Microsoft Weighs 32-Bit SBS

Microsoft Corp. officials are aggressively pushing 64-bit computing across their product line but are stepping back from recent comments that the next version of Windows Small Business Server will be 64-bit-only.

Microsoft Corp. officials are aggressively pushing 64-bit computing across their product line but are stepping back from recent comments that the next version of Windows Small Business Server will be 64-bit-only.

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

That statement made little sense, analysts told eWEEK, as 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. However, many small-business workloads today do not need 64-bit computing, a point that many Microsoft officials have themselves conceded.

Guy Haycock, senior product manager for Windows SBS, in Redmond, Wash., said that while the company is still considering whether to release a 32-bit version of SBS, despite what Muglia said last month, Microsoft is still pushing its customers to embrace 64-bit computing. Microsoft "is encouraging customers and partners to begin thinking about the transition to 64-bit computing and preparing for migration of applications [and so on] to the Windows x64 platform," Haycock said.

Stacey Quandt, an analyst at research company Robert Frances Group Inc., of Westport, Conn., said small businesses are most likely to migrate only when they replace existing hardware. "The hurdle Microsoft faces is similar to its introduction of Active Directory, which required customers to upgrade their systems and learn new skills," Quandt said.

Haycock also said Microsoft is on track to deliver Windows SBS Service Pack 1 within a month, adding that Microsoft is encouraging customers to wait for SBS 2003 SP1 before installing Windows Server 2003 SP1 onto their SBS 2003 networks.