On January 17th at the Intel Developer Forum Intel announced its support of a 64-bit instruction set in their Xeon product line.

The new technology will first appear in the "Nocona" Xeon processor in the second quarter, as well as the "Potomac" multiprocessor Xeon in 2005. The technology will also be used in the enhanced single-processor "Prescott" chip for workstations beginning in mid-2004, Barrett said. Analysts concluded that the development of a workstation chip based on "Prescott" core used by the Pentium 4 means that the technology could eventually be turned on for desktop PCs. Some of the key OEMs like hp and Dell were present at IDF and announced their support of the new processor architecture. The first systems based on Xeon Extended Technology will be publicly available this summer. 

At the same day Microsoft announced “that its Windows® operating systems for 64-bit extended systems will be fully compatible with Intel Corp.’s newly announced processors with 64-bit extension technology. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer encouraged testers, developers and hardware manufacturers to prepare to take advantage of Windows for 64-bit extended systems, saying Microsoft had released its latest Windows to 5,000 members of its technical beta community. The 64-bit extended systems versions of Windows Server™ 2003 and Windows XP provide customers with the versatility to run both 32-bit and 64-bit applications, enabling them to move to 64-bit computing at their own pace while preserving their current investment in 32-bit applications.”

This version of Windows gives customers the broadest range of applications available on any platform in the industry. This includes the majority of existing 32-bit applications, as well as the latest cutting-edge 64-bit applications. By delivering greater memory addressability, floating-point performance, and other features, customers are able to run applications faster, scale server workloads higher, and get more work out of each server—whether that’s measured by number of supported users, throughput, price-performance, etc.

In addition, the Windows 64-bit platform allows developers to create 64-bit applications on a platform already familiar to them, thus speeding time-to-market for applications that can take full advantage of the 64-bit architecture’s improvements in both scalability and performance. Windows developers will benefit from their existing investment in 32-bit code and in .NET applications, as very little additional development—if any—is needed to support operation on 64-bit Extended systems.

Microsoft is developing a single Windows platform for 64-bit extended systems that supports both AMD64 and Xeon with 64-bit extension technology. Beta versions of both client and server have been broadly available since Q4 ‘03, and Mircorosft will be delivering the following production releases to market:

·         Windows XP 64-bit Edition for 64-bit Extended Systems

·         Windows Server 2003, Standard Edition, for 64-bit Extended Systems

·         Windows Server 2003, Enterprise Edition, for 64-bit Extended Systems

There are certain benefits the different architectures offer.

·         Today 32-bit based systems are mainstream and Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP for 32-bit systems is the best platform for deployments because it has the largest ecosystem of partners and solutions delivering the best business value and most choice. The introduction of the new Xeon architecture and the availability of AMD-64 systems offering a compatible architecture enable 64-bit for everyone. 64-bit systems for the price of 32-bit will be available this year (they are already. Some weeks ago I bought an Athlon 64-bit based notebook; at BestBuy). In a year or two from now, there will be no more 32-bit systems produced. All systems will run 64-bit enabled processors and when customers need more power and memory, they will just upgrade to a 64-bit Windows operating system running their set of applications on the same hardware at the additional cost of the memory they may add to the system.

·         Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP supporting the x64 extended architecture will deliver the most versatile platform for performance-critical applications by providing high-performance operation of both 32-bit and 64-bit applications. Hardware based on x64 will become the new mainstream platform on the new 64-bit enabled architecture very soon.

·         Microsoft is clearly committed to support the Itanium architecture and will continue to support this hardware platform. Windows Server 2003 for 64-bit Itanium-based systems is the most cost-effective platform for highly scalable applications because it delivers the highest levels of scalability with the lowest costs of development, deployment, and management.

From a developer perspective this new hardware platform does not introduce any additional work other than testing the additional platforms intended to been supported. Once the source code has gone through the code clean or migration process it can be compiled to native code for either of the platforms w/o any additional work. Being already on managed code, it is even easier. No recompile for the different platforms is necessary. The installation of the MSIL code (being marked as platform agnostic) installs and runs on all platforms the .Net framework is installed on.

Trial versions of the Windows OS can be downloaded from: