It will be a slow, drawn-out process, but Microsoft is phasing out its support for Intel's once-promising Itanium chip.
In a blog posting on Friday, Microsoft said that the current version of Windows Server--Windows Server 2008 R2--will be the last one that supports the Itanium. Microsoft also said that its SQL Server 2008 R2 and Visual Studio 2010 will be the last version of its database and developer tools that run on the Intel chip.
Windows Server senior technical product manager Dan Reger said the move reflects the fact that 64-bit versions of traditional x86 processors can handle even high-end workloads.
"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," Reger said in the blog post. "Just this week, both Intel and AMD have released new high core-count processors, and servers with eight 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."
The move is yet another blow to the Itanium, which Intel once billed as the long-term future for mainstream computing, particularly servers. However, the marketplace gravitated to the less radical architecture proposed by rival Advanced Micro Devices, which added 64-bit extensions to the x86 processors used by mainstream servers and PCs. Microsoft has offered 64-bit versions of Windows Server for both types of chips, although the x64 versions have proved far more popular than the Itanium ones.
Despite its waning mainstream support, Itanium remains important as the processor powering HP's high-end server line and the chipmaker continues to come out with new versions, most recently the Itanium 9300, which was introduced in February.
Reger noted that Microsoft will actually provide support--though not new versions of its products--for some time.
"Microsoft support for these products will continue--following the Microsoft Support Lifecycle Policy," Reger said. "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 eight more years of support."