Microsoft pulls the plug on future Itanium support

Microsoft pulls the plug on future Itanium support

Summary: Microsoft has made it official: It is phasing out its support Intel's Itanium architecture, though it will take the company an estimated eight years to fully do so.


Microsoft has made it official: It is phasing out its support Intel's Itanium architecture, though it will take the company an estimated eight years to fully do so.

In a post on April 2 on the Windows Server blog, Dan Reger, Senior Technical Product Manager, said that Windows Server 2008 R2 will be the last version of Windows Server to support Itanium. SQL Server 2008 R2 (which is due to ship this coming May) and Visual Studio 2010 (slated to launch later this month) also are the last versions of those product families to support the architecture, according to the company.

Itanium has been surpassed by new and more capable x64 technology from both Intel and AMD, Reger said in explaining the move.

Microsoft will allow the Itanium versions of its products to run the normal support course, he said. From Reger's post:

"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."

Microsoft may be ready to move on from Itanium, but Intel -- which introduced a new quad-version of Itanium in February 2010 -- may not be. As PC World noted, Intel has said it plans to release at least two more generations of Itanium during the next four years, HP, "which made a big bet on Itanium when it ended the development of its own PA-RISC processor, has repeatedly said that it is committed to Itanium's future," PC World added.

Red Hat also has said it plans to phase out support for Itanium, as first reported by The Register.

Topics: Microsoft, Hardware, Processors


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • the wintel duopoly is crumbling

    at the hands of OSS.
    Linux Geek
    • LOL!

      Funny, but so unoriginal.

      Come up with something funny but believable, OK LG?
      John Zern
      • Sorry, but he's right...

        Time was, when Microsoft and Intel just put their two heads together and released the platform...and everyone else jumped on it. No longer. AMD blew this out of the water by coming out with a rival x64 architecture that didn't ditch x32 compatibility. And with Linux becoming a major competitor on the *server* side, Windows was forced to support it.

        It was a total failure of MS-Intel to collaborate with *all* industry players in an open way. The other players all went with the more open architecture, vs. the "hand us down some crumbs" approach.
        • Pesky facts

          It would seem the fact that MS worked closely with AMD to get the AMD64 architecture off the ground would pretty much kill your theory. MS wanted AMD64 (now referred to as x64) to give their platform more headroom, and EPIC wasn't doing it for them.

          (And it's x86, not x32.)
          • More pesky facts ...

            ... the FACT is that Itanium was the lovechild of Intel & HP - Microsoft along with many other vendors (some more reluctant than others) did what they could to support the effort, but, as others have pointed out, the market for Itanium-class processors is just too small to warrant the amount of R&D required to support such a different ISA. Combined with the fact that x64 removed the fundamental hurdle that caused Intel & HP to team up and create Itanium in the first place and you have the perfect reasons to abandon the sinking ship.
          • Mmm not sure about that.

            Normally I agree with you but I still think Itanium has some very real benefits - IF intel does the right thing.

            Itanium as a high end chip is much better suited to vector processing than x64. The development is going too slowly, they need to get it on a smaller process, ramp up the core count add the turbo boost.

            OTOH Intel could concede that market to Power7
            and focus on x86-64
          • I understand your points, but ...

            ... I would argue that a Corei7 coupled with a recent ATI/nVidia GPU (or more) running apps taking advantage of DirectCompute to offload SIMD/Matrix workloads to the GPU will run rings around a dual-core Itanium at a fraction of the price.

            Itanium is done. It was an interesting foray into an ISA that was built to overcome a problem that was remedied through simpler, cheaper modifications to the existing x86 ISA.
          • Er...Pentium Pro anyone?

            ...From the first month it was released it was being called "The Itanic". Dvorak, in his article "How the Itanium killed the Computer Industry" said, "This continues to be one of the great fiascos of the last 50 years". Short of the infamous Pentium Floating Point fiasco, this chip has garnered more pointed and aptly applied sarcastic humor than any other single CPU, it is regularly thought of as the "Windows ME" of the hardware world. Intel would be better served by focusing on the far more successful Xeon series of processors...
            ReadWryt (error)
        • Wrong assertion

          At the time Linux server side wasn't all that established. I think MS was already chomping at the bit for a 64 bit x86ish instruction set.

          At any rate while someone _could_ argue that MS is crumbling (despite all the profits they keep reaping). Intel is doing quite fine and has effectively forced AMD to operate as a competitor in the "value" segment and has all but forced them out in the performance segment. And the problem with that is that Intel's superior manufacturing technology allows them to make more money per processor in the value segment. Also it commits AMD to being a follower rather than a leader. That said I think it is still the best strategy for AMD for the time being.

          For now Intel is alive and well and only benefits from OSS.
          • Microsoft saw the writing on the wall...

            AMD's approach was simply smarter for everyone.

            It was an extension of the familiar X86 instruction set. Ergo, existing apps worked out of the box. It didn't require throwing the baby out with the bathwater on your servers.

            Secondly, it allowed for a homogeneous environment on a corporate network. The same apps running on the server can be run on the server side as well - without any lame speed penalties.

            As far as AMD being forced to compete in the "value" segment - That's a segment they've owned since way back in the early 90's. Their chips back in the day were faster and cheaper - providing value. These days, speed isn't all that. I seem to recall people saying that by 2010, we'd all be running 10 GHz chips.

            Last I checked, the top speed of most CPUs is still hovering around 3 GHz. The power/heat thing is the killer. At 10 GHz, you'd have a molten puddle of silicon or you'd need the 3 Mile Island style cooling tower to keep it contained.

            AMD still does plenty of innovating - they were the first to market with a dual core, triple core and true quad chips. The first popular X64 offering. Etc... Intel has been playing catch-up all along.

            It also doesn't help AMD when Intel has the right to raid their R&D for ideas. It's part of the aftermath of the law suit Intel won against AMD for cloning their 386/486 chips.
        • a thought . . .

          "AMD blew this out of the water by coming out
          with a rival x64 architecture that didn't ditch
          x32 compatibility. And with Linux becoming a
          major competitor on the *server* side, Windows
          was forced to support it."

          I don't think it was just the server. AMD
          released the x64 as a major client platform as
          well, and people were grabbing it up client
          side. People were grabbing it left and right,
          regardless of whether they had a 64 bit OS or

          AMD had great chips at the time, and IMO
          pushing 64 bit out early was a good part of
          their strategy.

          It's just too bad their response to the Core 2
          was pretty weak :(.
    • wow.

      Wow. Anything to get a plug for OSS, eh?

      Nothing is "crumbling" here.
  • RE: Microsoft pulls the plug on future Itanium support

    Wouldn't it have been nice if mary jo had given us a brief review of what the Itanium was all about?
    • Why? Try or other sources

      You want to be completely spoon-fed all your information?
  • Still have those disks

    I recognized that name Itanium and looked around here.
    I still have the Server 2003 Enterprise Edition for 64 bit Itanium based systems RC2 with box and serial number.
    733MHZ recommended speed, 256MB to 64GB ram, up to 8 processors.
    That seemed so super bad back then.
  • Which platforms

    Out of curiosity, what architectures does Windows run on now?

    X86, 32 and 64 bit (Intel, AMD, Via, Loongson I think).

    ARM (WinCE).

    Certainly a few others (WinMo).


    Looks Confused
    • Today, Windows runs on ...

      Windows client & server:
      x86 (32-bit x86 compatible)
      x64 (64-bit x86 compatible)
      Itanium (64-bit EPIC) [now deprecated]

      Windows CE (and this Windows Mobile & Windows Phone):

      Windows client & desktop also used to run on MIPS, PowerPC and Alpha but there wasn't enough market for these types of machines.

      MS have also experimentally ported Windows to ARM in the past too. Who knows - with interest in ARM growing daily, perhaps we'll see MS port Windows to ARM too :)
      • Windows CE isn't x86 Windows

        So Windows CE, Windows Mobile, and Windows Phone
        should not be on the above list. They are not
        binarily compatible with x86 Windows (i.e., you
        can't take your Windows Mobile .CAB files, for
        example, and run them in x86 Windows).

        Furthermoe, the binaries for MIPS, SHe, and
        ARM versions of Windows CE (and Pocket PC,
        Windows Mobile, and their variants) were
        incompaatible with each other. You had to
        get the binary that was written for your
        • CE/Mobile Isn't the Same as x86, True...

          I agree that Windows CE/Mobile is a totally different animal than Windows x86/64. However, binary compatibility isn't really the key factor. The entire codebase is different for Windows CE/Mobile than it is for Windows x86.

          Windows x86, PowerPC, Itanium and Alpha were all based on the same code. That made it relatively easy for apps to be ported between platforms with minimal changes to the source code possibly necessary (and possibly not if you planned for this) along with a recompilation of the code. For Windows CE/Mobile compatibility, however, applications written for x86 would require a complete overhaul to run.

          Similarly with the various incarnations of Windows CE/Mobile the same code base can be used to compile applications for each of the processor architectures that CE supports.

          Of course, practically, for closed source software, you still have to wait for the application programmer to release it for your specific platform regardless of how much work it is to port it.
        • I was asking a different question I think...

          I was curious where Microsoft's expertise lay, architecture wise. My question was really about which architectures Microsoft supports, rather than which ones Windows supports.

          I think that was answered.


          Looks Confused