Microsoft’s Support of Itanium in Longhorn Server

The Server still hasn’t shaken the “Longhorn” moniker, but let’s call it Windows Vista Server to keep you kids happy.

The interesting news here: Itanium servers will be supported only for big-iron tasks. So rather than announce that they’re gutting most of Longhorn Server on Itanium, Microsoft announce that it’s enhanced for certain workloads.

The interesting quandary faced by Microsoft is that Itanium is currently the only way they can run super-high-end processing jobs. AMD64 (and EM64T), while looking for all the world like it’s the heir apparent to the computing throne doesn’t have any n-way solutions where N is greater than 8.

If you needed to buy a big, mission-critical box today and run Windows on it, Itanium would be the answer. If, however, you’re not really certain you need the extra 24 processors and could run your database on an 8-way with oodles of memory, maybe Opterons are the way to go.

Given that the tasks that require a 32-way system are pretty few and far between, I can’t help but think that Longhorn Server might be the last outing for Itanium. By the time 2009 rolls around and it’s time for Longhorn Server R2, will X64 be able to scale to the same level, for less money?