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Azul Systems Carves its Own Multi-core Agenda

Heavyweight chip suppliers such as AMD, Intel, Sun, and IBM are touting multi-core systems and that's just fine with upstart company Azul Systems.

The Silicon Valley systems maker, which is touting its network attached processing systems, has found the multi-core religion with its unique "compute appliance" that packs 24 "brains" or cores on the company's Vega processor.

One advantage of dual and multi-core systems is that, working together, the cores can greatly speed processing if software is written or adapted to take advantage of the extra horsepower.

"The problem for data centers has been the total cost of ownership increases as companies want to run more applications," said Scott Sellers, co-founder and chief technical officer at Azul. Sellers spoke at the Fall Processor Forum conference in San Jose, CA this week.

He said companies are buying more servers to handle multiple application requests at peak demand times. But most of the time servers are likely to be operating at a fraction of their capacity.

Mountain View, CA-based Azul shipped its first "Compute Appliances" earlier this year. Azul said its primary customers are data centers at Fortune 1000 companies. Its compute appliances are designed for the latest generation of Web-based Java software such as J2EE , JBOSS and BEA's WebLogic application server software.

"Gartner [the IT research and consulting firm] reckons that about half of enterprise applications today are written in virtual machine languages such as Java, and .Net," said Sellers. "And by 2008 that number will be up to 80 percent."

At the conference, Sellers said his company is also working on support of Microsoft's .Net software.

Another advantage of multi-core systems is lower power consumption. Having multiple cores on the same chip generates significantly less power than multiple individual processors would. Sellers said some data centers essentially overpaid for rack servers they can't fully populate because of the power and heat generated by many of today's high-end processors.

"Traditional air cooling technologies are not sufficient," said Sellers.

Last week, Azul announced several new capabilities for utility computing and data center environments. The new capabilities, such as utility charge back and transactional quality of service, are designed to help corporations process transactions over the Internet.

Azul also updated security by allowing its software to integrate with customers' authentication and authorization directories through RADIUS, an open source project focused on network authentication services.

The theme of the Fall Processor Forum conference, which ends Wednesday, is "The Road To Multicore." Pegasus Solutions has already followed that road as an early buyer of Azul systems for its back-end processing. The company provides services to the majority of the world's travel agencies and more than 60,000 hotel properties worldwide.

"They slashed their costs by a factor of twelve" by switching to Azul, claimed Sellers.