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Longhorn Server to Align With Itanium

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UPDATED: Though it won’t debut for at least two more years, Microsoft
will support Intel’s Itanium for
Longhorn Server, the company said today.

The two companies are evangelizing Microsoft’s next-generation
Windows server product family for Itanium as an alternative to RISC/UNIX
servers. Longhorn Server is expected to ship in 2007. The 64-bit
operating system is being designed as a high-end complement for the
Windows Longhorn desktop version. The server edition is better designed
to handle scale-up database and other business applications, Microsoft

Bob Muglia, senior vice president of Microsoft’s Windows Server
division, said the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant is timing its
full release to align with only two types of chips: Intel’s Itanium
Montecito processor, a dual core 64-bit chip built using an Explicitly
Parallel Instruction Computing (EPIC) architecture and 90-nanometer
technology, which is expected to ship this year; and x86 64-bit
compatible processors, which Microsoft broadly categorizes as x64 chips.

The list includes Intel’s 64-bit Xeon and Pentium families, as well as
AMD Opteron processors. Muglia is, however, currently
focused on the prospects of Itanium.

“In the ‘Longhorn’-server timeframe, there are more opportunities to
consolidate target workloads onto Windows- and Itanium-based systems,”
Muglia said as part of a Microsoft-sponsored interview. “We’re working
with our partners to deploy more than 1,000 Itanium 2-based systems in
our labs for ‘Longhorn’-server test and development.”

Microsoft is preparing to highlight its Windows/Itanium relationship
at its WinHEC conference in Seattle later this month. Founder and chief
architect Bill Gates is expected to announce availability of Microsoft
Windows Server 2003 x64 Editions and its Windows XP Professional x64
Edition. The Server 2003 version is expected to ship in three versions
(Standard, Enterprise and Data Center), with support for one to 64
processors. The Professional edition is expected to support up to 128GB of
memory and up to 16 terabytes of virtual memory. All versions went gold
on March 30th.

Later this year, Muglia said Microsoft would expand Itanium support
to Visual Studio 2005, .NET Framework 2005 and SQL Server 2005, code name Yukon. Microsoft
and Intel said they would also continue to support client-side
functionality of Itanium-based systems in order to improve
administration, management and backup, and integration with Active
Directory and certificates.

According to Microsoft and Intel estimates, 2005 will be the year
when, for the first time, the vast majority of new server hardware and
high-end workstation shipments will be 64-bit capable, though the two
companies are still priming the pump for ISVs and developers.

Abhi Talwalkar,
vice president and general manager of Intel’s Digital Enterprise Group, said in a statement that 64-bit computing for the Intel-based server market is in its
infancy. “[It] won’t go mainstream until there are volume shipments of
Windows Server 2003 x64 editions and the developer/ISV community has had
time to develop drivers and applications for Windows.”

Microsoft has made an extensive investment in Itanium-based servers
over the years to support ongoing development, testing and certification,
even though it abandoned plans to develop Windows XP for workstations running on Intel’s

“Itanium is being pitched these days as a RISC and mainframe
alternative, an area where x86 has never been particularly strong,”
Gordon Haff, a senior analyst with IT research firm Illuminata, told

“Thus, Microsoft doubtless sees Itanium as
possibly helping it gain more high-end, mission-critical wins for
Windows and, especially, SQL Server that it’s had in the past. But
Microsoft has no special love for Itanium. If customers end up primarily
embracing high-end EM64T instead of Itanium, Microsoft is just as happy to go that route.

Mark Stahlman, a managing director of research at Caris & Company, told that Microsoft is focused on x86 and this Itanium
discussion is partly its way of answering the obvious question, ‘When
are you porting Windows to the [IBM] Power architecture — other than on
the Xbox 360, of course?'”

In a related note, Microsoft said the next major release of its
Microsoft Exchange Server, codenamed E12, will be available for x86
32-bit and 64-bit systems. The large address space available on x64
systems will support more Exchange databases per server and the large
caches will help optimize disk I/O, the company said.

Currently, the majority of e-mail servers run on 32-bit, Intel
x86 servers with four or fewer processors.

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