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Intel's 32/64-Bit Chips Spur Interest

Intel's introduction last week of X86 microprocessors with 64-bit capabilities is expected to speed the migration of desktops and data centers to a new world of 64-bit computing, fueled by advancements in processor technology and, just as important, much lower prices.

"Sixty-four-bit computing is now in the commodity space," says Joe Bedard, systems administrator for Arctic Slope Regional Corp., an Alaska company that helps companies do business with native people in that region.

The introduction of the 32/64-bit-capable Opteron processor from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. a year ago, and now Intel's Enhanced Memory 64 Technology for its Xeon processors, will provide servers with greater computational capabilities and make it easier to justify new equipment purchases, Bedard says.

Arctic Slope provides data-center operations for about 2,000 customers located throughout North America. The data center has relied on 64-bit computing to help it meet the memory needs associated with running an Oracle database, including financial applications to handle the $1 billion a year in revenue. "Oracle is a real memory hog, but we couldn't afford a whole bunch of boxes to run single instances of Oracle," he says.

The company began looking at alternatives to expand its data center and considered RISC-based systems that typically cost $100,000 or more. Arctic Slope eventually settled on an Opteron system that cost only $23,000 and "blew the doors off the [RISC] machines in performance."

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