Is there a need for 64-bit processors?

Before we can get into a discussion of AMD's x86-64 architecture and how it compares to competing solutions, we need to briefly address the needs that do exist for 64-bit processors.

The way the evolution of microprocessors work is pretty simple. The technology that drives the high-end enterprise computing solutions will be used in one shape or form on the desktop level later on. This provides the foundation for 64-bit processors for use in enterprise computing situations, and also clearly defines the fact that 64-bit computing isn't for everyone just yet.

The main customers for 64-bit processors are those that are currently feeling the limits of the 32-bit architecture at present. The best quote we ever got regarding who would need a 64-bit processor was from Intel saying that "we needed [Itanium] in order to design our next generation chips." It is true, microprocessor designs are becoming incredibly complex; with transistor count increasing and die size shrinking, it isn't too far fetched that the engineers at AMD and Intel could use the help of 64-bit processors.

Likewise, Mechanical CAD (MCAD) applications used in the designing of automobiles, satellites and other such complex objects will also benefit from 64-bit processors.

Extremely large database applications also fit the 64-bit processor bill because they, just like the aforementioned applications, can all benefit from a larger addressable memory area using 64-bit addresses.

There are also applications that can benefit from a processor's ability to handle 64-bit integers without having to split them up into multiple parts. Security and encryption processing is an example of such an application that would benefit from 64-bit processing.

AMD and Intel list other needs for 64-bit processors such as Internet Content Delivery (read: high end servers) and simulations such as weather forecasting computers.

Remember when 4MB of RAM was an obscenely large amount of memory to have on a desktop computer? There will come a time where 4GB of RAM isn't too uncommon of a memory size for your average computer, and when that day comes, even your average computer user will have a use for 64-bit processors, whether or not they realize it at the time is another topic entirely.

Index Ambition at its worst: x86-64 vs IA-64

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