Storage apps start down 64-bit path

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SERVERS WITH 64-bit silicon and operating systems have been available for some time, but the lack of applications that fully support those configurations is hindering some users in their attempts to run fully 64-bit systems.

For new servers, "we try and use x64 [chips] everywhere we can," says Mike Salins, senior system engineer at The Interpublic Group of Companies Inc., an organization of advertising agencies headquartered in New York City. But whether the firm installs the traditional 32-bit Windows 2003 Server or the x64 edition depends on the application software. "Sixty-four-bit application support is still lacking quite severely," says Salins.

The applications that do run on 64-bit Windows operating systems perform much better than they would on the same hardware running the 32-bit version. "Two times is a reasonable performance claim," says Salins, largely because 64-bit's expanded memory space lets the application work mostly out of super-fast cache. The amount of cache you can install in a system is also greater.

In the storage software space, a number of vendors have announced Windows Server 2003 x64 support recently, including Acronis' Disk Director; Double-Take Software; Winternals Software's Recovery Manager 3.0; and XOsoft, with WANsync and WANsyncHA 4.0, both of which do host-based replication.

In the past couple of months, demand for fully 64-bit compatible software has shot up, says Bob Roudebush, Double-Take's director of solutions engineering, prompting the company to redouble its 64-bit development efforts.

"In the first 12 months of 64-bit computing," says Roudebush, "it was mainly high-end workstations and gamers" who required 64-bit support. But in the past several months, some server vendors have begun shipping servers with 64-bit versions of Windows 2003 Server instead of 32-bit, which has sent IT shops scrambling to find compatible software, he says.

In theory, Windows x64 can run 32-bit applications, but Salins is leery of that claim. "That's the theory. In reality, the software vendor may say that they don't support it," he notes.

Other storage applications that support Windows 2003 Server x64 include CommVault's Galaxy; EMC's NetWorker; and Symantec's Veritas Storage Foundation, Veritas Storage Foundation HA and Veritas NetBackup.

As a whole, probably less than half of all storage applications support 64-bit, says David Aschmann, XOsoft's product manager. "Fifty percent is a liberal estimate," he says.

But most industry observers expect the demand for and development of 64-bit applications to speed up dramatically, especially now that Microsoft has announced that it will move most of its forthcoming software releases to 64-bit only, starting with Exchange Server 2007. "About six months ago, we'd get a request here and there," says an EMC spokesperson. "It's picked up of late, but still isn't something we would call heavy demand yet."

--Alex Barrett

This was first published in July 2006

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