The x64 platform for Windows Server 2003 has the potential to significantly increase the performance of any server that’s capable of running this version of Windows 2003. The x64 platform has the ability to run both 64-bit programs and 32-bit programs via Windows on Windows (WOW). Depending on the application, a 32-bit program may even run faster on the x64 platform than on a native 32-bit platform because of the additional memory that can be provided to an application when running on the x64 platform. So is it time to migrate all of your servers to Windows 2003 and the x64 platform? Well no. There are still some programs that won't run on the x64 platform. Here’s a list of applications that either won't run or have caveats when running on the x64 platform:

Exchange Server 2003. Surprised? I was. Evidently Exchange 2003 uses the Installable File System (ExIFS) that runs in 32-bit kernel mode. Basically any application that uses a 32-bit kernel mode driver won't work with Windows 2003 x64 or Itanium. The Microsoft article " Is there option to install Exchange 2003 on Windows 2003 64 Bit Edition?" at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/555468/en-us explains more about this issue. Ironically, Exchange Server 2007 will run only on the x64 platform.

NetWare Client 4.91 Service Pack 2 (SP2) for Windows 2003/2000/XP. The NetWare Client will not run on x64 or the Itanium version of Windows 2003. This can be a concern if you plan to run Microsoft Directory Synchronization Services (MSDSS) with Active Directory (AD) and NDS/eDirectory because MSDSS requires the NetWare Client to be installed on the server that's running MSDSS. You can use the MSDSS for NDS/eDirectory to AD migration or coexistence.

Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server 2003. Actually SharePoint Portal Server 2003 is supported on x64 but only with SP2. You must follow the instructions outlined in the Microsoft article "The prerequisites that are required to install SharePoint Portal Server 2003 SP2 on a computer that is running Windows Server 2003 x64 Edition" at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/905854. Make sure you also obtain the hotfix outlined in the article "FIX: A managed Windows service process may not correctly receive command-line parameters when it is running on a 64-bit version of Windows that is running the .NET Framework 1.1" http://support.microsoft.com/kb/896000/. You must get the hotfix from the Developer Department at Microsoft, which is open only 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekdays. If you plan to install Sharepoint Portal Server 2003 on x64 over the weekend, make sure to obtain the hotfix before you start the installation process. If you enter the call queue before 5:00 p.m., but your call isn't handled by a support person, you'll be placed on hold until 8:00 a.m. the next day with no notice. If you call on Friday before 5:00 p.m., enter the queue but do not get picked up, your call will be on hold until Monday at 8:00 a.m. with no notice. (Don’t ask me how I know this.) When you run Sharepoint Portal Server 2003, it will run as a 32-bit application using WOW. The recently released version of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 does have a native x64 version.

Backup Exec for Windows Server version 10.x. This version of Backup Exec supports the remote backup of servers running Windows 2003 x64, but you can't install it directly on a server running Windows 2003 x64. Also, you must manually install the remote agent for Windows Server x64 by running the installation program from the Backup Exec installation media. You can't remotely install the remote agent for Backup Exec directory from the Backup Exec Management Interface like you can for 32-bit versions of Windows Server. Symantec recently released Backup Exec 11d, which does support the x64 platform and should provide better backup performance when running on the x64 platform.

Symantec Anti-Virus Corporate Edition 10.x. There's an x64 version of Symantec Corporate Edition, however it must be manually installed and can't be pushed out with the Symantec System Center Console. After you complete the manual installation process, you can follow the instructions at http://service1.symantec.com/SUPPORT/ent-security.nsf/docid/2006010609164848?Open&docid=2006052609181248&nsf=ent-security.nsf&view=docid to centrally manage x64 clients from the Symantec System Center. Otherwise all the x64 machines will have to download virus patterns individually.

Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) with SP1. GPMC with SP1, which is available at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=0A6D4C24-8CBD-4B35-9272-DD3CBFC81887&displaylang=en, will not install on Windows 2003 x64.

Microsoft Virtual Server 2005. You can run Windows 2003 x64 as the host OS when running Virtual Server 2005; however, only 32-bit guests are supported with Virtual Server 2005.

VMware Server. This version supports both an x64 host and guest OS. However your server must have virtualization support for the x64 platform. Servers with the following processors may be able to run an x64 guest OS.

  • AMD Athlon 64, revision D or later
  • AMD Opteron, revision E or later
  • AMD Turion 64, revision E or later
  • AMD Sempron 64-bit capable version, revision D or later (experimental support).
  • Intel Extended Memory 64 Technology (EM64T) VT-capable processor (experimental support)

VMware ESX Server. ESX Server’s thin kernel has support for hardware platforms running 64-bit processors; however, support for x64 guests OSs is in beta. Officially, ESX Server supports only 32-bit guest OSs.

Of course, support for the x64 platform will improve over time. Over the next year, expect to see a flurry of native x64 applications that will take advantage of the 64-bit computing platform. Hopefully, within a year, you’ll be able to run Windows Server on the x64 platform without having to worry about compatibility issues. In fact, for some of the new applications the x64 platform will be mandatory. But for now, you’ll probably have to keep your 32-bit servers around for just a bit longer.

Tip: Budget Patch Cord Organizers

We prefer to use Panduit Style cable management for a really clean look when installing a switch in a 19" rack. They look nice, but they’re a little pricey. A 2U 19" double-sided horizontal cable manager can run approximately $50. If you’re on a budget, you can get the spiral binders that are used to bind papers together and tape them to the top of your switch. Leave a gap large enough to run your patch cables from the back to the front of the switch and feed the patch cables through the spirals for a neat appearance. You can get a 100-binding comb for less than $40.