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IBM signs up Java accelerator start-up

Azul Systems plans to announce Wednesday that it's won its first endorsement: a support deal from IBM Global Services.

Azul Systems, a company developing special-purpose hardware to help servers run Java programs faster, plans to announce Wednesday that it's won its first endorsement: a support deal from IBM Global Services.

Under the terms of the deal, the companies said that IBM's services division will support the use of Azul's "compute appliances" in conjunction with three major Java server software products: BEA Systems' WebLogic, IBM's WebSphere and the open-source JBoss. Financial details of the deal weren't disclosed.

IBM Global Services, with revenue of $12.6 billion in its most recent quarter, is a significant partner for a company trying to gain a foothold for new technology. The Big Blue division helps companies evaluate, install, integrate and often operate computing infrastructure.

Azul develops custom Java processors whose multiple processing engines, called cores, accelerate programs running on other servers. Each chip has 24 cores, and the largest system, with 16 processors, has 384 processor cores and up to 256GB of memory.

Azul is led by Chief Executive Stephen DeWitt, who previously launched Cobalt Networks before selling the Linux server maker to Sun Microsystems. DeWitt lured Shahin Khan from Sun to be chief marketing officer.

Java, developed by Sun in the 1990s, is software that consists of a programming language and a software environment that can run programs written in that language. Because the Java programs run in the software environment, not on a particular processor or operating system, Java makes it easier to run the same program on many different types of computers.

However, the price of that versatility is the common complaint that Java runs more slowly than conventional software. Several companies offer processors that speed Java software on gadgets such as cell phones, and IBM itself has a Java accelerator it sells for use in its mainframe servers.

Though Azul promises its systems will outpace Java on conventional servers, the company bills its products as a means for customers to build a unified pool of computing power that numerous applications can tap into as required. Azul believes the move will make customers more adaptable to changing computing demands.