I’ve written previously about 64-bit and Windows Server and the long, steady adoption of 64-bit computing over the years.  Having been involved in Windows Server support for Alpha processors in the past, and seeing many of the early chapters of 64-bit Windows Server written on Intel’s Itanium architecture, it’s with a sense of nostalgia that I pass on some important news.

Windows Server 2008 R2 will be the last version of Windows Server to support the Intel Itanium architecture.  SQL Server 2008 R2 and Visual Studio 2010 are also the last versions to support Itanium. 

Current support for Itanium remains unchanged.  Each of these products represent the state of the art of their respective product lines.  Each fully support Itanium, support the recently-released Itanium 9300 (“Tukwila”) processor, and Microsoft’s support for these products will continue – following the Microsoft Support Lifecycle Policy.  Mainstream support for Windows Server 2008 for Itanium-Based Systems (and R2) will end, in accordance with that policy, on July 9, 2013, while extended support will continue until July 10, 2018.  That’s 8 more years of support.

Why the change?  The natural evolution of the x86 64-bit (“x64”) architecture has led to the creation of processors and servers which deliver the scalability and reliability needed for today’s “mission-critical” workloads.  Just this week, both Intel and AMD have released new high core-count processors, and servers with 8 or more x64 processors have now been announced by a full dozen server manufacturers.  Such servers contain 64 to 96 processor cores, with more on the horizon.

Windows Server 2008 R2 was designed to support the business-critical capabilities these processors and servers make available.  It supports up to 256 logical processors (cores or hyper-threading units), so it’s ready for the ever-increasing number of cores.  It supports technologies such as Intel’s Machine Check Architecture, which allow for the detection and correction of bit-level hardware errors.  And NEC just published a new world record TPC-E benchmark for online transaction processing of 3,141.76 tpsE on a system with 8 x64 processors – a result more than 50% higher than the previous record.

Microsoft will continue to focus on the x64 architecture, and it’s new business-critical role, while we continue to support Itanium customers for the next 8 years as this transition is completed.

Dan Reger

Senior Technical Product Manager

Windows Server

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