Fat, fatter, fattest: Microsoft's kings of bloat
Our tests show that Windows Vista and Office 2007 not only smash Redmond's previous records for weight gain, but given the same hardware diet, run at less than half the speed of generation XP
What Intel giveth, Microsoft taketh away. Such has been the conventional wisdom surrounding the Windows/Intel (aka Wintel) duopoly since the early days of Windows 95. In practical terms, it means that performance advancements on the hardware side are quickly consumed by the ever-increasing complexity of the Windows/Office code base. Case in point: Microsoft Office 2007, which, when deployed on Windows Vista, consumes more than 12 times as much memory and nearly three times as much processing power as the version that graced PCs just seven short years ago, Office 2000.
Despite years of real-world experience with both sides of the duopoly, few organizations have taken the time to directly quantify what my colleagues and I at Intel used to call The Great Moore's Law Compensator (TGMLC). In fact, the hard numbers above represent what is perhaps the first-ever attempt to accurately measure the evolution of the Windows/Office platform in terms of real-world hardware system requirements and resource consumption. In this article I hope to further quantify the impact of TGMLC and to track its effects across four distinct generations of Microsoft's desktop computing software stack.
To accomplish my goal, I'll be employing a cross-version test script – OfficeBench – and executing it against different combinations of Windows and Office: Windows 2000 and Office 2000; Windows XP (SP1) and Office XP; Windows XP (SP2) and Office 2003; and Windows Vista and Office 2007. Tests were first conducted in a controlled virtual machine environment under VMware and then repeated on different generations of Intel desktop and mobile hardware to assess each stack's impact on hardware from the corresponding era.
What does this all mean for Windows IT shops? Should they upgrade to Vista and Office 2007? Or should they stick with Windows XP and Office XP or Office 2003? As I’ve argued in a previous article, “Death Match: Windows Vista vs. XP,” most IT organizations will find they can safely skip a generation and avoid Vista altogether. In addition to sending a message to Microsoft that IT won’t tolerate bloat-ware, it also buys you time to allow the hardware cycle to catch-up with what will hopefully remain a static software target, or at least a slower-moving one (through Windows 7) – a way of putting TGMLC to work for you.
[ Monitor your own Windows and Office system performance with the new Windows Sentinel toolsfrom InfoWorld, which include the DMS Clarity Tracker Agent used in these tests. Share your questions and experiences in the companion blog.]