BEA upgrades Java software for Intel servers

Application server maker BEA Systems has released a major upgrade to its Java virtual machine (JVM) for servers based on Intel processors, citing growing interest among its customers for standard, low-cost hardware.

Most of BEA's customers run its software on Unix servers from the likes of Sun Microsystems, using a JVM from Sun or from Hewlett-Packard. But BEA expects demand for its software on Intel-based servers running Windows or Linux to grow "dramatically" in the next few years and the company needed to offer its own JVM for those customers, according to Bob Griswold, a BEA vice president and general manager.

BEA acquired its JRockit JVM in February from Appeal Virtual Machines of Sweden and has been working with Intel to improve it. The version released Monday, JRockit 7.0, has a new management console that lets administrators peer inside the software to tune application performance.

"It opens up the JVM so you can see invocative methods, thread count, garbage collection times, that sort of thing," Griswold said, calling JRockit 7.0 significantly faster than the current version.

JRockit 7.0 is available for 32-bit versions of Microsoft's Windows 2000 and Red Hat's Advanced Server operating systems, and is free of charge to BEA customers. The vendor also released a preview version for Itanium 2, Intel's 64-bit processor. The final version will be ready when Microsoft and Red Hat ship 64-bit versions of their operating systems, Griswold said.

IBM also offers a JVM for Intel-based servers. However, IBM is BEA's main rival in the application server market and BEA didn't want to be dependent on its rival for such an important product. "IBM makes an excellent JVM - but ours is faster," Griswold claimed.

The release is good news for Intel, which is trying to wean customers away from RISC-based servers like Sun's and onto its own servers, which typically cost far less. Its 64-bit chips have yet to prove themselves a match for Sun's RISC processors, however, and questions remain about the suitability of Windows and Linux for use on large, enterprise servers.

While only a fraction of BEA's 13,000 enterprise customers run its software on Intel servers today, they're increasingly asking about software for Intel-based systems, Griswold said.

"Most have Sun Microsystems, but there are some significant verticals - the financial community, Wall Street, for example - that are moving in a big way to Intel," he said. "We expect the proportion (running Intel-based servers) to grow dramatically over the next few years."

Of the customers using Intel-based servers, "Windows accounts for a bigger percentage, but Linux is growing very fast. It's a two-horse race and we're placing bets on both."

JRockit 7.0 should run equally well on Itanium 2 and on 64-bit processors from Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices, which are due out early next year, Griswold said. However, BEA isn't testing its software specifically for the AMD chips.

"AMD is not a factor in enterprise systems yet. If they become a big factor and if we hear customers demand then maybe, but right now we're focusing on our partnership with Intel," Griswold said

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