RealTime IT News

(Virtually) At Your Data Network's Service

A Silicon Valley startup is preparing to make its official debut next week with a network service it claims will help boost production in data centers.

After two years in semi-stealth mode, former Cobalt CEO and Sun Microsystems exec Stephen DeWitt is expected to launch Azul Systems. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company -- whose name means blue in Spanish -- is expected to launch a service it calls "network attached processing." The concept is similar to virtualization and provisioning of compute cycles commonly found in cluster or grid environments.

That vision puts DeWitt's company in direct competition with other utility computing platforms from IT heavyweights IBM, HP and even Sun Microsystems .

But instead of focusing on the operating system, DeWitt's version concentrates solely on business applications based on Java or J2EE. That list not only includes Sun's Java enterprise application endeavors but Apache Tomcat, BEA's WebLogic and IBM's WebSphere as well.

"We designed Azul compute appliances to be transparently deployed in redundant compute pools into existing data center environments without forcing customers to make vendor-specific choices or take an architectural leap of faith." DeWitt, company president and CEO, said in a statement.

DeWitt said it is not uncommon for large data centers to have hundreds of applications running on thousands of servers. Managing and maintaining these applications becomes more challenging and costly every year as more applications are brought on-line and legacy applications are evolved. As a result, customers are transitioning from legacy development environments like C/C++ and COBOL to application virtual machine environments like Java/J2EE and .NET. These modern development environments expose a highly parallel, multi-threaded workload to underlying hardware.

The trend is so pronounced that IT research firm Gartner estimates that by the end of 2008, more than 80 percent of all new eBusiness application development will be based on virtual machine environments, including Java, J2EE platform and the Microsoft .NET Framework.

In its own view of the network world, Azul uses mountable pools for Java platform-based applications to let any application draw computing resources from the same massive enterprise resource. The pools are comprised of ultra-high capacity multi-core servers. Each one will contain up to 384 coherent processor cores and 256 gigabytes of fully symmetric memory. Putting that in perspective, most servers today only run on one or two cores.

The pools are then organized via the company's policy-based management software. After that, a virtual machine proxy technology redirects applications to the compute pool without any changes or modifications to applications or the existing infrastructure configuration.

"The fundamental shift in application development and virtualization of compute resources is here, and our vision of separating compute from the computer to gain magnitudes of efficiency will fundamentally change the economics of enterprise computing," DeWitt said.

The company said it expects the servers and accompanying services to hit the market in the first half of 2005 with end-user field trials beginning later this fall.

Founded in April of 2002, Azul Systems is DeWitt's project. While at Sun, DeWitt ran Sun's content delivery and edge computing division. Coincidentally, he left Sun about the same time as former Sun COO Ed Zander announced his retirement. Now Zander is a member of the board of directors and a firm believer in DeWitt's message.

"Network attached processing is poised to have a dynamic impact on the enterprise, one that will elegantly remove a significant amount of inefficiency and cost in managing today's data centers," Motorola CEO Ed Zander said in a statement.

DeWitt's launch is also very timely now that Sun is making many waves about its Java Enterprise suite, which has been enhanced with the addition of Solaris 10 operating environment running on AMD's Opteron processors.