Azul's Compute Appliance Debuts

New RISC-based systems lets companies snap processing power onto their networks.



Startup Azul Systems Inc. next week will unveil what it says is a new era of computing called network-attached processing, which the company claims will dramatically improve the performance of applications based on technologies such as Java and .Net.

Azul is offering its Compute Appliance, a server using its own 64-bit RISC-based microprocessor with 24 separate processing cores per chip, and system-management software, which lets users offload transactional processing from existing servers for increased performance. Pricing for Azul's systems is $89,000 for a 96-core system with 32 Gbytes of memory, up to $799,000 for a 384-core system with 256 Gbytes of memory.

The Azul platform could provide a cheaper alternative than scaling out with traditional server systems to meet application server requirements for IBM WebSphere, BEA WebLogic, as well as JBoss and other open-source Java 2 Enterprise Edition platforms, says Anne Thomas Manes, a Burton Group analyst. "Companies faced with vertical scalability issues haven't had a lot of options other than buying extremely big machines to put in a cluster," Manes says. "This allows you to get more processing power to your network in the same way that network-attached storage allows you to add more storage."

In some cases, a single 96-core Azul system could be used to replace as many as 50 Unix or x86-based servers, says J.J. Everett, chief executive of Everett Consulting, which provides Java consulting for large companies. "This is a new concept, and it's going to take time to build confidence, but Azul is fixing the whole resource-allocation problem," he says.

IBM Global Services will provide North American service and support for the Compute Appliance platforms, according to Azul. Azul offers a 45-day no-cost evaluation program that includes free shipping, installation, and technical support. The evaluation period is designed to give customers time to test out the system in their most-important environments, one application at a time. "We think we're on to something very big," says Shahin Khan, VP of marketing and chief marketing officer for Azul, "and the last thing we need to do is rush it."

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