Microsoft and Intel Chart a Course for 64-Bit Computing

Editors’ update, Nov. 15, 2005
– Microsoft has announced that the next major release of Microsoft Exchange Server, code-named “E12,” will ship for production deployments as a 64-bit-only application.

REDMOND, Wash. and Santa Clara, Calif., April 11, 2005 — Microsoft and Intel are teaming up to educate customers and partners on new and existing opportunities surrounding both companies’ broad portfolio of 64-bit technologies. This portfolio of products is expected to help drive broad adoption of 64-bit computing.

According to Microsoft and Intel estimates, 2005 will be the year when, for the first time, the vast majority of new server hardware and high-end workstation shipments will be 64-bit capable. Three factors are contributing to this shift. First, Intel’s entire line-up of server platforms will have 64-bit capabilities. Second, the Windows platform will support two different 64-bit architectures: Explicitly Parallel Instruction Computing (EPIC), supported by Intel’s Itanium processor family, and 64-bit extensions to the x86 instruction set, supported by Intel’s 64-bit Xeon and Pentium processors. Third, organizations are increasingly viewing these platforms as a cost-effective alternative to the higher-priced, proprietary 64-bit architecture of RISC-based UNIX servers.

To learn more about the trends in 64-bit computing, PressPass spoke with Bob Muglia, Microsoft senior vice president of the Windows Server Division, and Abhi Talwalkar, senior vice president and co-general manager of Intel’s Digital Enterprise Group.

PressPass: Let’s start by talking about why IT professionals should care about 64-bit computing for Windows.

Muglia: There are two reasons: operational improvement and financial savings. Companies that are heavily invested in RISC-based solutions can potentially save enormous expense by moving to technologies from Microsoft and its partners such as Intel. Our customers recognize that consolidating their existing applications to the Windows platform and Windows Server System products, running on Intel’s processor platforms, is a powerful and versatile combination that delivers long-term value and flexibility.

We’ve seen that 32-bit applications on the x64 versions of Windows Server 2003 show equal or better performance than running on 32-bit Windows Server 2003. The extended memory 64-bit architecture allows customers to move to pure 64-bit applications at their own pace while still experiencing an improvement in performance. The real performance gains come from running 64-bit applications on Windows Server 2003 x64 editions [see Figure 1]. Per

Figure 1: Preliminary Testing: “First Mover” workloads on Windows Server 2003 x64 editions (as compared to 32-bit) formance and Scale

At the same time, when it comes to a pure 64-bit architecture, Windows Server 2003 for Itanium-based systems offers customers the highest level of reliability, availability and scalability, and is the leading platform to replace expensive, RISC/UNIX servers running highly scaleable database and line-of-business applications.

Talwalkar: Businesses are interested in lowering the total cost of ownership of their IT systems, and getting better performance, scalability and price-performance from their server infrastructure. We believe 64-bit computing is an important technology to deliver those things. In fact, by the end of this year, all of the server and workstation platforms Intel ships will be 64-bit capable. The transition has started and IT professionals need to get ready.

The Intel Xeon processor line, for two-way to four-way and above servers, includes 64-bit extensions that are completely backward-compatible with today’s business applications. For applications that need extra memory addressability and need an upgrade path to 64-bit applications, this is the way to go.

Intel’s pure 64-bit architecture, the Itanium 2 processor family, delivers the outstanding reliability, scalability and availability features for IT professionals deploying transaction processing, data mining, business intelligence, ERP applications or extreme-scale high performance computing.

PressPass: What is Microsoft’s level of investment in Itanium today and through “Longhorn,” the next version of the Windows operating system?

Muglia: We’re committed to the Itanium processor family, and the Itanium processor family is the scale-up solution for the most demanding database and line-of-business applications running on Windows.

Microsoft has made an extensive investment in Itanium-based servers over the years to support ongoing development, test and certification. Microsoft continues to license and support Windows Server 2003 Enterprise and Datacenter editions for Itanium-based systems, and the 64-bit version of SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition. Later this year, we’ll expand Itanium support to Visual Studio 2005, .NET Framework 2005 and SQL Server 2005. And we’re working with our partners to deploy more than 1,000 Itanium 2-based systems in our labs for “Longhorn”-server test and development. These systems will be upgradeable to Intel’s Montecito processor so that we can leverage its dual-core capabilities.

Windows Server on Itanium delivers new business and revenue growth opportunities for us and our partners around the most demanding workloads at the high end of the server market. IDC data shows that the mid-range and high-end server market represents nearly 50 percent of the overall server market revenue with only three percent of the units [IDC Worldwide Quarterly Server Forecast, as of 2004Q4 – March 10, 2005]. This translates into a multi-billion-dollar market for partners to sell Windows Server and SQL Server on Itanium-based servers. These opportunities lead to incremental sales opportunities for other Windows-infrastructure products. We’ve already seen examples of solid channel penetration. For instance, Windows Server 2003 has been the fastest growing operating system on HP Integrity servers in the past year and represents 35 percent of the HP Integrity Superdome server installed base.

In the “Longhorn”-server timeframe, there are more opportunities to consolidate target workloads onto Windows- and Itanium-based systems. Here we’ll offer IT pros a streamlined server OS that’s more tailored to scale-up and scale-out workloads, which should expand the sales opportunity for Windows on Itanium-based systems. And we’ll continue to support client-side functionality of Itanium-based systems in order to improve administration, management and backup, and integration with Active Directory and certificates. The key here is to provide IT pros with the tools they need to seamlessly build, deploy and manage these systems as part of the overall environment.

PressPass: The Linux vendors have supported 64-bit extensions and Itanium for some time now. Is Microsoft catching up?

Muglia: Linux vendors already support 64-bit technologies, but without the broad driver support and a big base of existing applications, their deployments have been limited to custom, high-performance computing workloads. With the introduction of Windows x64 Editions, we believe we’re bringing 64-bit technology to the mainstream customer in an easily addressable way for the first time ever.

I should note that Microsoft has actually been working closely with Intel on a 64-bit version of SQL Server as far back as 1997, and then four years ago with Windows Server Limited Edition 64-bit product for Itanium-based servers. This year will mark an inflection point in the market with the availability of Windows Server 2003 x64 editions, which I believe will drive mainstream adoption of 64-bit systems worldwide amongst a broad ecosystem of suppliers. Broad industry support and customer demand will occur with the introduction of volume 64-bit computing to the mainstream in 2005 and 2006.

Talwalkar: I agree with Bob’s comments. 64-bit computing for the Intel-based server market is in its infancy, and won’t go mainstream until there are volume shipments of Windows Server 2003 x64 editions and the developer/ISV community has had time to develop drivers and applications for Windows.

PressPass: What differentiates the Itanium 2 processor from IBM Power in the RISC market?

Talwalkar: The EPIC architecture of the Itanium 2 processor has its foundation in parallel execution and large on-die resources, such as registers and cache. These capabilities provide the superior performance of the Itanium 2 architecture. Additionally, Itanium-based servers provide end-users with choice of OS, applications and OEMs. In fact, more than 75 OEMs ship Itanium-based systems. The Itanium 2 platform supports the 64-bit versions of Windows Server and SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition, allowing for a migration from proprietary UNIX operating systems, and for a broad standard of Windows-based servers throughout the enterprise.

Itanium-based servers deliver significant value to end users through leading price/performance for key enterprise applications, such as database, line of business applications and high performance computing (HPC). Intel offers 2,700 Itanium applications today, increasing the choice and flexibility of Itanium-based solutions offered IT managers worldwide.

PressPass: So what are you doing to help customers and partners realize the benefits of 64-bit computing on Windows?

Muglia: An increasing number of organizations view the 64-bit Windows Server platform as a cost-effective alternative to their legacy RISC-based enterprise systems. For example,

The Koehler Group, the world’s largest manufacturer of specialist paper, was able to streamline IT operations, minimize downtime, increase computing performance 20-50 percent, and reduce supply-chain tasks by 50 percent running Windows Server and SQL Server on Itanium 2-based HP Integrity servers. Raymond James Financial, one of the nation’s largest financial services companies, was able to grow its data warehouse 15-20 percent annually while lowering costs by consolidating applications onto an Itanium 2-based HP Integrity Superdome server with Windows Server and SQL Server.

As one way to help customers understand the opportunities, the Microsoft Technology Centers offer enterprise customers worldwide the facilities and resources needed to envision, architect, and then evaluate a secure, customized solution using 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2003 and SQL Server 2000. The centers offer a range of software and hardware, including servers based on 64-bit Xeon processor platforms and Itanium 2 processor platforms, to help optimize customers’ 32- and 64-bit .NET applications on a single platform.

Talwalkar: RISC-based servers may have been the default application platform in the past, but the increasing power of Intel-based processor platforms and the lower costs of the Windows platform have changed all that. One of Intel’s strengths is our investment in the hardware and software ecosystem to enable transition to next generation technologies. For example, last month we announced the Intel Software Network, a comprehensive set of tools, training and expertise designed to help developers build 64-bit and multi-core capable products.

Other examples include collaboration among Microsoft, Intel and HP to develop a special hands-on training workshop series to bring the best learning opportunity available on 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2003. This tour, called Route64 (, runs through the end of May in cities in North America, Europe and Asia. Route64 educates customers and partners on how to migrate and test their applications on a variety of 64-bit hardware, to include 64-bit Intel Xeon processors and Intel Itanium 2 processors.

PressPass: When Windows Server 2003 x64 editions are available, your customers and partners will have three different versions of the Windows OS to choose: 32-bit, x64 editions and Itanium. How should these versions be rationalized across IT?

Muglia: The decision is based on the particular workload. Customers who need the highest levels of scalability for databases and line-of-business applications, and who are looking for the high-end RAS features found in enterprise-class hardware, will likely find Windows Server running on Itanium 2-based systems best suits to their needs.

We see broad platform support as a key advantage of the Windows platform, and this will enable a smooth transition path to 64-bit computing on Windows Server (see Figure 2). Most of today’s server installed base is purely 32-bit. But in 2005, most new server shipments will combine 64-bit-enabled hardware with 32-bit Windows Server 2003. With the release of Windows Server 2003 x64 editions, customers will start combining 32-bit and 64-bit apps on the same system due to large memory-address space, better performance and security features. Over time, customers will increasingly use pure 64-bit stacks based on 64-bit extended technology and the Itanium processor family.

From a development perspective, both 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2003 share the same familiar user interface and development environment as their 32-bit counterparts, allowing customers to leverage their existing Windows skills. SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition supports Itanium today, and with the release of SQL Server 2000 Service Pack 4, SQL Server 2000 will support Windows Server 2003 x64 editions. With the release later this year of SQL Server 2005 and Microsoft Visual Studio 2005, both products will run on both versions of 64-bit Windows Server 2003.

Figure 2. Windows Smooth Transition from 32-bit to 64-bit Computing.

Talwalkar: The Itanium 2 platform is a replacement for the proprietary RISC-based servers, mainframe migration and technical computing clusters. The Itanium 2 platform addresses complex workloads transaction processing, data warehousing, business intelligence, ERP and extreme-scale HPC. This platform complements the 64-bit Intel Xeon processor-based platform dual processor servers, which are targeted at more general-purpose enterprise applications such as web, file, print, networking and mail server applications, and the 64-bit Intel Xeon processor MP (multiprocessor) platform for mid-tier database and line-of-business applications.

PressPass: Speaking of workloads, what can you tell us about Microsoft’s HPC offering relative to 64-bit architectures?

Muglia: Windows Server 2003 is a multipurpose OS that handles a diverse set of server roles based on customers’ needs. We tailor Windows Server versions and editions for specific workloads and roles. We work with our various industry partners to deliver this in an integrated, easy-to-manage offering.

That said, most of the public attention around high performance computing is focused on the extreme scale-up systems, such as those found on the Top500 supercomputing list. This sort of high-end implementation is well suited for Itanium-powered servers. However, we want to make Windows Server 2003, Compute Cluster Edition the mainstream way scientists and engineers solve complex technical problems. With respect to offering a version for Itanium-based systems, we will be continually looking at customer and market input and platform support in future releases.

Windows Server 2003, Compute Cluster Edition, which will beta in the second half of this year and be available in the first half of 2006, is focused on personal and departmental segments of HPC. Software developers in this segment are looking for greater productivity, which we can offer through existing tools. Availability of commercial HPC applications from the Windows partner ecosystem will help reduce the need for engineers and scientists to implement their own code. And integrated HPC solutions from major OEMs will reduce the costs associated with do-it-yourself cluster integration. That’s why this segment is best served by the x64 editions of Windows Server.

Talwalkar: The requirements for enterprise computing are very diverse — Intel is committed to delivering products for all the different segments. One architecture is not able to completely serve the entire US$50 billion server market, which is why Intel provides two different architectures, each focused on a different part of the market.

The Itanium architecture is clearly targeted as RISC replacement, where performance, reliability and scalability are critical for customers. On top of that, end users have a choice of operating systems and great price/performance against RISC. Albeit not high in number of units sold, this market remains huge — $20 billion worldwide. Itanium architecture has all necessary features to compete successfully in the HPC market.

PressPass: You’ve said Windows on Itanium targets mission-critical line-of-business applications. Does that include e-mail, which is considered a mission-critical application by many people? What are your 64-bit plans for this workload?

Muglia: I can tell you that I consider e-mail a mission-critical application, as do nearly all of our business customers. While Windows on Itanium is a leading alternative to expensive RISC/UNIX servers for scale-up database and line-of-business applications, the majority of email servers today run on 32-bit, Intel x86 servers with four or fewer processors. The next major release of Microsoft Exchange Server, codenamed “E12,” will be available for 32-bit and 64-bit (x64) systems. The large address space available on x64 systems will enable more Exchange databases per server and the large caches will help optimize disk IO.

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