The next major iteration of Windows Server would support exclusively 64-bit (x64) processors, Microsoft revealed, opening up a little bit on the successor of Windows Server 2008 R2. Windows 8 Server, or Windows Server 8, whichever you prefer, will not play nice with 32-bit (x86) CPUs, just as its predecessor, but will also not feature support for the Intel Itanium architecture. Dan Reger, senior technical product manager Windows Server, revealed that Microsoft had already built the last version of Windows Server designed to work with Itanium CPUs.
“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,” Reger stated. In all fairness, Reger did not mention Windows 8 Server, or even deliver a hint, but it’s easy to see what the Redmond company is saying, even without whispering the Win8 moniker.
With Windows Server 2008 R2, the last to support the Intel Itanium architecture, customers looking to upgrade to future versions of Windows Server should plan ahead, and steer clear of Itanium CPUs, despite the fact that Intel indicates that it continues to be committed to the processor, at least for the next four years. Reger gave customers guarantees that it would work to smooth the transition as much as possible, which can only be good news, considering that Intel plans to offer at least two more generations of Itanium CPUs, but ultimately the Redmond company is saying that multi-core is the future.
“Current support for Itanium remains unchanged. Each of these products represent[s] 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,” Reger added.
With the advent of Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft dropped support for 32-bit (x86) CPUs. In fact, at this point in time, the best choice for customers running servers with x86 processors, as far as Windows Server is concerned, is to run the plain vanilla version of Windows Server 2008. Reger argued that it was only natural for Windows Server vNext to move on from Itanium, just as Windows Server 2008 R2 moved on from 32-bit processors.
“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,” he stated.
There hasn’t been a similar announcement related to the Windows 8 client. While speculation indicates that the successor of Windows 7 will be the first operating system from Microsoft to embrace x64 architectures exclusively, the software giant has yet to reveal any plans in this regard for Windows 8.
“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,” Reger said. “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.”