Azul takes wraps off Java compute appliance

Azul Systems, a start-up headed by former Sun executives, Monday rolled out its first products, appliances designed to take the load off busy Java application servers, giving IT managers a flexible platform that can add processing oomph when Web-based applications need it.

The company unveiled the Azul Compute Appliance 960, 1920 and 3840. The 5U Compute Appliance 960, for test and development environments, has 96-processor cores and 32 gigabytes of memory and is priced at US$89,000. The 11U Compute Appliance 1920, comes with 192 processor cores and 64 gigabytes of memory and is priced at US$199,000. And the 11U Compute Appliance 3840 comes with 384 processor cores and 128 gigabytes of memory for US$499,000 or 256 gigabytes of memory for US$799,000.

The systems are engineered specifically to handle Java workloads that run multiple application threads simultaneously. They run on a custom-designed processor that has 24 processing cores on a single die.

By putting Azul's proxy software on application servers, with no modification to existing applications, IT managers can offload Java processing from servers running BEA's WebLogic, IBM's WebSphere and JBoss, for example, across the network to Azul's compute appliance.

That enables applications servers to tap into compute power the way servers tap into storage today, says CEO Stephen DeWitt, a former vice president at Sun.

Just as IT managers have been able to eliminate capacity planning at the storage level, with Azul's compute appliances they also will be able to eliminate capacity planning at the application level, Azul executives say. As a result, IT managers won't need to have idle hardware standby to handle the unpredictable spikes in demand that often come with Web based applications.

"Our technology allows existing servers to outsource some of their compute requirements to our system," says Shahin Khan, a former Sun executive who is vice president and chief marketing officer at Azul.

Customers will save in capital expenditure because they won't have to deploy as much hardware. But a substantial benefit will be in operating expenditures since there won't be as many systems to manage, Khan says. "And that savings can be redirected to application development," he says.

The appliances are available for order now and will ship later this quarter. Customers also can test out the systems for free under Azul's No Cost Evaluation Program. As for support, Azul last week announced that it had struck a deal with IBM Global Services to provide service and support for its North American customers.

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