Microsoft Drops Itanium Support for Workstation, Standard Server

Microsoft will no longer support Intel's high-end Itanium 2 processor in workstation and low-end server operating systems.

Instead the company will steer customers seeking mid-range performance toward its Windows x64 editions running on AMD64 and Intel EM64T processors and offer Itanium support exclusively in its high-end Windows Server 2003 operating systems -- the Enterprise Edition and the Datacenter Edition.

"Because Windows on x64 systems delivers excellent flexibility and choice, while also enabling a smooth migration from 32-bit to 64-bit applications, Microsoft believes Windows for Itanium-based systems is a stronger offering in the high-end server market," a Microsoft spokesperson said Wednesday.

The decision slightly consolidates what had been an ever-expanding list of Microsoft operating systems. Microsoft will no longer offer Windows XP 64-Bit Edition Version 2003, which was targeted at workstations running Itanium 2 processors. The point is somewhat moot, given that first Dell and then HP have already discontinued their Itanium 2 lines of workstations due to slow sales.

Killed in the development stage is Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition for Itanium 2. Microsoft first disclosed the operating system in October 2003. Prior to that point, Microsoft had planned to release only the Enterprise and Datacenter editions for Itanium and has now reverted to that plan.

"Both Intel and Microsoft are aligned in targeting Itanium and Windows Server 2003/SQL Server at the high-end server market segment, traditionally dominated by RISC-based servers. Windows Server 2003 Standard x64 Edition is the focus of development efforts for the mainstream server market," the Microsoft spokesperson said.

Although Microsoft's decision, guided by market forces, is painting Itanium into a high-end corner, the 32-bit chips with 64-bit extensions supported by the Windows x64 editions will be supported for the full range of server roles. Microsoft continues to plan to ship Windows Server 2003 x64 Enterprise Edition and Windows Server 2003 x64 Datacenter Edition. The x64 editions went into a limited audience release candidate stage in December.

About the Author

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