Don't Hold Your Breath for 64-bit Visual Studio

Visual Studio 2010 will be 32-bit exclusive

By on June 11th, 2009 14:56 GMT
Microsoft won't follow the example set with Office 2010 with the next iteration of its development platform and tools, when it comes down to providing a 64-bit flavor of Visual Studio 2010 in addition to the existing, and traditional 32-bit variant. The Redmond company is sticking with a 32-bit exclusive strategy for Visual Studio, at least for the time being, even though it is well aware that 64-bit architectures are becoming mainstream. Rico Mariani, engineer at Microsoft, cited concerns related to both performance and cost as reasons that have prevented the software giant from producing an x64 variant of Visual Studio 2010.

“From a performance perspective the pointers get larger, so data structures get larger, and the processor cache stays the same size. That basically results in a raw speed hit (your mileage may vary). So you start in a hole and you have to dig yourself out of that hole by using the extra memory above 4G to your advantage. In Visual Studio this can happen in some large solutions but I think a preferable thing to do is to just use less memory in the first place. Many of VS’s algorithms are amenable to this,” Mariani stated.

While Visual Studio 2010 will only be available in an x86 flavor, Microsoft will eventually have to embrace x64 CPUs. However, the Redmond company has let its concerns related to cost and performance stop from embarking on such a path with the successor of Visual Studio 2008. While the move is bound to be made in the future, the software giant indicated in no way what its plans in this respect were, following the delivery of the next iteration of Visual Studio.

“From a cost perspective, probably the shortest path to porting Visual Studio to 64 bit is to port most of it to managed code incrementally and then port the rest,” Mariani added. “The cost of a full port of that much native code is going to be quite high and of course all known extensions would break and we’d basically have to create a 64 bit ecosystem pretty much like you do for drivers.”

Mariani opined that at least as far as the 2010 generation of Visual Studio is concerned, customers are better off running the development platform in 32-bit emulation mode on top of 64-bit Windows. And while saying nothing about 64-bit support beyond Visual Studio 2010, the lesson for developers is don't hold your breath for x64 VS.

“I know there are customers that would benefit from a 64 bit version but I actually think that amount of effort would be better spent in reducing the memory footprint of the IDE’s existing structures rather than doing a port. There are many tradeoffs here and the opportunity cost of the port is high.”

Visual Studio 2010 Beta 1 is available for download here.