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Issue of November 2005 

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Fast Track

Moving towards 64-bit computing

Mukund Ramaratnam

Between now and the end of 2006, most enterprise IT shops ought to begin forging a migration path from 32-bit server OSs to 64-bit. The move stems from the same reasons that prompted the market to shift from 8-bit to 16-bit and then 32-bit computing.

Memory-hungry applications are constrained by 32-bit technology’s 4 GB memory limit. Depending on the 64-bit processor technology in a server, the memory limit moves to about 1 TB, a figure that’s sufficient for virtually any of today’s business applications.

Says Mukund Ramaratnam, Country Manager, AMD, “Apart from dual core processing and virtualisation, a significant trend that’s picking up among the enterprise is that of performance per watt. It balances power consumption and performance.” This increases computing capacity without increasing the power consumption on high-end database-intensive or multi-threading applications.

Dual core AMD Opteron processors offer significant performance gains while operating with the same power and cooling infrastructure as single core ones. This can allow fewer servers to do the job, and so lower operating costs. The company says that PowerNow technology can reduce CPU power consumption by 75 percent during idle time, thus decreasing the strain on data-centre cooling and ventilation systems and helping minimise overall power consumption of enterprise IT and workstation customers.

Power efficiency is one of a set of emerging components that is redefining the TCO for data centre solutions. According to Ramaratnam, 64-bit processors can increase server performance by anything from 30 to 130 percent without increasing power consumption. About future trends in this space Ramaratnam said, “Native virtualisation of x86 architecture will lead to increased performance overheads. Such chip-level innovation could lead to as much as 21 percent power savings for the enterprise.”

—Kusum Makhija

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