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Visual Studio Dropping Support for Itanium

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According to Dan Reger, Senior Technical Product Manager for Windows Server, there will be no new versions of Windows Server, SQL Server, or Visual Studio with Itanium support after this year. With advances in the x64 architecture taking the spot light, there seems to be little need to also support the Itanium platform. Dan writes,

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 isn’t the only vendor to abandon the Itanium processor. Last December it was reported in Network Word that Red Hat would not be supporting it in Enterprise Linux 6. The previous version, Enterprise Linux 5, will continue to be supported until 2017. As Windows Server 2008 is slightly younger, Microsoft users will have support until 2018.

In addition to the loss of some significant OS vendors, the processor itself is facing stiff competition from AMD’s x64 architecture. The current version, the Tukwila, tops out at 4 cores and 1.73 GHz while AMD’s Opteron has up to 12 cores and 2.3GHz. While clock speeds cannot be directly compared between different processor architectures, it does make the Itanium look bad. Even worse is the next processor, the Poulson, will only have 8 cores and is still two years away while next year’s offering from AMD is expected to have 16 cores. As for benchmarks, the TPC-E record is now held by NEC using 8 Intel Xeon processors.

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