Microsoft Waffles on 64-Bit Computing Push

Redmond's resolve to drive 64-bit computing across its product lines looks to be weakening as the company re-evaluates schedules for its server lines and considers 32-bit versions.

Microsoft officials are aggressively pushing 64-bit computing across their entire product line, but there are a number of issues that may significantly slow customer adoption in the short-term.

Microsoft Corp. server executives are also stepping back from recent comments that the next version of Windows SBS (Small Business Server) will be 64-bit only.

Bob Muglia, Microsofts senior vice president for Windows Server, recently said at WinHEC (the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference) in Seattle that while the company intends to ship both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of its Longhorn Server software sometime in 2007, it plans to only release a 64-bit version of Small Business Server in that time-frame.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about Microsofts plans to release a 64-bit-only version of Small Business Server.

That statement raised eyebrows, particularly as many workloads today do not need 64-bit computing—especially those for small businesses—a point that many Microsoft officials have themselves conceded.

Also, having 32-bit versions for the Longhorn client and server and not for SBS made no sense, analysts told eWEEK.com.

The major benefit of 64-bit computing for small businesses is that it will allow many of their applications to run faster, even those that are 32-bit.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about Microsofts call for developers to start building 64-bit device drivers.

But many customers, especially those in the SMB (small and midsize business) space, will likely only be willing to incur the expense involved in migrating workloads to 64-bit unless the costs and benefits could be proven, said Stacey Quandt, an analyst at research company Robert Frances Group Inc. of Westport, Conn.

She said these users were also most likely to move across only when they replaced existing hardware.

Currently, only those niche, vertical market segments such as oil and gas, digital animation and life sciences needed 64-bit capabilities, she said.

But the markets where 64-bit computing is an advantage "have largely eluded Microsoft because it did not have a 64-bit operating system for the target hardware or the customers in that market segment were predisposed to deploy Linux because of familiarity with Unix and cost advantages of large Beowulf clusters," she said.

Microsoft was late with 64-bit capabilities for Itanium, and customers would not migrate workloads to 64-bit unless the costs and benefits could be proven.

"The hurdle Microsoft faces is similar to its introduction of Active Directory, which required customers to upgrade their systems and new skills," she said.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read what Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates told eWEEK.com about the challenges and opportunities of 64-bit computing.

While Guy Haycock, the senior product manager for Windows SBS in Redmond, Wash., told eWEEK.com that no firm decision had been made with regard to a 64-bit only version, despite what Muglia said last month, he did further indicate Microsofts desire to have all its customers embrace 64-bit computing.

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