AMD Key to Microsoft’s 64-bit Conquests

Although Microsoft has laid out its 64-bit product roadmap, application support has been another story.

No more. Microsoft is crediting both Intel and AMD with helping it deliver x86 64-bit versions of its Windows OS at its WinHEC event in Seattle late last month.

That means new x64 applications, including Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP, are in the product queue. Microsoft also has several of its other apps in the x64 pipeline such as SQL Server, Visual Studio and a x64 version of Small Business Edition of Windows Server 2003.

During an online chat Thursday with AMD CTO Fred Weber about Windows on 64-bit products, Bob Muglia, a senior vice president with Microsoft’s Windows Server Division, played fair about Intel’s and AMD’s 64-bit products.

Microsoft doesn’t favor Intel’s Xeon over AMD’s Opteron. “Honestly, we use both internally,” he said.

But Microsoft has been seen running around with AMD more of late, including a partnership that puts Opteron-based HP ProLiant DL145 and DL585 servers in Microsoft Technology Centers (MTC) and a pact with Sun Microsystems to get its Opteron-based servers geared for Microsoft’s Enterprise Engineering Center to use in conducting tests and benchmarks.

Muglia was asked why it took so long for Microsoft to come out with new x86 64-bit editions of its enterprise software. Another chat participant asked if Microsoft’s lag time was because of a delay with Intel’s 64-bit support.

“It did take a long time,” Muglia sighed. “We weren’t waiting for
Intel, we were busy focusing on ensuring that the security of our OS was as good as it could possibly be. In particular, XP SP2 [service pack 2] was the major focus for the Windows organization through the summer of last year. Once we shipped that, we were able to put our energy onto Server 2003 SP1 and 64-bit. We are very pleased by the end-result.”

Now, Microsoft is looking at making the Longhorn version of SBS
64-bit only. “We’ve got to push this transition forward as
quickly as possible,” Muglia said. For Microsoft’s server applications, the
company’s two-year plan includes a plethora of tests to make sure the 32-bit apps run correctly onto 64-bit Windows.

“Most server apps and business client as well are supported this
year,” Muglia added. “Some apps, most notably Exchange, are going directly to x64 support. This happens in 2006. By 2007, our focus is to get complete support for native x64 across our server application product line. You’ll see progress on the client as well, but it will take a little longer. It’s less critical as 32-bit client apps like Office run great on 64-bit Windows.”

Muglia also said Microsoft is working with both OEM’s and IHV’s to get drivers written for the Windows 64-bit Media Center OS.

“We’ll see the ecosystem move to 64-bit most quickly on the server as more apps take advantage of the extended memory. We’ll see growing adoption in both client and server. But in Longhorn, we still expect most client PC’s to run 32-bit OS’s. For Longhorn Server in 2007, we expect the default to be 64-bit.”

Red Monk’s James Governor said he’s concerned with the process that needs to take place before Microsoft fully realizes its 64-bit dreams.

“Let’s understand that Microsoft is currently trying to drag
developers through a pretty grating API gear change,” Governor told “The last thing it wanted to do was to say, ‘Hey this chip transition to Intel or AMD will further increase complexity and portability issues.”

Governor added that any x86 64-bit migration is still an uphill
battle. “No one has yet given a decent reason to move to 64-bit. That is still the elephant in the room. What’s the mainstream use case?”

And don’t forget that Microsoft is making its AMD play without the help of its No. 1 OEM, Dell , said Illuminata analyst Jonathan Eunice.

“It’s pretty darn important to have Microsoft on board with any major x86 initiative. They are one of the two major platforms — Linux being the other — and the one that drives the greatest revenues and supports the most important software base,” Eunice told

“Microsoft could encourage any of its OEMs to do something,
including shipping AMD products. But Dell’s business is Dell’s business to run as its own, and even Microsoft cannot force it otherwise, at least on most issues,” Eunice added.

“From Redmond’s point of view, AMD’s success does help counterbalance the strength of Intel, on whom it would otherwise be more dependent. But Dell doesn’t need to go to AMD to make that happen; the HP, IBM, Sun and others have already done that.”

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