It’s been a long time coming but the steady progress of x64 technology from both Intel and AMD has finally impelled Microsoft to drop future support for Intel’s variant Itanium 64-bit processor family.
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.
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.
Once upon a time, Windows NT (the precursor to Windows Server) supported a variety of microprocessor architectures, but they have been steadily whittled down over the years. Itanium remained as long as it did because of its early promise of an industrial strength 64-bit Intel architecture. Now it mainly exists to power some Hewlett-Packard HP-UX (Unix) servers.
The final version details for Windows Server 2008 were revealed today at the Microsoft TechEd IT Forum 2007 in Barcelona by Bob Kelly, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Infrastructure Server Marketing. To anyone familiar with Microsoft’s past server operating systems, there isn’t much that’s particularly novel except in regard to the new Viridian virtualization capability which has now been formally named Hyper-V:
Yesterday, Microsoft released the February Community Technical Preview (CTP) of Windows Server Longhorn to select beta testers. So far there is no word on whether it will be available to MSDN and TechNet subscribers as was the December CTP. The ostensible plan is for a public beta around midyear and shipment before the end of 2007, hopefully without the eccentricities of the Vista release.
Update 2/21: David at Microsoft’s Windows Server Division Weblog reports that MSDN and TechNet subscribers will have access to the CTP shortly. Also:
This build also marks the appearance of many of the various editions in which we will release Windows Server “Longhorn”. The list of editions shouldn’t come as a surprise to most people, with Windows Server “Longhorn” Standard, Windows Server “Longhorn” Enterprise, and Windows Server “Longhorn” Datacenter, each being available in both 32-bit and 64-bit editions. One other change where the SKUs are concerned is the availability of a separate Windows Server “Longhorn” for Itanium-based Systems edition. This is different from what we did with Windows Server 2003, where we had separate Itanium versions of the Enterprise and Datacenter SKUs, but as disclosed before, this edition will focus primarily on the Application Server and database workloads.
We expect to release one more CTP before Beta 3 and we hope to have it soon.
It’s not clear whether the Web edition that appears today in Windows Server 2003 is being dropped or is just not in the CTP.
Windows narrowly bumped Unix in 2005 to claim the top spot in server sales for the first time, according to a new report from IDC.
Computer makers sold $17.7 billion worth of Windows servers worldwide in 2005 compared with $17.5 billion in Unix servers, IDC analyst Matthew Eastwood said of the firm’s latest Server Tracker market share report. “It’s the first time Unix was not top overall since before the Tracker started in 1996.”
And in another first, fast-growing Linux took third place, bumping machines with IBM’s mainframe operating system, z/OS. Linux server sales grew from $4.3 billion in 2004 to $5.3 billion in 2005, while mainframes dropped from $5.7 billion to $4.8 billion over the same period, Eastwood said.
On the hardware side, Shelley Solheim at InfoWorld:
Worldwide server revenue rose in 2005 driven largely by increased sales of x86-based servers, according to figures released by market research firms Gartner and IDC Research this week.
Worldwide server revenue in 2005 grew 4.5 percent to $51.7 billion, while server shipments grew 12.7 percent to 7.6 million units from the previous year, according to Gartner. IDC estimates revenue grew 4.4 percent to $51.3 billion, while shipments grew 11.6 percent to 7 million servers.
For the 4th quarter, Gartner had somewhat slower growth year to year while IDC estimated a slight decline.
Although the two research firms’ numbers vary, the overall message was the same: lower-end servers based on x86 microprocessors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices continue to outpace sales of midrange and higher-end enterprise servers.
Revenue for the x86 server market grew 11 percent year-over-year to $25.7 billion, while shipments were up 14.3 percent to 7 million units, according to Gartner. Revenue for RISC-Itanium Unix servers remained about flat year-over-year, increasing 0.5 percent to $15.4 billion, while shipments were down 5.3 percent to 460,000 units, said Gartner.
IBM continued to lead the server market with 32.1 percent revenue share followed by Hewlett-Packard, at 28.2 percent, Dell, with 10.5 percent and Sun Microsystems Inc. with 9.6 percent share, according to Gartner. IDC reported similar figures, with IBM accounting for 32.9 percent of the market, HP with 27.7 percent, Dell with 10.3 percent and Sun with 9.5 percent.
Jeffrey Burt also has more at eWeek.
None of the above are really surprising – they reflect longstanding trends in server software and hardware commoditization. Windows would have reached first place some time ago if not for Linux which takes server OS commoditization one step further.