64-Bit Computing Comes Of Age

With 64-bit desktop processors already in the channel and Microsoft poised to launch an operating system to support them, solution providers must evaluate which of their customers can benefit the most from this new technology. Fortunately, since the new OS and Advanced Micro Devices' 64-bit processors are designed to support legacy 32-bit applications along with 64-bit applications as they emerge, there isn't necessarily a wrong customer for the technology, but there are some verticals that will be more eager to adopt the new platform than others.

The key things that 64-bit computing bring to the table are a larger memory space and better capability for handling numbers with many digits, integers in particular. The benefits of a larger memory space affect server applications more than desktop applications, as server software tends to be more memory-centric and cache misses are more likely.

64-bit computing features include larger memory space and capabilities for handling large numbers.

However, large-number handling is definitely crucial in workstations today for mechanical design and analysis, as well as scientific and high-performance computing. It is also important for digital content creation, which originally was the domain of workstation-class machines but is becoming more frequently handled by desktop systems. Photo touch-up, video editing, 3-D animation and light CAD work are all more feasible on today's desktop systems and can benefit greatly from 64-bit architecture.

Large-integer performance-handling is also critical for encryption and decryption, which is becoming more commonplace for desktops and even critical for medical and financial verticals seeking compliance with new government IT security regulations. For those markets, system performance will slow as the long-dormant security options in the OS and applications are turned on to bolt-down networks. Offering 64-bit platforms to replace 32-bit systems is a way to maintain and further enhance performance for customers now demanding additional security on the common desktop.

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A final thing to consider"regardless of whether the customer fits a particular vertical"is performance. A 64-bit processor can gobble larger amounts of instructions and data per clock tick, yielding better performance at the same processor frequency. What that means is even legacy 32-bit applications can derive a performance boost on a 64-bit processor/OS platform. That affects all customers seeking to maximize their return on investment through best-in-class performance.