This is going to be a little different blog post for me.  It’s not about SharePoint, doesn’t have any how to do this or how to solve that.  It’s just my ponderings about 64 bit computing as I have a problem I run into regularly and I’m not sure what to do about it.

The problem? for me it is VPN clients and how they work on 64 bit operating systems.  I have two computers that I use regularly right now, both have 64 bit dual core processors with 4 GB of RAM.  Yes, I love a speedy computer and to be able to get as much RAM as I can.  With this said, all of my machines are 64 bit.  Up until today, all of my VM’s were 64 bit as well.  As I look to upgrade my desktop to more RAM, I want to be able to use more than 3.25 GB of RAM in my VM’s as well.

I also have lots of clients I connect to via VPN.  But have you ever noticed how seldom VPN clients support 64 bit?  The two I run across regularly are, Cisco VPN client and Juniper VPN client.  Both are in use on multiple clients environments.  However, as many people are painfully aware of, Cisco hasn’t, and has no plans to release a 64 bit client and Juniper has, but you need to be on the latest version of their VPN package to be able to use this client.  Cisco, you need to upgrade your firewall to enable use of VPN Anywhere to be able to use a 64 bit client.  Now granted, I understand they want people to upgrade, but this can be an expensive and time intensive task for any organization, and not one that is often done quickly.

Having previously worked at a large company, we were just starting to upgrade to XP as Vista was shipping.  For many organizations they aren’t even thinking Vista, let alone 64 bit computing.  They don’t have the need to upgrade their Cisco firewall to the ASA series, or the Juniper firewall to the latest version.  They are running 32 bit and are perfection content to do that…they have nothing forcing them to do otherwise.  Then they hire a consultant, who tends to have the newest of everything.  One, because we are geeks who love our toys, and two because we need to stay ahead of everyone else.  But low and behold, we can’t connect remotely because we are running 64 bit operating systems.

So…how do we get around it?  What came first the chicken or the egg?  For now I have a 32 bit OS installed in a VM just for when I need to access a clients environment.  Sure I could run a native 32 bit OS, but then I can’t utilize all of my ram.  Of clients could start upgrading their environment even though there is no specific need to do it.  So, the move to 64 bit computing is much like the chicken or the egg.  Why upgrade to 64 bit if everything you have still runs on 32 bit?  Or, why upgrade to the 64 bit version of VPN (and other packages) which causes all these other upgrades and hastles for companies, when there is a 32 bit version of everything and it is 100% compatible with what you run (ussually 32 bit Windows XP).  In the meantime, you have all kinds of people, like me, trying to move to a 64 bit platform, but unable to do a ful move because it isn’t supported in the environments I need to work in.  Until someone stands up and forces the use of 64 bit (much like MS and Exchange Server 2007), I think we are going to continue to live with this problem when running a 64 bit operating system.

VPN is just one example of this, but I have run into multiple others that have run into a similar problem with other software packages and incomptiblities between applications when companies have attempted to start migrating over to a 64 bit computing environment.  Hopefully the trend will start shifting soon and the support for a 64 bit client OS will improve soon.