With all the hoopla surrounding the release of AMD's Opteron chip recently, one would have thought that the availability of 64-bit microprocessors on the Intel and AMD platforms would amount to a godsend for horsepower-hungry IT organizations. But in actuality, the value of 64-bit systems is contingent on the availability of 64-bit applications. In other words, without software support, 64-bit means nothing.Well, there's always distributed computing. I'm sorry; that was a cheapshot.
And therein lies the problem. Although operating systems are being compiled and ported to 64 bit platforms, developers of other types of software seem happy to linger in the 32-bit era. Getting them to make a move is not going to be easy, which could present a downside to IT departments. Without 64-bit software, organizations will have a lot of processing headroom on their servers and workstations. There will be a lot of wasted computing horsepower until software catches up, if it ever does.
To add fuel to the fire, this Fortune article predicts that the next corporate upgrade cycle won't start until 2004. To be sure, even if these claims are true, you know that Intel will somehow survive. On the other hand, AMD has bet the farm on its Hammer series of processors, so I hope this doesn't mean bad news for AMD when it launches the Athlon 64 in September. Now these articles were written from the point of view of an IT manager, not the enthusiast. Maybe it's just FUD, but I think it is a valid question to ask.