Microsoft has claimed that the 64-bit version of SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition will offer an alternative to Unix for both Windows and non-Windows users.
But the software giant has admitted that it requires a hardware and operating system upgrade.
"It is an alternative to very expensive Unix systems that Windows customers would have moved to when they needed to grow," said Mitch Gatchalian, product manager for SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition at Microsoft.
"To non-Windows customers you now have a choice. We have better economics.
"We're going to see Windows customers move up. We'll see the top-end customers, those in the terabyte levels doing business intelligence and data warehousing, shifting over to a 64-bit platform."
Microsoft is playing up the ease of migration, performance and cost benefits of 64-bit SQL Server, which is priced at the same level as the 32-bit version.
"You can do a lot more data manipulation," explained Gatchalian. "This release is all about scalability and performance. Migration is another big win. One customer moved hundreds of gigabytes [to 64-bit SQL Server] over in a few hours."
Users with volume discount licensing packages will pay less, and Microsoft revealed that UK pricing is £16,000 for the retail processor licence which gives unlimited users access to that processor.
But the better performance will still come at a price, as the software will need a hardware upgrade.
"We are seeing customers that would have gone to eight-way 32-bit implementations experiencing equal, if not better, performance on a four-way 64-bit platform," said Gatchalian.
"It does require a new piece of hardware and an operating system, but you immediately get performance boost."
One of the main features to utilise Itanium 2 is direct addressable memory, which enables very complex queries because more database objects can be opened and defined.
Rob Hailstone, research director at IDC, suggested that 64-bit computing is still some way off the mainstream, and is mainly useful for large data warehousing or click-stream analysis.
"Most organisations don't need a 64-bit database right now, but it allows Microsoft to tick another box for enterprise computing," he said.
"Whether this is enough to make people move away from the DB2s and Oracle is another question."
Hailstone added that AMD's launch of its 64-bit Opteron processor would be a price challenge for the Intel architecture, especially as it is able to run both 32-bit and 64-bit code.
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