Azul claims massive Java boost

Server-appliance specialist claims to have made significant advances to hardware designed to run Java applications more efficiently
Written by Colin Barker, Contributor

Azul Systems has launched a new version of a server appliance that the company claims can dramatically improve the performance of Java applications.

On Monday, the company launched the next-generation of its in-house-developed Vega processor, the Vega 2. There are two models: the 3210, that uses two chips with 96 cores, and the Model 3220, that uses four processors with 192 cores. The maximum number of cores on the first-generation hardware was 48.

The second-generation hardware also increases memory significantly, with 48GB on the 3210 and from 96GB to 192GB on the 3220, the company claims.

Azul, which has been in business for four years, has achieved success by offering high-end, off-load processors that can potentially cut the number of systems required to run Java applications, while maintaining or improving performance.

The Azul Vega attempts to tackle one of the key data centre problems: how to maintain system performance — especially key factors such as response time — when scaling up a system. Most systems become burdened with routine tasks that severely impact performance.

BT has been testing two Azul boxes and is now rolling out an application which was originally planned to have 10 large Sun servers but will now need only two Sun servers and three Azul appliances.

The traditional approach has been to "throw more memory at the problem", which becomes expensive and can, in the end, be self-defeating, as new systems are added for only marginal performance improvements. Off-loading the routine work and using a specialist processing solution is a way around that problem, according to Azul. 

BT started testing two Azul Vergas earlier this year and now has installed another three for a production system.

Mark O'Flaherty is the B-to-B delivery operations manager at BT Exact working on implementing BT OpenReach. The company has been stepping up operations with high targets. "We were looking at needing around 15 to 20 [Sun] Solaris servers," O'Flaherty told ZDNet UK. "We are looking at a lot fewer [Sun servers] now and six Azul boxes."

O'Flaherty said there was some nervousness at first about trusting "a vital system" to a relatively untried hardware platform, but the results were very promising, he said, and so far everything has worked out as planned.

"So many companies have a software solution of some kind or another that they say will speed up your systems, but they just disappoint," he said. "We looked at this very carefully. So if it was going to become part of the BT infrastructure had to be  really thoroughly tested."

There were a number of tests to find out if the apparent fast performance and response of the Azul hardware was for real. "We had a maximum allowance for the systems of two-second response time," said O'Flaherty, "and it came comfortably within that."

But choosing and using the Azul system was not all rosy, O'Flaherty pointed out. "There were issues but we were happy with Azul's responsiveness. They listened and worked to make things work."

The new system is a marked improvement on the first generation, O'Flaherty said.

Prices for the Azul 3200 start from $49,995(£25,312) and it is available immediately.

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