When the chips are up

The two big operating system engineering conferences were held a couple of weeks ago -- Novell's BrainShare and Microsoft's WinHEC. While both were generally well received, the big winners weren't users, administrators or even software vendors. The guys who won big were certain chip manufacturers.

Intel was the biggest winner of all. Both conferences featured announcements that upcoming releases of NetWare and Windows NT would support Intel's Merced (also known as IA-64), a chip that features a 64-bit address space. Merced won't be the first 64-bit chip on the market, but it will be the first to have such widespread support right out of the gate. That's bad news for Motorola and IBM, whose PowerPC chips are generally acknowledged to have a better architecture than Intel's. AMD, Cyrix and the other Intel clone makers should also be heartened knowing they're on the right track.

The second group to win big are the RAM chip makers.

When the WinHEC attendees were asked, "What's the standard PC memory size in 1998?,'' 20 per cent answered 32MB. For the desktop! How many of your desktops have 32MB or more? The really scary part, though, is that 70 per cent didn't consider 32MB to be enough! Referring to those who thought 32MB was about right, Jim Allchin of Microsoft's senior vice-president of the Personal and Business Systems Group, said, "hopefully we'll convince you that it should be more than that''.

Up through Windows NT 4.0, 32MB bytes of RAM was (and is) considered sufficient for most people's needs. Evidently NT 5.0 is going to raise that memory size, perhaps even double it. And while Bill Gates claimed that Windows 98 would not need more resources than Windows 95, most Windows 98 beta testers will tell you a different story.

Novell, previously known for having a fairly RAM-lean server platform, was busy talking up NetWare 5 with its Java Virtual Machine built in, a free five-user copy of the Oracle database engine and lots of new server-side enhancements for GroupWise. That all adds up to the need for RAM, lots of RAM, on the server.

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