Thursday, April 20, 2006

64 bit scientific computing

A press release from MathWorks tells me that Matlab now supports 64bit Windows, not in previous versions as I mistakenly commented in previous news. This prompted me to do a quick survey of software which should benefit from 64bit support to see which does.

The real benefit of 64 bit to scientific computing is the large memory allocation that is made possible. No 32 bit application can use more than 4GB of RAM, and OS issues often reduce that to 2GB. So products that should go 64bit are those which might be applied to large data or complex data structures, my survey picked a collection of such products.

The only two important 64bit platforms are Linux and Windows. The first already has large penetration, and the other is, well, Microsoft, and so automatically important!

Supports Linux 64 and Windows 64
Matlab, Mathematica , Stata

Supports Linux 64 but not Windows 64
GAUSS, IMSL, Maple

Supports neither
AutoCAD, ChemOffice, Genstat, MathCAD, MatrixX, Minitab, O-Matrix, Origin, S Plus, Systat, Unistat

Rather disappointing!

On closer inspection, nearly all of the products that I looked at in the "neither" category, support only one platform - Windows 32 bit. Having had a strategy of focusing on one popular platform, it is not surprising that they will wait until 64 bit is not only mainstream but majority. But I suspect that because these companies have no experience in porting and have made no effort to write portable code or muti-platform build systems, it may also be harder for them not make the shift.

With the release of Vista at the end of the year, the 64/32 distinction will be blurred, allowing these companies to hide the fact that they do not have 64 bit support.

So when you do make the switch to 64 bit, remember to ask if it will make any difference for the software you use.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

> the only two important 64bit platforms are Linux and Windows

Really? And stated soooooo confidently. Smack.

You might want to potter over to apple.com and enjoy the splendors.

Scientific Computing said...

Fair point. There were two reasons why I said that.

First, Apple has limited market share generally.

You can be important by influence without being dominant. But the second reason is that Apple seem to be distracted from 64 bit right now with the new Intel platform using Intel Core 32 bit chips being the main direction.

TomBrooks said...

How about now?
64bit OS's are better established.