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Friday, February 25, 2005

Azul Set To Revolutinize Data Center & Middleware Processing

(Via Infoworld)On a recent tour of his company's new customer briefing center in Mountain View, California, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Azul Systems buzzed around rack after rack of his company's hardware, and demonstrated that no heat is getting dissipated. The system housed nearly 400 microprocessor cores. In the server world, this would normally generate enough heat to cook a meal. Azul plans to launch its first product, which is designed to speed up and simplify the processing of middleware applications. Azul shall be partnering with IBM, and it is also in discussions with Microsoft to bring the Azul technology to the .Net platform to bring the same sort of segmented virtual machine capabilities to the CLR (the .Net common language runtime) as in the Java world. The idea behind the Azul appliance is simple. Users install Azul's proxy software on servers running middleware products such as BEA Systems's WebLogic or IBM's WebSphere. The proxy software then transfers Java processing jobs away from the server that is running WebLogic or WebSphere and over to the Azul appliance. One appliance can work with a number of different applications at once. Azul envisions that the systems will be used to consolidate an entire data center's worth of application processing in one place, much in the same way that NAS (network attached storage) devices have consolidated file serving into one device. In addition, Azul's processor is designed to consume less power than conventional chips. "We run at a very modest megahertz range, not in the gigahertz," said DeWitt, CEO, Azul.
Azul has custom-designed its own microprocessor - a chip with 24 processor cores that is built to run many Java operations, called threads, at once. And the company has integrated a number of new technologies into its systems designed to speed up thread processing and reduce the performance bottlenecksin Java applications. Azul's first appliances, also designed in-house, will hold between 4 and 16 of these chips, meaning that they will be able to run as many as 384 threads at once - more than the large SMP (symmetric multiprocessing) boxes on the market - and at a cost that will be lower than a cluster of commodity servers designed to run the same number of threads.
One of the questions that EDS experimenting with Azul is trying to answer is how best to take advantage of optimizations that may be specific to a particular middleware vendor. A second concern is figuring out how to bill for the machine's use, when different departments or even different companies may be tapping into its processing power. Ultimately, the Azul appliance is one of a number of promising technologies that are reshaping the way that data centers are used, he said. "It's probably going to make the data center look like one big computer rather than a collection of various computers." .While the potential for Azul looks promising, we need to see some early demonstrable success. But the idea is a marketbeater and definitely full of potential and an important development to watch.

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