Microsoft is clearing the fog around its move into 64-bit computing. At the Windows .Net Server DevCon conference last week, Microsoft devoted much of its time to a new 64-bit Windows release and accompanying applications, which are due to reach customers early next year.
Historically associated with Unix operating systems, 64-bit systems are designed to run high-performance applications for use in scientific research, Web hosting and databases.
Microsoft is a relatively new entrant into the space. The company released its first major 64-bit operating system, Windows Advanced Server Limited Edition, last year to work with Intel's Itanium processors. That release so far has been adopted only by some high-end customers, according to Bob O'Brien, Microsoft group product manager for the Windows .Net Server division.
Now the company is working to make its 64-bit operating system a bigger player in its portfolio as Intel and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) make progress toward developing low-cost 64-bit processors. Early next year Microsoft will introduce the 64-bit Windows .Net Server 2003 Datacenter Edition. One way Microsoft is increasing its profile in the space is by releasing critical applications that are designed to run on that operating system, most notably its SQL Server database software.
"It's the last nail in the coffin for why a customer would want to move off of Unix," said Sheryl Tullis, product manager of Microsoft's SQL Server group, during a recent interview. A scalable database application is what many customers say they require in order to use Microsoft products deep in the enterprise, she said.
Microsoft released the first beta version of SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition 64-bit in July, when Intel launched its Itanium 2 chip, and is expected to ship a final version in tandem with the release of Windows .Net Server 2003 Datacenter Edition, Tullis said.
Vendors of the Linux operating system also say they can offer affordable alternatives to Unix with their open source operating system and emerging 64-bit servers. Red Hat has committed to releasing a version of its operating system to run on Itanium 2-based servers as well as those with 64-bit chips from AMD. Red Hat has also worked closely with Oracle to make the vendor's database software ready for Linux. Additionally, IBM is working on a version of its DB2 database software for Linux on AMD's 64-bit chips.