Is 64 bit Redhat Linux that much better than 32 bit to warrant the hardware upgrade?

Posted on 2006-06-05
Last Modified: 2008-03-04
We currently have 32 bit redhat Linux ES 3.0 and are going to upgrade to 4.0. What are the advantages to 64 bit over 32 bit? I looked on the website and couldn't find any side-by-side comparisons, although it's probably there somewhere, Our Linux server is still relatively new and unless there's some dramatic advantage to the 64 bit, I'm inclined to stay with the 32 bit.
Question by:dwielgosz
    LVL 95

    Expert Comment

    by:Lee W, MVP
    There's a dramatic advantage ... if your software is 64 bit AND processor intensive.  64 bits means there's 64 bits of data that can be sent to and from the CPU at the same time - versus 32 bits.  Which road can accomodate more cars - a 32 lane road or a 64 lane road?

    If you're just running a file server, then it's not going to do much for you.

    Author Comment

    That's a very clear and understandable analogy. However, let me put it tis way: the one and only reason that we use Linux is for a database application that runs on the server. We are a manufacturer and the database is our accounting software for the company. We all connect to it through a terminal emulator (in windows) called, ICE Tcp. Basicly it's just a bunch of indexed data connected with menus. Real simple. Currently we have a 32 bit server that runs the 32 bit version of the db app. Whatever information is brought up through one of the various menus, it does in the blink of an eye, it is very very fast. To replace that machine which is probably 2 years old (with it's 2.8 GHZ Intel CPU) with a 64 bit system and the misc. expenses involved in setup and deployment, we're probably looking at 2K to 3K minimum. So my question is do we really gain anything tangible if we increase the ability of linux to return data in 1/2 the blink of an eye and pay 2-3 thousand dollars to do it? There is an internal debate here between me and myself about the necessity of the 64 bit system versus the 32 bit system and I find it difficult to justify the need for something that improves performance on a level that could only be measured with scientific gauges or meters. Do you know what I mean?

    Also, if I'm not mistaken, we will be limited to only 64 bit apps if we ever plan on adding any other stuff to the server, correct?
    LVL 34

    Assisted Solution

    by:Duncan Roe
    Last point certainly not correct - I have a dual opteron which can run 32 or 64 bit apps when booted as a 64-bit system. Or I can boot it as a 32-bit system - it can't then run 64--bit programs of course.
    You need to install both 32-bit and 64-bit glibc to do this, but that's OK because they install to /lib and /lib64 respectively.
    Anyway, buying a 64-bit capable system doesn't commit you to running 64-bit software. 64-bit is still not as well supported as 32 vis a vis software packages in general - I run a 32-bit browser for instance, becuase of more plugins being available.
    But why are you thinking of an upgrade at all? 2YO is young for a commercial system - they usually last at least 3. Is there pressure from RH support-wise?
    LVL 8

    Expert Comment

    Given your circumstances, I really don't see any reason for you to update.  I think duncan_roe's analysis is quite right.  Just stay with your current system for now.  You can always upgrade later if you see signs of impending bottlenecks.

    Author Comment

    well, maybe I don't need the 64 bit OS after all. I received an email overnight from the person that's trying to sell us the application that's causing this debate. He says that the OS does not need to be a 64 bit CPU, but the OS  "needs to support 64-bit file I/O, We don’t need to run 64-bit programs". I'm confused. To support 64 bit file I/O isn't it necessary to have a 64 bit system?
    LVL 34

    Accepted Solution

    No it is not necessary. Applications that handle 64-bit i/o (i.e. files bigger than 2GB) need to be compiled with LARGEFILE flag - most common apps already are: tar, less & so on. Linux itself supports it, obviously.

    Author Comment

    "obviously" NOT! I know just enough of L to get it up and running and keep it running. I did not know that L supports 64 bits apps. I have ver 3 ES (Redhat) and I will assume that it is included in the group that does. Thanks for the answers.

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