Azul increases the horsepower of server appliances

Vega 2 appliance features up to 768 processor cores -- a turbocharger for servers

Azul Systems Inc., a maker of appliances that enhance the performance of servers running Java software applications, is boosting the performance further with new models introduced Monday.

The Vega 2 appliance features up to 768 processor cores, up from a maximum of 384 cores in the Vega 1 appliance introduced in 2005, Azul said. The appliances operate as a sort of a turbocharger for servers.

Azul is launching the new product while continuing to defend itself in a patent infringement lawsuit against it by Sun Microsystems Inc.

Azul calls its technology "network-attached processing" because, the way it functions, Java-based computer workload is diverted from a database to the Vega appliance for processing before being piped into the server for distribution to end users on the network.

"It is able to run through the Java code and give you the responses in the work effort consistently and at a much faster rate than normal servers can do Java," said Cal Braunstein, an analyst with the information technology consulting firm Robert Frances Group Inc.

The Azul appliance provides data center managers an order of magnitude increase in computer processing power compared to what's available with the typical array of servers, said Stephen DeWitt, president and chief executive officer of Azul. Data center processing needs to keep growing but for some, new server capacity comes online too slowly.

"Right now it's 'Here's a thimbleful, here's a thimbleful, here's a thimbleful','' DeWitt said. "We give you a straw that is attached to an ocean."

By offering as many as 768 processor cores, Azul's uses parallel processing rather than faster processors to move data, he said. It's like adding more lanes on the freeway instead of giving everyone a faster car.

The 768-processor model, coupled with 768G bytes of memory, is at the high end of the Vega 2 line and will be shipped beginning in 2007, said Scott Sellers, chief operating officer and a cofounder of Azul. An entry-level Vega 2 with up to 192 processors and multiple memory configurations is available now in the Americas and Europe. Prices in the new series start at US$49,995.

The maximum capacity Vega 1, introduced 18 months ago, featured 384-way processors and 256G bytes of memory, Sellers said.

Azul has been engaged in a legal dispute with Sun Microsystems since last March when Azul sought an injunction in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to block Sun from suing Azul for patent infringement. Sun filed a suit anyway in May, alleging patent infringement and abuse of trade secrets.

Sun claims Azul is using Sun-patented "speculative locking" and transactional memory technology in Azul products, according to the lawsuit. It also says Azul hired 10 former Sun executives, including DeWitt, while they were still bound by a noncompete contract clause by Sun.

Analyst Braunstein doesn't think the suit poses a real threat to Azul: "I don't think there's a smoking gun at the moment."

Attorneys for Sun did not return calls seeking comment.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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