Whistler to Enhance Scale-Up Strategy

Many of Microsoft’srecent major product releases have dealt with the company’s scale-up strategyfor taking on Sun Microsystems and other Unix vendors. The next major rolloutfrom Microsoft may extend this reach into scale-up territory.

Microsoftintends to include full Itanium support in both the professional and serverversions of Whistler, the next generation of the Windows operating system indevelopment. While Redmond expects many of its first customers to purchase64-bit Whistler systems for design and engineering workstations, the companyhopes that the Whistler/Itanium combination eventually will become a standardserver platform.

“Windows isdefinitely viable on a high-end server platform, and 64-bit is just going toextend that,” says Michael Stephenson, lead product manager at Microsoft.Stephenson believes the introduction of 64-bit capabilities into Windows willfurther the goal of Wintel machines in the data center.

Microsoft’scurrent plans call for Whistler to be released in the second half of 2001 --with client versions first then servers to follow.

UnisysCorp. is already testing an Itanium version of its 32-processor ES7000. TheES7000 is one of the flagship machines that supports Microsoft’s Windows 2000Datacenter Server.

As withDatacenter Server, Stephenson says Microsoft may restrict the number of optionsadministrators have in selecting hardware for 64-bit Windows systems. “Thenumber of configurations on the 64-bit platform is not going to be as abundantas on the 32-bit platform,” he says.

A number offactors will restrict the hardware configurations. Like Datacenter Server,Microsoft intends to certify hardware and drivers for 64-bit servers to furtherthe goals of stability. Driver and hardware conflicts are a major source ofsystem failures in Windows NT 4.0. Microsoft wants to ensure the stability ofits platform.

Second,Itanium requires software to be recompiled, and, in some cases, rewritten forthe 64-bit instruction set to run at full performance. Because device driversmust be able to talk to the metal, nearly all drivers will have to be rewrittenfor IA-64. There may be some lag time before a full range of devices have IA-64drivers.

Finally, itis not clear if Intel will push its Infiniband technology with the Itaniumrelease. Users may find that they have to use all Infiniband-based devices withthe new processor, much like users of high speed Pentiums recently were pushedinto using Rambus memory.

Stephensonexpects the adoption of Itanium servers to be slow when the processor is firstreleased, but expects that it will enable more users to turn to Windows inhigher-performance environments.

Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash., www.microsoft.com
Intel Corp., www.intel.com

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