintel" Pentium and Xeon processors could handle.

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