Microsoft Corp. is pushing forward with its plan to embrace 64-bit computing across all its products and has decided that the next version of Microsoft Exchange as well as the upcoming Windows Server "Longhorn" Small Business Server and its Centro infrastructure solution for midsize businesses will only be released as 64-bit and optimized for x64 hardware.
Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft Server and Tools, announced this at the IT Forum being held in Barcelona, Spain.
He also said that while the first release of the upcoming next-version Windows Server family of products, code-named Longhorn, will be both 32-bit and 64-bit, the future update release to that, known as Windows Server "Longhorn" R2, will bring the complete transition to 64-bit-only hardware, while still benefiting from 32-bit and 64-bit application compatibility.
"Were betting big on 64-bit, but we believe in the right 64-bit for the job. In that context, Exchange 12 will be 64-bit only; Longhorn R2, Centro and our small-business Longhorn Edition will be 64-bit only," Bob Kelly, general manager of infrastructure server marketing at Microsoft, told eWEEK Tuesday.
"These are important transitions for customers, and we wanted to signal early so they can plan and that the right ecosystem changes occur to enable a full set of solutions around that," Kelly said.
There were also "tremendous" benefits to customers for leveraging the 64-bit hardware with Microsoft software, Kelly said, most notably that it enabled them to run 32-bit as well, giving an easy transition over time.
"So we have the best of both worlds and what we are essentially telling customers is that we are ready when you are," he said.
Asked about the hardware requirement that would be necessary for customers making the move to 64-bit computing, Kelly said that most new hardware available today was already x64 and that customers with legacy hardware would be able to run a mixed mode of 32-bit and 64-bit.
"But they will not be able to run Exchange 12 on 32-bit gear. This is an important leap, particularly in the case of Exchange where the mail store requires massive scalability and the limits on memory have customers bumping into that," he said.
Moving to 64-bit Exchange brought consolidation benefits and true scalability of the mail store, "so there is real benefit to the customer. Also, if the customer wants a transition plan well enable them with that," Kelly said.
The hardware industry agrees that, over time, 64-bit x86 servers will become ubiquitous as most machines on the market now contain 64-bit capable processors, which can run both 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems and applications.
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. lead the way and have been offering 64-bit capable Opteron server chips since April, 2003.
Intel followed in June, 2004 with its first 64-bit capable Xeon chip, code-named Nocona. Since then, server makers have added one or both of the 64-bit capable chips to nearly all of their model lines.
The jump to 64-bits is particularly useful for server applications such as databases, as it allows servers to make use of much larger amounts of memory without resorting to techniques such as memory windowing.
But one Microsoft beta tester questioned why Microsofts SQL Server product was not on the 64-bit-only release. While the just-released SQL Server 2005 "Yukon" supports both 32-bit and 64-bit hardware, the tester wondered why the follow-on release, code-named Katmai, isnt being designated 64-bit only.
The tester, who requested anonymity, said that of any application, a database would be the type most apt to take full advantage of 64-bit processing. Microsoft IT Pro Evangelist Eileen Brown explained Microsofts 64-bit Exchange strategy on her Web log.
"Exchange 12 (E12) will only be made available in 64-bit. Yes, I said only … The product team has been testing E12 on 32 bit and 64 bit, and have found some significant gains and a reduction of IOs per second, which results in really good performance gains. They tested Exchange on 64 bit and found almost a 75% reduction in IOs per second compared with Exchange 2003.
"This could result in almost a 4X increase in the number of users on the same disks or require 1/4 the disks to support the same users from a throughput perspective.
"If you think about this, its quite significant, since it will proportionately decrease the investment in storage which accounts for 80 percent of the capital cost of Mailbox servers. And thats worth noting," Brown said.
Brown added that Microsoft is expecting to provide both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Exchange 12 during the beta process, "so you can compare the performance gains."
"And as E12 will support mixed 32-bit and 64-bit environments including legacy Exchange 2003 and Exchange 2000 servers. You can also connect to either 32-bit or 64-bit Outlook," she clarified.
Muglia also used his keynote address in Barcelona to highlight the release of the second beta for Windows Compute Cluster edition 2003, stressing how this can be integrated with a customers existing Active Directory environment.