There are good arguments for moving to x64 or at least strategically have it on your upgrade plans for 2006. These 4 questions provide a starter:
Is the industry moving in this direction so I don’t get caught unprepared?
According to IDC reports, x64 servers now out-ship 32-bit servers. Prices are essentially identical between x86 and x64 for server and workstation-class computers. The prices are such that this will hit the consumer market next year too. The majority of PC and workstations will be 64-bit by late 2006. All major hardware vendors offer x64 system and now Microsoft has released or will be releasing shortly a range of x64-bit business and desktop solutions; and their prices are attractive:
Will x64 address my stability and security concerns which are major issues for managers?
A feature of x64 architecture is Data Execution Protection or DEP which provides protection against the most destructive worms/exploits by controlling memory areas that can be used to execute code. Windows x64 versions also provide Microsoft’s Patch Guard technology that prevents non-MS programs from patching the Windows Kernel. All this produces improves overall security and stability.
IT budgets are still constrained: could it ultimately save costs due to performance increases?
According to HP, they anticipate consolidating 32-bit Active Directory servers by a ratio of 4:1 and achieving similar results with 64-bit Exchange (Exchange 12). The International Securities Exchange processed 300% more messages per second than on a 32-bit platform. NASA experienced a two-to-ten times acceleration in processing throughput in their tests. Imagine the cost savings when projected to Server Virtualization. For example, Virtual Server 05 R2 on x64 provides 50% more scalability and more virtual machines. Terminal Services allows 170% more users.
This influences my decision to adopt: just how compatible is it?
There are more than 101 companies producing x64 applications. Existing 32-bit applications can get a performance boost, access to more resources, and most will run in x64 Windows. Some exceptions include: 16-bit and DOS applications are not supported; Kernel mode drivers must be 64-bit; Legacy networking protocols such as NetBEUI, DLC, and AppleTalk are not supported; A WOW64 limitation doesn’t allow 32-bit applications to load 64-bit DLLs or visa versa.