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Longhorn Server to Support Itanium in Only 3 Specific Roles

The role of the Itanium processor for Windows servers will be tightly defined in the "Longhorn" generation of Windows.

Microsoft disclosed this month that when Longhorn server ships sometime in 2007, Intel's Itanium Architecture 64-bit processors will only be supported in three roles: database workloads, line-of-business applications and custom applications.

Microsoft presented the move as conforming to customers' needs. "This workload focus is consistent with the majority of current users of Windows Server on Itanium, and is in line with feedback from participants in the Windows Server "Longhorn" beta 1," the company said in a market bulletin on the decision. The private Beta 1 was released to a very limited group of testers in late July.

"Microsoft continues its broad investment in the Itanium processor family," a Microsoft spokesperson said. "Windows Server 'Longhorn' for Itanium-based systems … will continue to be the leading alternate platform for RISC-based Unix servers," the Microsoft bulletin said.

Intel general manager for the high-end server product line, Lisa Graff, provided a supportive quote for Microsoft's bulletin: "Intel and Microsoft are strongly committed to continue to expand Windows on Itanium for the RISC/Unix market segment. Intel believes Microsoft's development of specific features for the Longhorn server OS for Itanium in reliability, scalability and performance strengthen the Windows Itanium solutions in data center migration, database, ERP, BI and line-of-business applications."

Microsoft plans to develop a "superior deployment experience" in Longhorn server for administration and management of the workloads the Itanium version will now support. The Itanium version will include underlying technologies to support those workloads, and it will support client-side functionality for administration, management and server utilities.

The reduced focus for Itanium in Windows Longhorn is not surprising, but it is a far cry from Intel's original hopes for the high-end processor. Intel, HP, Microsoft and industry analysts once thought Itanium-based processors would be the widely deployed successor to 32-bit x86 processors.

AMD's introduction of 64-bit processors running on the x86 instruction set changed the computing landscape. After spending a few years denying the AMD64 technology would be anything more than a bridge to Itanium systems, Intel attempted to match AMD's approach with the Intel EM64T architecture that has since been baked into Xeon processors.

Meanwhile, in a posting to the Windows Server Division blog, Microsoft attempted to ward off negative reactions by pointing to everything being done with Itanium. "This year alone we're expanding Itanium support to Visual Studio 2005, .NET Framework 2.0 and SQL Server 2005, and we have 1,600 Itanium servers in the lab for testing Longhorn Server. Windows on Itanium is here for a while."

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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