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Microsoft unveils focus for Longhorn Itanium

Microsoft unveils focus for Longhorn Itanium

Microsoft said the Itanium version of Longhorn will be optimized for running databases, custom applications and line-of-business applications.

Microsoft on Friday dribbled out new details of its next Windows Server operating system (OS) release, revealing that the Itanium version would be optimized for three specific workloads -- database, custom applications and line-of-business applications such as ERP (enterprise resource planning) and CRM (customer relationship management).

The forthcoming Windows Server release, code-named Longhorn, is due sometime in 2007. The Itanium version of Windows Server is the OS for servers running on Intel Corp.'s x64 Itanium processor, which is targeted mainly at high-end enterprise customers.

Because of the specific high-end optimization plans, the Longhorn release for Itanium won't be a good fit for servers handling less computing-intensive applications. These include applications such as Windows Media Services and Windows SharePoint Services, or common office functions such as file and print and faxing, according to Microsoft.

The plan to tweak versions of Longhorn for specific business needs meets the objectives of a strategy outlined by Bob Muglia, senior vice president for the Windows Server Division, at Microsoft's TechEd Conference in June. Muglia outlined what Microsoft is calling "the right server for the right job," a plan to optimize its Windows OS to meet specific business computing needs of customers.

According to Microsoft, the three areas of focus for the Longhorn Itanium version are consistent with the applications running on the current release of Windows Server 2003 for Itanium systems. They also are in line with feedback from those participating in the Longhorn beta 1 program, according to the company.

Microsoft's timing for the new Longhorn Itanium details comes one day after Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Intel executives held a meeting in San Francisco to promote Itanium's strengths for competing against RISC-based servers from IBM and Sun Microsystems. IBM's high-end servers running on its proprietary Power5 chips are of particular competitive focus for both HP and Intel, executives said.

Brian Cox, director of worldwide server marketing, business critical servers for HP, said Thursday that the adoption of Itanium-based servers is currently very strong in database, enterprise and custom application deployment, the very three areas for which Microsoft is optimizing its Longhorn Itanium release.

Intel and server partner HP in particular have taken considerable heat over Itanium, which did not live up to its initial hype. Intel had hoped to move the computing world to 64-bit technology with Itanium, but underestimated the willingness of software developers to port their applications to Itanium's new instruction set. Instead, those developers preferred the easier route to 64 bits paved by Advanced Micro Devices's Opteron processor, and Intel was eventually forced to release a similar product.

Itanium is now considered a high-end server processor that competes directly with IBM's Power5 processor, instead of the broader computing chip that Intel had once hoped it could become.

(Tom Krazit contributed to this article.)

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