Azul Taps Network Resources

Azul Systems Inc. wants to do with compute power what other companies have done with storage and I/O-take it off the server and create a pool of resources on the network.

Azul Systems Inc. wants to do with compute power what other companies have done with storage and I/O—take it off the server and create a pool of resources on the network.

The Mountain View, Calif., startup this week will release the first of its appliances designed to enable enterprises to rapidly scale their capabilities to the changing demands of their Java and J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition) applications by allowing application servers to dynamically tap a pool of network-attached processing power.

"We believe that compute power is going to follow the same path as networked storage, and that is enterprises are going to buy big buckets [of processing capabilities]," said Stephen DeWitt, president and CEO of Azul Systems. "What Azul wants to do [with compute power] is what EMC [Corp.] and [Network Appliance Inc.] did for storage, and what Cisco [Systems Inc.] did for networking."

The company this week will roll out the Azul 960, 1920 and 3840 appliances. Azuls Vega processors are each designed to hold as many as 24 cores, and the systems will hold from four to 16 chips. That translates into systems that can hold from 96 to 384 processor cores. The chips are made by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Ltd., of Hsinchu, Taiwan.

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The systems, which fit in standard 19-inch racks and offer from one to four Gigabit Ethernet ports, come with Azuls Compute Pool Manager software, which offers management capabilities such as setting thresholds and policies and a single holistic view of the machines, DeWitt said.

Azul hopes that eventually Compute Pool Manager will work with management software from third parties, said Scott Sellers, Azuls chief technology officer and vice president of hardware engineering.

A key problem in data centers is unpredictable spikes in demand, DeWitt said. Current scale-out environments—where smaller servers are linked to create a larger compute environment—are complex and still cant accommodate all the processing power that a Web-based application demands. Meeting such demand leads to adding more servers, which increases costs and management complexity, he said.

Azul envisions an environment where enterprises have a massive pool of compute power available. Proxy software is installed on traditional servers—which hold their own processors and operating systems—enabling businesses to send Java processing to Azuls appliances.

"This allows the application a huge amount of headroom, without limitations," DeWitt said.

Anne Thomas Manes, an analyst with Burton Group, said that Azuls technologies offer a number of benefits but that the company faces hurdles in convincing business to adopt them. "You now have basically unlimited scalability for Java applications, and you dont have to do anything to the Java apps to get that scalability," said Manes in Boston. "The problem is that its disruptive technology, and people dont trust [disruptive] technology."

Azul will have to offer customer testimonials and benchmark numbers to convince many businesses to bring the technology into their data centers. In addition, there is currently a limited number of companies that have such scalability problems, so Azul might initially be constrained in its search for customers, Manes said.

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