Windows 7 is gaining wide acceptance in commerce (unlike Vista) and is viewed as the logical upgrade path for the huge number of Windows XP systems that are rapidly aging. There is also a growing need for client applications to have access to more than 4 gigabytes of memory for optimum performance. Since this can’t be supported by any 32-bit Operating System, there is growing momentum towards 64-bit OS (Windows 7) and software.
In the past, the 64 bit software arena was reserved for scientific and engineering workstations but today more and more client systems are expected to be able to handle very large files and images – for example documents that include very large image files or CAD drawings. Typical Windows XP systems have 1 to 2 GB of onboard RAM and applications can access the remainder of memory up to a maximum of 3.5-4GB. Windows 7 in 64 bit form will address much more memory (how much depends upon which version of 7) so it is much more suitable for these demanding applications. However, the OS itself requires 4 GB. And though Windows 7/64 will run 32-bit applications, they’ll be competing with Windows for that 4 GB so even though you can add more memory, it may not help those applications.
So what’s the best path to take? When your desktop or laptop systems are upgraded, they should be running a 64-bit OS like Windows 7 and any critical and performance intensive applications should be true 64-bit as well. These would include document imaging and content management systems that deal with large files and images. And if these high performance applications use third party libraries, those libraries need to be 64-bit as well. But beware. This is a challenge for many vendors and will take time to be fully resolved.
Going to full 64-bit capability is a major effort but critical to long-term success. I’d like to share our experience with you. Here at Snowbound, we create almost all our products in-house. That means that to create true 64-bit libraries, we had to port our base RasterMaster products, our PDF, Word, PCL, Annotation and other libraries to 64-bit. And all the utilities that work with them had to be modified. We then had to exhaustively test these new products on XP/64, Vista/64 and Windows 7/64. This required careful planning, scheduling and execution. Fortunately we controlled the program sources and had the talented developers who were able to perform the work.
And the message to you is that when you’re moving to 64-bit, unless you’re running Java, this is going to be a fair amount of work and may take quite a while if you’re dependent on other suppliers. Take the time to explore and plan the transition. Make sure the application and mission critical software you’re getting can handle it. It’s not a simple matter, but careful planning and execution will get you there.