Azul Systems

Startup unveils high-end offload technology, with plans to reach beyond Java apps

June 16, 2007

4 Min Read
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Virtualization specialist Azul Systems has overhauled its product line, unveiling a set of hardware it claims can significantly reduce the processing strain on data center servers. (See Azul Launches Vega 2 Devices.)

At an analyst event in New York last night, the startup took the wraps off the latest additions to its line of Vega compute appliances, which it claims can increase the amount of data cached within a grid architecture by a factor of 50.

Azul's strategy is focused on freeing applications from their individual servers and sharing them across the entire data center infrastructure, powered by the compute appliances. Supporting Java and J2EE-based applications, the devices use a virtual machine proxy technology and its own set of silicon to redirect workloads across the available pool of compute resources.

The idea here is that by offloading Java workloads to processors in its devices, Azul frees up data center servers to work on other things and also removes the need for users to keep servers in reserve to cope with processing peaks and troughs. (See Azul to Launch Virtual Java Box and Building Virtual Empires.)

The two appliances launched last night, the 7240 and 7280, are both 14U-high. The 7240, which is only half-populated with silicon, contains 384 processor cores and 384 Gbytes of memory. The fully packed 7280 consists of 768 processor cores and 768 Gbytes.Azul launched its first Vega devices just over two years ago with the appliances containing up to 384 processor cores and 256 gigabytes of memory. (See New Startups Tout Java, XML Gear, Azul to Launch Virtual Java Box, and Azul Attacks Data Center Apps.) Since then, Azul has revamped its silicon and can now fit 48 processors onto each Vega chip, compared to 24 on its predecessor.

San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based credit management service Truecredit uses six Azul appliances based on its first-generation silicon, which has helped consolidate dozens of servers. "With two [Azul] machines, we can support the same amount of development activity as 10 to 20 applications, depending on the application," says Scott Metzger, CTO of Trans Union Interactive, which runs Trucredit, adding that this has helped remove 35 servers.

The exec told Byte and Switch that, as his processing needs grow, he would consider the 7240 or 7280, but he's keen for Azul to extend its reach beyond Java. "While we're primarily a Java shop, we have acquired another business that is .Net based, so it would be great to see them support .Net as well," he says.

Azul's chief operating officer and co-founder Scott Sellers told Byte and Switch that the company is indeed looking to extend its platform support beyond Java and J2EE to the likes of .Net, PHP, Perl, and Python applications, although he did not provide a roadmap. "It's like a NetApp filer for compute," he explained. Initially, they started with the Unix file system, NFS, and eventually they added the Microsoft files system, CIFS.

The startup, which was founded in April 2002 by former Nortel execs Gil Tene and Shyam Pillalamarri, along with Sellers, the man behind graphics processor company 3dfx Interactive, is nonetheless seen as something of a pioneer in the area of server offload. "I don't see anyone else doing Java processing," said Gordon Haff, principal IT advisor at analyst firm Illuminata, adding that Java is widely deployed in such realms as the financial sector.As a result, much of the marketing spiel at last night's event was directed at the Wall Street types in the audience, although Haff warned that the firm will have to expand its horizons over the next few years. "The biggest challenge, I think, is probably getting more mainstream," he said. "Ultimately, to be successful, Azul is going to have to sell to more than the big Wall Street investment banks."

Azul's vice president of marketing, Ram Appalaraju, told Byte and Switch that the firm has picked up around "three dozen plus" customers, and a similar number of firms are evaluating its technology. The startup has not revealed the identities of most of these firms, although execs confirmed last night that British Telecom is using the appliances to help power what is touted as "the world's largest B2B gateway." Other early adopters include hotel booking company Pegasus and Credit Suisse, which is also an investor in the firm. (See Azul Pegs Pegasus, Pegasus Chooses Azul, and Azul, Credit Suisse Team.)

Both the 7240 and 7280 appliances are available now. Pricing starts at $49,995 and increases depending on the number of processors and the amount of memory bought.

James Rogers, Senior Editor Byte and Switch

  • Azul Systems Inc.

  • BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA)

  • Credit Suisse

  • Illuminata Inc.

  • Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • Nortel Networks Ltd.

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