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
vendors and operating system developers have listened to the
concerns of IS managers and have devised some clever migration
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 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.
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.
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
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
Meanwhile hardware vendors are rounding up a fresh portfolio
of products and ISVs are busy testing new applications for
the 64-bit platform.
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
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.
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