Now that Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 have been released to manufacturing and the technical previews of Microsoft Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 are available, a number of us are spending these weeks re-architecting our homes, labs, and offices. The world has been changing, and there's no denial that we need to catch up. Let's take a quick look at the hardware required to run all of these new releases and ask the question, "Will hardware be a deployment blocker?"

The specifications for SharePoint 2010 set the most demanding standard of the four technologies. SharePoint 2010 will exist in only a 64-bit version and lives comfortably starting in 8GB of RAM—something a 32-bit OS simply couldn't expose. After the beta phase (during which code is bloated to facilitate debugging), I'm guessing that the "minimum" requirements for SharePoint 2010 will drop to 4GB. While you can certainly live closer to the lower edge of requirements in smaller, simpler organizations, you're still looking at using or acquiring the kind of computer you can buy today. A computer from three years ago likely won't be a great candidate.

So, SharePoint requires a 64-bit machine and a 64-bit version of SQL Server 2008 or SQL Server 2005 (best practice on a separate system). If you haven't had time to explore the reasons why 64-bit is better, read this.

Because I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, running out to buy a server isn't on my menu of options. In my quest to find a system on which I can begin testing SharePoint 2010, I found a Dell Inspiron with a quad-core processor and 8GB of RAM for under $1,000 at Costco of all places. OK, it's just a test machine, but it will fit the bill until I'm ready to throw a production server at it. I now have the Windows Server 2008 R2 trial software (released late last week) with the mostly excellent Hyper-V managing a small test environment for SharePoint.

While the concept of a quad-core 8GB system for under $1,000 at Costco is a bit mind boggling for those of us old enough to know that it just shouldn't be that way <grin>, I wonder if even at that cost it will be a deployment blocker for organizations on budgets. How will this impact organizations in a large number of locations around the world where the relative impact of the cost of one or more new servers is much greater?

Microsoft doesn't seem to think it's a problem, else they wouldn't be committing to the 64-bit-only product line. Of course, my experience has been that Microsoft's main concern is its largest customers, which makes some business sense but leaves small, medium, and shoestring companies in the lurch. Unfortunately, you have to assume this will extend to the successor of Windows SharePoint Services. It's tough to envision Microsoft investing in a 32-bit version of the "free" version of SharePoint when the product is going 64-bit.