Microsoft Preps for the 64-Bit Wave

Microsoft is readying more than just 64-bit Windows releases. It's also developing 64-bit versions of a handful of its key desktop and server apps.

Microsoft has made no bones about its plans to release new 64-bit versions of Windows client and server in the next couple of months. But until now, the company has said little about its schedule for porting some of its own applications to 64-bit systems.

During the past couple of weeks, Microsoft has begun to inform customers and partners of its 64-bit migration strategy for SQL Server, Exchange Server, BizTalk, Virtual PC and Virtual Server, and other key enterprise applications.

Microsoft isnt expected to expound on its roadmap at next weeks Intel Developer Forum. But the Redmond, Wash., software vendors 64-bit plans and positioning nonetheless will loom large over the San Francisco show.

While Microsoft will continue to support 32-bit applications for the foreseeable future, within the next couple of years both the desktop and server worlds are going to be 64-bit, according to the Microsoft world view.

Microsoft is paving the way for 64-bitness with its soon-to-be-delivered Windows XP Professional x64 client and Windows Server 2003 x64 Edition server releases. Earlier this month, both of these products achieved Release Candidate 2 beta status.

Microsoft officials say they are on track to roll out these new releases—as well as the Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 underpinning—in the first half of this year.

"Very soon [not in 2007 or later], there will be no more desktop and server systems that are not capable of running a 64-bit OS," Microsoft employee Volker Will, a member of the companys partner strategy and platform group, said on his blog recently.

In conjunction with Hewlett-Packard and Intel, Microsoft recently kicked off its updated Route 64 tour for 2005. The first stop for the three-day whistle-stop tour was Redmond. The next stop, in April, will be Silicon Valley.

As part of the tour, Microsoft officials are providing a timetable for the migration of some key Microsoft applications to the x64 and, to a lesser extent, to the Intel Itanium platforms.

While Microsoft has backed away from supporting Itanium on the desktop, it is continuing to back Intels 64-bit Itanium for server chores that require high levels of scalability.

First up, Microsoft is planning on making SQL Server 2000 available on Itanium-based systems only. According to the Route 64 roadmap, Microsoft is expecting to deliver this in March 2005. Officials said the plan is to deliver this as part of SQL Server 2000 Service Pack 4.

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