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Azul Zings Its Java Hardware – Poof, It’s Software

This newfangled software platform is dubbed Zing and due out in the second half

Born to peddle pricey proprietary iron built around exotic multi-core chips that ratchet up the scalability of Java apps - a dangerous exercise that has demanded a $200 million investment from its backers - Azul Systems is now going to start selling software that does pretty much the same thing as its fancy appliances but it's optimized for the latest class of cheap, ubiquitous, increasingly powerful x86 commodity servers.

If the stuff clicks in the next year, eight-year-old Azul may be in a position to organize an orderly retreat from its hardware business, which, as it happens, reportedly just saw record Q1 earnings. It may have hundreds of widgets out there, but software's an easier sell.

This newfangled software platform, dubbed Zing and due out in the second half, consists of a bunch of open source and proprietary capabilities that Azul last week said it would kick into the Managed Runtime Initiative (MRI) that it's trying to pull together to save managed runtimes from themselves.

It's hoping to garner industry support for the effort but while it works that angle, it's got Zing, which is supposed to be the industry's first elastic runtime platform for Java applications and infrastructures.

Aside from "revolutionary" and the "development equivalent of a lunar landing," Azul calls it the first pure software runtime to meet the scalability, efficiency and availability needs of Java apps in virtualized and cloud deployments.

Azul would be the first to tell you that although Java is the enterprise platform of choice, it's a mismatch for virtualization and the cloud, not to mention rigid, non-elastic, inefficient, unstable under load and a nightmare to manage.

The company says the Zing Platform will shatter Java scalability barriers by enabling existing Java applications to scale to dozens of CPU cores and hundreds of gigabytes of memory. And since the widgetry is supposed to be elastic, they should be scale down as well based on real-time demands and service level agreements (SLAs).

The trick is in virtualizing the Java runtime in a Zing VM and liberating Java from the underlying operating system.

Working in virtualization and the cloud actually makes Zing a double first and Azul claims it will make virtualized environments better for Java than non-virtualized servers. It's beginning with VMware and KVM hypervisors.

Zing is supposed to turn traditional hypervisor overhead into a runtime advantage, boosting performance and paring the number of Java application instances that have to be deployed.

It's supposed to consolidate many small Java applications instances into fewer, highly elastic and scalable instances and create a simpler, more robust Java infrastructure with greater efficiency, higher server utilization and lower TCO. It promises to reduce the power consumption, real estate and management complexities associated with over-provisioned server infrastructures without changing any application code.

Aside from "dramatic" improvements in server resource efficiency and utilization, Azul is also promising greater visibility and easier management of any Java deployment.

It sees Zing being used particularly in high-volume applications such as web portals, trading platforms and e-commerce web sites, situations where Java application instances might have to increase their throughput up to 100x because of massive usage spikes, the same places it has sold its appliances.

Azul has no pricing yet but it's thinking it could be comparable to JBoss or VMware. It says even non-x86 Java applications running on AIX, Solaris Sparc or zLinux can leverage the widgetry.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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