Is 64-bit a superior platform as compared to the 32-bit platform?

A lot of people, from different walks of life meet me and often ask, that now, with the availability of 64-bit platforms, should they only go and buy 64-bit machines? Is the 32-bit platform not old and slow? With the availability of 64-bit platforms they feel that there is no point in going ahead and investing in 32-bit technology.

I too, may be also shared similar point of views as theirs till sometime back. This was before I got down to the nitty-gritty’s of the 64-bit system and actually started testing and exploring stuff for myself. The observations that I had were quite revealing. And in the end, many a times were even logical. Though there are quite a few people/organizations who have been independently doing studies and publishing results, I feel for a common man, we are still way to go. A lot needs to be done before everyone including a layman can understand the 64-bit technology and its associated pros and cons.

64-bit platforms, as people make it sound, is not like a fashion range which people should want to own and flaunt. It’s all about a change in perspective. Okie, I would cut across this debate and just focus about a few findings that I saw in the 64-bit platform.

What runs faster on 64-bit?
Applications which perform better on 64-bit platform are usually those which are
• More math intensive – Need more calculations, more floating point precisions,
• More memory address – Need more data to be kept in memory rather than disk at any given time
• More concurrent users or threads

What runs slower on 64-bit?
• Some applications do not perform well on 64-bit platforms because they use more memory and blow out the available cache. The reason for this is larger object reference sizes. Most of the managed world deals with lot of object references.
• Applications which are unable to make full use of the 64-bit processor are slower.
• Startup times of apps is usually more as compared to the 32-bit versions

Where each platform stands -
x64 Native
Performance of the native x64 platform is usually the best amongst all (including x86).
Itanium Native
Performance of native IA64 platform is usually not as good when compared to the x86 platform.
x64 WoW64
The x64 WoW64 scenarios are often found to perform equivalent or better than the x86 scenarios as the kernel can handle tasks in a more efficient way.
Itanium WoW64
Being an emulation of the x86 platform, the Itanium WoW64 is known to have quite a few issues. Problems like getting locked down to a single thread instead of multithreading are common in IA64 WoW scenarios.