Microsoft set to launch 64-bit blitz

Microsoft next month will finally ship the long-awaited 64-bit editions of its latest server and client operating systems--and the move is just the tip of a 64-bit iceberg.

Microsoft plans to offer 64-bit versions of several of its applications this year and next, including SQL Server, Exchange, Commerce Server, Microsoft Operations Manager, and Virtual Server. Today, SQL Server 2000 is the only Microsoft application offered on a 64-bit platform.

The company's first and oft-delayed plunge into 64-bit computing comes next month with the release of Windows Server 2003 X64 Editions and Windows XP Professional X64 Edition. Microsoft made the announcement earlier this month at the Intel Developer Forum conference.

X64 Platforms

But the 64-bit initiative doesn't end there. Microsoft has been briefing partners and developers during its Route64 Training Tour on its future plans for its applications on AMD64 and Intel's EM64T processors, so-called X64 platforms.

According to slides presented to developers in February, Microsoft has at least 12 products slated for 64-bit versions over the next 21 months.

"The information in the slides is incomplete and is in the process of being updated, and we will have more to share at the end of April," a Microsoft spokesperson cautions.

First Up

Nevertheless, the slides show that first out of the gate will be SQL Server 2005, code-named Yukon, which will have both X64 and Itanium support, and Visual Studio 2005, code-named Whidbey, which also will support both sets of processors.

In the third quarter, Microsoft is scheduled to ship Commerce Server, code-named Golden Eagle, BizTalk Server, code-named Pathfinder, and Host Integration Server 2005, all on the X64 platform only. Sometime in the second half, Microsoft is set to release an X64 version of Virtual Server 2005 with Service Pack 1 of that software, and for Virtual PC 2004 with SP2. Also later this year, Microsoft plans to release an X64 and Itanium version of Services for Unix, an integration and migration platform.

Next year, Microsoft is scheduled to release a version of Microsoft Operations Manager, code-named Relentless, for both X64 and Itanium. The year also will include X64 releases of Exchange 12, Virtual PC Server Version 2, code-named Hedgehog, and Virtual Server Version 2.

At the Intel conference, Microsoft didn't provide details on its 64-bit application road map, but Jim Allchin, group vice president for platforms, said the company is "locked on to 64-bit."

Playing Catch-up

Microsoft already has support for Intel's Itanium 64-bit processor on the Enterprise and Datacenter versions of Win 2003 and SQL Server 2000, but the advent of 32-bit processors with 64-bit extensions from both Advanced Micro Devices and Intel is finally motivating Microsoft to play catch-up with Unix and Linux platforms that have had 64-bit support for years.

"Microsoft has been waiting for 64-bit to become a high-volume hardware platform before making a commitment," says Dan Kusnetzky, program director for operating environments and serverware at research firm IDC. "With 64-bit applications, they can better compete in the market for systems for high-performance and computational applications. Right now, when you talk about supercomputing, you seldom hear anyone talk about Windows."

He says the new X64 processors mean that users can look at migration as evolutionary and not disruptive. "If users had to move everything all at once, top to bottom, they would resist a change like that," he says.

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