Windows Server

Architecting memory for systems on Windows Server 2008

The initial provisioning of RAM on systems is quite important, and with Windows Server 2008, it becomes even more critical now that 64-bit servers are common equipment. This tip breaks down how RAM can be used in Windows Server 2008.
Prior to Windows Server 2008, most servers did not have much of a RAM requirement above 4 GB. In Windows Server 2008, it is time to give some thought to x86 vs. x64 computing in regards to memory allocation. The chart in Figure A shows the RAM maximums available with the different versions of Windows Server 2008. Figure A

Figure A

Now that all new hardware is x64 capable, it is almost a no-brainer to go ahead and provision systems with the x64 editions of Windows -- this includes the Standard and Web editions, which can hold more RAM. The only real distinguishing factor is whether these machines will be virtual machines or carry a heavy workload as a physical system. If new Windows servers (including selected virtual machine workloads) will be doing very little work, it may make more sense to only provision them with 4 GB of RAM.

When comparing x86 to x64, the systems should be made x64 (if possible) if there is any foreseen need to increase the RAM beyond the 4 GB limit. However, cases can be made for x86 installations; namely, drivers that need to be installed for certain equipment, vendor support for third-party applications, and the possible need for 16-bit applications (read 10 things you should know about 64-bit Windows Server) can become great obstacles in adopting x64 distributions of Windows. The other side of the discussion is to minimize the number of editions of Windows Server 2008 that you use in your environment, which is a very valid management point.

Increasing the footprint of operating systems is something that most administrators want to avoid, but this one may be an exception. With Windows Server 2008's x64 versions being able to process more RAM, the case becomes quite clear. This becomes an even more convincing case when we consider that the x86 versions of Windows Server 2008 will likely not go beyond the base release, paving the way for the x64 platform exclusively available with Windows Server 2008 R2.

Visit the Microsoft Windows Server homepage for more comparisons of Windows Server 2008 versions.

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About

Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.

6 comments
PineappleBob
PineappleBob

I have never heard of this word "architecting", what is it and is it a real word? Actually it is not, it is a bastardization of the English language. I am both a Florida registered Architect (designs buildings and such) and an MCSE. I find it appalling and scary the minds of IT are so smart and sharp, yet they try to make a verb of a noun. An architect is a designer of things, thus an architect can design, but one can never architect anything.

davidt
davidt

We may actually get the chance to upgrade our SBS2003 server to 2008 - can I get a 64-bit version that still fully supports my 32-bit clients? And does this mean that ALL server-based programs must be purchased (or ported) to 64-bit, or will it run the legacy 32-bit apps okay?

b4real
b4real

But, that doesn't mean apps will necessarily be more efficient with their RAM usage!

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

if it is built like the workstation versions, win2k8 64 should run x86 programs fine. My Vista machine (business 64) runs both kinds of programs. I know the processor has no problem with it. As long as you don't get an itanium proc, those are 64 bit only. NOT backwards compatible with x86 like the amd64(x86_64) is. but i make no promises :)

gedwards
gedwards

I tried to run Nero 8 on an x64 bit W2008 machine. It did not work, and neither did the uninstall. Generally, it seems x86 programs run, but there are exceptions. After unistalling manually, I plan on a virtual W2008 x64 bit machine exclusively to test anything first. Then I can revert to a snapshot if needed. Our main use of x64 is for SQL Server / Analysis Services. These applications can make good use the additional memory. Greg E

s.butera
s.butera

I use an x64 Vista Ultimate machine at work and don't have any problems running apps. Both x86 and x64. However, on a few clients that I support, I've seen issues with VPN client software. For them, that's a deal breaker.

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