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64-bit SharePoint 2010 driven by demand

SharePoint 2010 will be 64-bit only, leaving 32-bit behind. Find out how this will impact you and your clients.

Improving the performance and flexibility of a system are two driving factors behind Microsoft's announcement that SharePoint 2010 will leave 32-bitness behind and become 64-bit only, said Rob Munro, director of consumer marketing for T4G Ltd., based in Toronto.

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In terms of memory consumption, users are limited with 32-bit, which contains three to four gigs of memory. With 64-bit, the memory is almost limitless, Munro said. In addition, 64-bit allows users to write in code that is able to process faster by using 64-bit, he said.

Matt Morse, a solutions architect for SharePoint at PointBridge, located in Chicago, said Microsoft decided SharePoint 2010 would be 64-bit only because that is the direction things are going in the server room, and it should not come as a surprise to users.

"They made the official announcement recently, but the guidance [Microsoft] has been giving for some time has been [that] the current version is the last of 32-bit," Morse said. "What made the decision for [Microsoft] is that they'd be able to deliver more features and better quality. And for those users who have done hardware updates in the last couple of years, the chances are they are 64-bit already, anyway."

Microsoft had made a similar 64-bit leap before with Exchange Server in 2007, and it received a considerable amount of negative feedback. However, the pushback should be considerably less this year, Morse said.

"I think there will be some people that don't like their software provider dictating to them what their hardware choice will be," Morse said. "But, we're a few years further down the road. I think there will probably be some people who make the same kind of noises, [but] my guess is it will be a significantly lower population."

From a user perspective, the 64-bit only news is good news. However, the headache comes from IT people who have to take care of data centers and must keep using 32-bit hardware, Morse said.

Rand Morimoto, president of Convergent Computing in Oakland, Calif., said Microsoft Exchange 2007 became a bigger issue because it broke new ground and 64-bitness was new to many people.

At this point, most organizations that have SharePoint also have Exchange and have "already crossed that 2007 64-bit threshold and see the benefits of 64-bit," Morimoto said.

One of the issues users might encounter on SharePoint when converting to 64-bit is adding any third-party plug-ins with filters that have already been created to formulate pages, Morimoto said.

"We ran into that with Exchange for archiving add-ins and backup tools. It took probably six to nine months for some of those vendors to come up to speed," he said. "But I think the vendor community is better prepared [this time] and SharePoint 2010 is still a few months away, giving these organizations plenty of time to develop 64-bit code."

The existing investment in 32-bit is definitely the number one area of concern, said TG4's Munro. Another issue is that in order to develop a testing environment, all environments need to be 64-bit. That means laptops will have to be 64-bit, causing even more upgrades, he said.

"I think overall it's a positive move," Munro said. "There's going to be some aggravation in upgrade issues for some customers, but I think they announced the system requirements earlier than they have in the past for this reason."

Paul Barter, VP of strategy at T4G, said 64-bit hardware is now reasonably priced, making it incredibly cost-effective.

"I think basically all servers are going to be 64-bit, so it's just reality that hardware is reasonably priced now, and there's a requirement for [a 64-bit] level of performance," Barter said.

The only "gotcha" applies to small to medium-sized businesses that may need to upgrade. But the majority of those businesses are not early adopters and may wait until their next hardware upgrade cycle, Barter said.

"In the enterprise, 64-bit only is not a big deal," Barter said. "I'm sure the channel and employees in the enterprise will need to upgrade their skills, but the reality is we need to do that anyway -- it's not a SharePoint question."

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