Azul Systems searches for managed runtime breakthroughs

The company's Managed Runtime Initiative looks to improve applications based on platforms like Java and .Net

An effort to improve performance of managed runtime applications, based on technologies like Java and .Net, is being launched Tuesday by Azul Systems.

The company's Managed Runtime Initiative is billed as a software development and integration initiative intended to improve execution of managed runtimes by enhancing interfaces and functionality across components of a systems stack. These components include the managed runtime, OS kernel, hypervisor, and hardware layer. The initiative covers multiple projects, some based on open source software.

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"The central problems that we address have to do with things like consistency of performance, being able to effectively scale instances of these managed runtime applications like Java," in order to take advantage of the physical memory of systems available today, said Scott Sellers, president and CEO of Azul.

Managed runtime environments have limits in terms of effectively taking advantage of the many CPU cores available now on commodity hardware, Sellers said. There also is an issue with scaling applications to take advantage of large memory configurations, he said.

"The fundamental limitation is actually deep down inside the virtual machine," of the software platform, Sellers said.

The Managed Runtime Initiative takes a holistic approach to addressing scalability, according to Sellers. To start out the initiative, an initial contribution and reference implementation from Azul features an enhanced Java runtime, to serve as an enhanced version of OpenJDK 6 (Java Development Kit), and a set of loadable Linux kernel modules. These technologies are offered under the GNU General Public License 2. Azul will seek acceptance of these improvements by the Java and Linux communities; Java and Linux are not necessarily the only targets of the initiative, but are starting points.

"Instead of a couple of gigabytes of 'processible' memory, the reference implementation shows now how Java instances can scale to hundreds of gigabytes of memory," said Sellers.

In its press statement, Azul cited an endorsement from Java founder James Gosling.

"I'm excited about the Managed Runtime Initiative and the contribution Azul is making to the open source community," said Gosling, formerly of Oracle and Sun Microsystems. "Managed runtimes have come a long way since the mid-90s. However, the rest of the systems stack has not evolved to meet the needs of these now-pervasive application environments. This initiative will bring new functionality to the systems stack, freeing managed runtimes to continue their growth and evolution."

Azul's effort was called significant by Forrester analyst John Rymer.

"It might turn out to be a forcing function for Oracle and the Java community to start addressing the limited memory available to Java applications. It might result in creation of new technology to address those limitations. Either way, I think it is important," Rymer said.

The issue is that Java Virtual Machines have a practical limit of 2GB of memory, a constraint set about 10 years ago, said Rymer. "Today, some apps strain at this limitation and  I expect the number of apps in this category to grow in response to business requirements and availability of huge memory pools in new hardware," he explained.

Azul is not yet ready to announce any partners it might have on the initiative but will approach vendors who could be critical to the effort, such as Oracle, which now maintains Java technologies developed by Sun Microsystems. Other platforms, such as .Net and Ruby, also could benefit. Linux players will be approached as well.

Azul has found interest in the effort from Microsoft, Sellers said. But this interest does not necessarily mean Microsoft's active support, he stressed.

The technology forming the basis of the initiative was developed by Azul, which has specialized in hardware appliances to speed up Java performance. With its new direction, Azul could conceivably branch out into the software business, Sellers explained.

Oracle, Microsoft, and the Linux Foundation were not able to provide any comment on the initiative as of Monday afternoon.

This article, "Azul Systems searches for managed runtime breakthroughs," was originally published at Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter and on your mobile device at

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