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64-Bit Computing Comes Into Focus

Between now and the end of 2006, most enterprise IT shops ought to begin to forge a migration path from standard 32-bit server operating systems to 64-bit server OSes.

That's the message from an array of enterprise users and industry analysts, plus -- as is to be expected -- vendors with 64-bit silicon, operating systems, and applications to market and sell.

Once aimed mainly at users tackling advanced engineering tasks or manipulating complex graphics, 64-bit server operating systems are poised to move into a wide range of industries and to be adopted by many enterprise users.

Microsoft's Bill Gates: "Going from 32 to 64 is more than we've ever done."

For any user, the jump in available resources is astounding. In 32-bit computing, system memory is limited to 4 gigabytes. But in a 64-bit computing architecture, users have access to the exponentially greater benefits of 128 GB of RAM as well as terabytes of virtual memory. Applications that let users manipulate large data sets or rich graphical elements enjoy significant performance boosts in a 64-bit environment.

CPU manufacturers Intel, AMD, and IBM have all brought dual-core processors -- for use in both 32-bit and 64-bit environments -- to market in recent weeks and months. A range of established 64-bit OSes is available in assorted Linux and Unix flavors; since April, so are Microsoft's Windows XP Professional x64 and Windows Server 2003 x64. All are ready to exploit dual-core chips. The third layer -- applications tuned to 64-bit operating systems -- is falling into place, as vendors such as Citrix with Presentation Server 4.0, IBM with DB2, and Oracle (which first released a 64-bit version of its database 10 years ago) optimize their products for a 64-bit platform.

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