Application support is a major criterion when evaluating a new server platform. Servers based on Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s Opteron or Intel Corp.s new Xeon Extended Memory 64 Technology processors can run both 32-bit and 64-bit x86 applications, but, so far, mainstream 64-bit applications are in short supply.
Linux currently is the only operating system that can leverage the Opterons and the Xeon EM64Ts 64-bit mode. Popular Linux distributors including Red Hat Inc., Novell Inc.s SuSE division and Turbolinux Inc. ship 64-bit versions of Linux for Opteron- and EM64T-based servers and workstations.
Windows shops, however, are out in the cold for now because Microsoft Corp. has delayed its planned 64-bit Windows platform until next year.
Originally slated for release late this year, Windows Server 2003 for 64-Bit Extended Systems, Windows XP 64-Bit Edition and Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 will not be available until the first half of next year.
Click here to read about Microsofts plan to offer free 64-bit Windows upgrades to some customers.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has pledged support for both AMDs and Intels x86 64-bit architectures across not only its operating systems but also forthcoming applications including Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005. (The current version of Microsofts database server, SQL Server 2000, supports Intels 64-bit Itanium platform.)
Microsoft Developer Network subscribers can download the Beta 2 version of SQL Server 2005 for a test run on Opteron-based systems. The 32-bit and 64-bit versions of SQL Server have the same on-disk format, so migrating existing databases to the 64-bit platform should be easy (according to Microsoft officials, at least).
In addition, Microsoft plans to release next year .Net Framework 2.0 with support for 64-bit x86 platforms. Developers looking to migrate 32-bit applications to 64-bit can use current Microsoft Platform SDK (Software Development Kit) and C++ tools to test their code base for 64-bit compatibility.
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