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3 min read

The 64bit Scan

From a journalism perspective, I’ve been a fan of Cynthia Webb’s for some time. Her Filter column for The Washington Post was ahead of its time and well executed. She left the Post earlier this year and she now publishes The Scan, which is similar in format, editorial content and tone to Filter. You should check it out if you like to get a well-rounded view of what’s being said about the biggest tech news of the day.

It’s with The Scan in mind that I decided to piece together the following quilt of 64bit industry news from this busy (and short) week.

First there’s a nod to history. Several publications, including San Jose Mercury News and eWeek – reported that HP is introducing the last upgrade to its PA-RISC processors, the PA-8900, while introducing the Intel Itanium 2-based Integrity NonStop server (available in July).  As these articles point out, this move is part of the customer transition off older HP platforms to HP’s Itanium 2-based servers. This now leaves two major RISC server families still under active development: IBM’s Power, and Sparc from Sun and Fujitsu.

Speaking of Unix/RISC, IDC published its Q1 [Jan-March 2005] worldwide quarterly server report right before the long holiday weekend.  While IDC points to a number of trends from Q1, one milestone being reported is that Unix server and Windows server revenue was tied for the quarter – $4.2 billion – which is an industry first. Amongst those who weighed in were The Register, Internetnews, and Computerworld. IDC’s Jean Bozman commented that this milestone is partially attributed to growth in large, scale-up deployment of Windows.

Along these lines, we see that Windows and Linux are taking unit and revenue share away from the Unix/RISC platform. From what we read, Itanium-based servers and IBM’s Power5-based servers are targeting the encumbent Unix/RISC base of customers. InformationWeek served up an opinion on the matter this week, coincidentally (or not) the same day they documented AMD’s ambitions for the processor market. Hmmm … wonder if Hector offered his views on Itanium ;-).

Not to be outdone, and a boon for the scale-up x86 market, IBM announced its xSeries 460 server, which is based on the 64-bit Intel Xeon MP processor (i.e., dual core capable). As IBM points out and we’ve seen, this IBM server is one of the few 8+ processor x64 servers on the market in the near term. We have one of these systems in the labs – I’m waiting to hear the results.

Finally, Ward tells me there have been over 50 reviews of Windows Server 2003 x64. One of the most recent is from Network World, which tested SSL certificate processing and TCP transactions on our new x64 OS and 64-bit editions of Solaris 10 and RHEL 4.0. Of note is that the reviewer points out the huge performance gains by using kernal-mode processing features of Windows Server 2003 x64. My favorite line is:

These options, in combination with mandated 64-bit hardware drivers and the vast amount of memory that a 64-bit processor can address, [offer] some of the best performance we’ve seen on Intel/AMD architectures.

Windows Server System magazine [registration required] just published a technical review of Windows Server 2003 x64, using Dell hardware and testing Virtual Server SP1 beta. The reviewer found that:

“everything—yes, everything—runs faster. … Even applications that aren’t designed for the x64 system run faster.”

As Network World’s review pointed out, we love to see new h/w and apps being released for Windows Server 2003 x64. We maintain an online catalog of x64-compatible applications, and similar resources are available from AMD and others. Similarly Intel offers up the EM64T Developer Center for x64-based developers, and similar resources for development on IPF.

That’s it. I hope I did Cynthia and The Scan justice.