Data Centers

Windows Server 2003: Should you go 64-bit?

Is your organization ready to take on 64-bit for your Windows 2003 Server? Here's what you need to know before investing in this increasingly available hardware and software arena.

With 64-bit processors commonly available and 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2003 waiting at the ready, when you install new servers, you should ask yourself if it's time to introduce 64-bit computing to your organization.

64-bit processing offers a number of advantages over 32-bit, including:

  • The ability to address more memory. With 32-bit hardware and software RAM, capacity tops out at 4GB, unless users implement workarounds. A few years ago, this was huge, but with today's super-scalable databases and other heavy-duty computing needs, 4GB just scratches the surface for many.
  • Faster computational ability. 64-bit processors with 64-bit operating systems can process more data per clock cycle than their 32-bit counterparts, making 64-bit systems ideal for research or processor-intensive applications.
  • 64-bit computing on the x64/x86 architecture can bring UNIX-like performance to the Windows crowd at a cost that is much less than UNIX—without the expensive additional skill set.

Here are some other things to keep in mind when considering the 64-bit edition of Windows Server 2003:

  • From the administrator's perspective, 64-bit Windows is just like 32-bit Windows, so you don't need to invest a lot of money in training.
  • There are two editions of 64-bit Windows Server 2003. The x64 edition works with AMD and Intel x86-based hardware with 64-bit extensions (x86-64 and EM64T). There is an "R2" x64 edition of Windows Server 2003 available as well. The other 64-bit edition is named "Windows Server 2003 for Itanium-based Systems"; there is no "R2" release planned for this product.
  • Some features found in the 32-bit edition are missing from the 64-bit product, including 16-bit support, POSIX, DOS, and some legacy networking protocols.
  • Not all software will run under a 64-bit operating system.  Before you take the plunge, check with your application vendors.
  • Not all hardware drivers have 64-bit editions at this point.

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