Azul Systems

Azul Systems has a brilliant product that solves a major problem — Java’s slowness. They basically have a server appliance that has 24 or 48 cores on a single chip. Only it’s not really a server appliance. It’s a coprocessor. You configure your J2EE application server to point to the Azul Appliance as an external JVM.

While cool, starting at $89K a piece, that really misses the boat. Most Java systems that I know of are running on dual CPU boxes behind load balancers, with maybe a clustered cache. The database is almost always the bottleneck. I guess the real selling points are the lack of garbage collection churn (making up for flaws in the app server, JVM, and business code) thanks to the hardware accellerated GC. All your IO, etc, still needs to be done off-board, so you still need the app servers.

They claim reductions of 20-95%, and boast what seems like a really cool potential — power reduction. A 768 core appliance takes on 3500W of electricity. Which is great, but I don’t know how many “real” cores that is. I’m going to guess performance wise, it’s something like 1/10th, getting rid of 36 dual-cpu systems sucking 250W each (plus cooling & floorspace is a big gain.) But I’m going to guess that even if you cut your appservers by 80%, you’ve still got your web and DB layers full on, and storage still needs to be done (especially if you’re holding everything in memory.  So power savings is in the hundreds, not hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

I suspect that the real benefit of a fat Azul system is that you’ve got a honking load of memory directly attached to your JVM, so you can cache everythink (twice), and that’s where your performance boost comes from.

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