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Intel promises more development on Itanium architecture even as Microsoft kills support for IA64

In an article we posted yesterday, Microsoft announced that they would be killing Itanium support on Windows Server in favour of the x64 architecture. Now, Intel has come out to defend Itanium even as its Xeon processors compete against it.

Read on to find out more.

In spite of two major software companies announcing that they will be pulling the plug on Itanium support for their server operating system, Intel believes that the IA64 architecture and its Itanium processors have “a long and bright future” awaiting them.

This comes at a time where the x64 architecture is starting to find mainstream acceptance in both the consumer and server market and Itanium is also facing competition from Intel’s own x64-based Xeon EX platform, which sports a number of improvements and capabilities which, according to X-bit Labs, “place it in line with more advanced Intel Itanium platforms”

However, Patrick Ward, a spokesperson for Intel, believes that Microsoft’s decision to pull the plug on Itanium support stems more from its low marketshare in the server space than the actual performance of the x64 architecture, claiming that “Windows represents less than 6% of current Itanium sales”.

“Most Itanium users run Unix, specifically HP-UX. Those customers would argue that the combination of HP-UX and the Itanium platform represent a very formidable mission-critical solution, which many of the world’s leading companies have chosen,” he said.

He goes on to say that while the x64 architecture might have the advantage in performance, it pales in comparison to the “ultimate reliability” that Itanium-based solutions can offer to customers, and that processor performance is only one aspect which such customers look out for, among many others.

“For pure performance, you might go with Xeon processors, but the mission critical customers Itanium targets are most interested in reliability, serviceability and availability features across the operating system, processors and other aspects of their enterprise computing infrastructure,” he explained.

X-bit Labs report that Intel is projected to release a new 32nm, 8-core Itanium processor known as Poulson some time in 2012, which will feature micro-architectural enhancements and new instructions.

Also, even as Microsoft and Red Hat announces their plans to drop IA64 support, it is worth noting that the IA64 architecture is still well supported by various other Unix and Linux operating systems, while the latter also sports IA64 support for various consumer-level distributions like the popular Debian GNU/Linux distro. 

Perhaps Intel’s claim that Itanium will survive even without Microsoft’s help might actually hold some water: after all, the server space is one area where Microsoft has not been able to make huge inroads into, so the lack of IA64 support of Windows probably won’t affect Intel much.

Source: X-bit Labs

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