First, the good news...
If you use SQL Server Integration Services to load data to or from Excel files or Access databases, then a 64-bit driver is headed your way. This is great news for SSIS users in a 64-bit world. Soon you'll be able to run your packages in 64-bit mode on 64-bit computers, rather than wrestle with obscure settings to force some packages to 32-bit mode.
The next version of Microsoft Office, Office 14, will be available in a 64-bit version. This version will include a 64-bit version of what was called the ACE Provider in Office 12, and will include the Excel driver.
I do not think that improved performance was a goal, and I have not seen any mention of performance or benchmarking.
You will not have to buy or install Office 14 to obtain and use the new 64-bit driver. Like the current version of the provider, it will be available as a free download.
Now, the gotchas...
At this writing, you cannot install the 32-bit version and the 64-bit version of the Office 14 ACE Provider on the same computer.
For SSIS users, this effectively means that you can't develop packages that use the provider, and test or run them in 64-bit mode, on the same computer. Here are some of the places where you may trip over this inconvenience:
- You can't run packages in 64-bit mode on a development computer. You need the 32-bit version of the provider on your development computer, because 32-bit BIDS and Visual Studio can only "see" the 32-bit provider. Therefore you cannot have the 64-bit version of the provider on the same computer, and cannot test or run the packages that you're building in 64-bit mode on the same computer.
- You have to change a hidden property to avoid errors on a development computer. If you're developing packages successfully with the new provider, then you've got 32-bit and not 64-bit. But the project property Run64BitRuntime is True by default, so when you debug, BIDS will try to run your package in 64-bit mode. This will fail with an error, since you don't have the 64-bit provider. To eliminate the error, you'll need to set Run64BitRuntime to False. (For more information on this property, see my post, Debug your packages in 32-bit or 64-bit mode.)
- If you install 64-bit Office 14 first, then you'll find that you can't reference the provider in packages in BIDS, since you don't have the 32-bit version. I don't know whether you'll simply be able to uninstall the 64-bit provider, and replace it with the 32-bit provider, since in this scenario it was installed as part of Office and Access, and not as a separate redistributable.
Also, you cannot install the 64-bit version of the Office 14 ACE Provider on a computer that already has the 32-bit Office 12 ACE Provider. However, the 32-bit Office 12 provider can coexist side-by-side with the 32-bit version of the Office 14 provider.
I don't know the release date for Office 14.