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64-Bit Windows Arrives

Microsoft releases first supported version of system

Servers loaded with Microsoft's first supported version of its 64-bit Windows operating system could hit dealers' shelves this week, but few applications are available yet.

Windows Advanced Server Limited Edition--which supports as many as eight 64-bit Intel Itanium CPUs and up to 64 Gbytes of memory--will be available only through system vendors. Compaq, Dell Computer, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM will be among the first to ship hardware running the operating system, says Velle Kolde, a lead product manager at Microsoft.

The 64-bit server system is technically an evaluation version; customers who buy it will receive a free upgrade to the 64-bit Windows.Net Server, due next year. Hardware vendors will set retail pricing for the operating system, but Microsoft estimates it will cost about the same as Windows 2000 Advanced Server, which is priced at about $2,000 for an upgrade from Windows NT 4 Enterprise Edition and $3,600 for an upgrade from other Windows products.

Microsoft has already released beta versions of Windows running on Itanium chips that boost computers' memory capacity and floating-point performance. But the new Advanced Server is the first Microsoft will support by phone and with so-called "quick fix" software patches. Kolde says it's not certain that the 64-bit Advanced Server version of Windows.Net will contain the same hardware support as the Limited Edition, though it's likely, because hardware vendors aren't including larger memory slots in Itanium servers.

Windows-based Itanium servers will target apps for Web serving, clustered file-and-print services, business intelligence, engineering, and the hard sciences. Terra Lycos, an Internet service provider and portal software company in Waltham, Mass., last week showed off 64-bit Windows servers running a stock-quote serving application at Intel's Developer Forum in San Jose, Calif. "We'll be able to throw a lot more of the operating system into memory and really scale our application," says engineering director Richard Mocek.

Computer Associates, IBM, and SAP are still porting their software to the operating system. SAS Institute Inc. says 64-bit Windows versions of its WebHound and Insight products are due next year. Microsoft's 64-bit SQL Server database is also due next year.

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