-
-
-
  -  
 
 Home > Cover Story
 Print Friendly Page ||  Email this story
The 64-bit question: Will enterprises bite the bait?

Large enterprises have for long been using 64-bit solutions, and now, even SMEs are adopting this technology. But the move to the 64-bit platform has been slow for a number of reasons. by Brian Pereira

Hardware vendors and operating system developers have listened to the concerns of IS managers and have devised some clever migration strategies

Today, new business and technology trends are prompting more Indian IS managers to take a closer look at high-end computing. Heavy applications like ERP and CRM are prompting even SMEs to consider 64-bit solutions

The 64-bit platform has been around since the late 90's when Digital Equipment (now a Compaq company) introduced its Alpha systems in the country. Ever since, large enterprises deployed servers, operating systems, middleware and applications at the backend. Most other organizations found that their business requirements were fulfilled by 32-bit applications.

Today, new business and technology trends are prompting more Indian IS managers to take a closer look at high-end computing. Heavy applications like ERP and CRM are prompting even SMEs to consider 64-bit solutions.

Another factor that influences migration to the 64-bit platform is the lure of cost-effective solutions from the Wintel camp. Sixty-four bit technology has for long been proprietary and the fiefdom of a handful of vendors who offer systems powered by RISC processors and their own flavors of the Unix operating system. Today we have open, popular and cost-effective solutions that are attracting more organizations to the 64-bit platform. More specifically, we're talking about the Intel Itanium processor (also called IA-64) and 64-bit version of Windows XP as well as Linux distributions like Red Hat Linux 7.2.

Slow adoption
But the move to the 64-bit platform has been slow for some key reasons. For one, IS managers in the country are proceeding with caution and are doing a double-take on resource utilization to ensure if they really need such high-end solutions. Secondly, many feel that Indian enterprises aren't "geared up" for 64-bit computing. Simply put, they mean 64-bit versions of current applications aren't available yet, or that current applications are not optimized for IA-64. Thirdly, the price gap between Itanium servers and high-end RISC systems needs to widen further. And fourthly, Itanium servers need to integrate with current infrastructure in enterprises.

Mani B. Mukli, General Manager (Information Systems), Godrej Industries, sums it up well. "Godrej is using HP L1000 class servers with the HP-UX 11 OS. Although this system has capability for 64-bit computing, our applications (ERP and data warehousing) are not geared up to exploit this technology and that summarizes the Indian scenario. Enterprises have a long way to go (in terms of maturity) before the technology can really be exploited."

His opinion could be seconded by M.D. Agrawal, Chief Manager-IS, Refinery System, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL). Says Agrawal, "We have considered the 64-bit platform for new servers, but with some applications the resource utilization is only 20-30 percent, so we will continue using 32-bit Xeon servers."

Agrawal says business applications need stability, I/O, and memory. If these are available with 32-bit systems, there is no need to migrate to the 64-bit platform.

BPCL, a heavy investor in information technology, has for long been using 64-bit solutions HP n-class servers (HP-UX operating system) with the SAP ERP application. It has also deployed Alpha 8400 and 8900 systems for legacy applications (like accounting and payroll) and the Ingres database.

A majority of enterprises use legacy 32-bit applications and porting these to the 64-bit platform has been a stumbling block, says D.G. Keshava Murthy, Architect Technology Solutions, Bangalore Labs. But he remains optimistic and says the situation will change in a year or two when more applications become available.

Meanwhile hardware vendors are rounding up a fresh portfolio of products and ISVs are busy testing new applications for the 64-bit platform.

Accelerators
Hardware vendors and operating system developers have listened to the concerns of IS managers and have devised some clever migration strategies. A key issue is investment protection, calling for backward compatibility with the 32-bit platform and co-existence with current infrastructure. Another issue is lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), which is possible through consolidation of computing resources. Here are some vendor strategies.

Sun Microsystems has made its Solaris operating system (versions 8) compatible with 32-bit Intel processors, and vendors like Dell load Solaris on IA-32 servers upon customer request.

Hewlett-Packard is offering a choice of operating systems (Linux, HP-UX or Windows XP) on its Itanium servers. HP is also developing a chipset (code named Pluto) that will enable the Itanium processor to work with existing HP PA-8000 servers.

It is also rumored that the next generation of the Pentium chip will be capable of running both 32-bit and 64-bit applications.

A mechanism (read compiler and third-party libraries) for quickly porting IA-32 applications to IA-64 (or a 64-bit platform other than Intel), can also accelerate migration.

Applications for the 64-bit platform
The key performance advantages that 64-bit computing offer are large memory allocation (a requirement for working with large databases), stability, scalability, and floating point performance (a benchmark for the number crunching ability of the system). These attributes make 64-bit servers suitable for business applications like online transaction processing, data warehousing/data mining, CRM, ERP, and high-performance technical computing (3D solid modeling, genetic research, bio technology, etc). Of course, traditional applications like inventory management and accounting can also utilize all that computing power if they have a high volume of transactions.

Brian Pereira can be reached at
brianp@networkmagazineindia.com

 
     
- <Back to Top>-  

Copyright 2001: Indian Express Group (Mumbai, India). All rights reserved throughout the world. This entire site is compiled in Mumbai by The Business Publications Division of the Indian Express Group of Newspapers. Site managed by BPD