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By | Ashlee Vance 6th December 2006 17:13

Azul opens 768-core diner with Vega 2

Humble and willing to talk about it

Java crusher Azul Systems has birthed a second generation of hardware and proven that it's a start-up capable of learning lessons.

Azul this week unveiled the 3200 Series versions of its servers. These systems run on the 48-core Vega 2 chip - also new - and eat up 5U of rack space. The Model 3210 gives customers 96 processor cores, support for 48GB of memory and a 580 Watt appetite, while the Model 3220 ships with 192 processor cores, support for 192GB of memory and a 1000 Watt appetite.

As most of you know, list prices don't mean squat, and they mean even less in the hardware world where vendors exclude large DIMM bills from their press release price tags. That said, Azul has flagged up the 3200 Series hardware as starting at $50,000, which proves that it has learned start-up lesson number one: don't scare the crap out of potential customers with what's largely a made up price.

When Azul first emerged from stealth mode last April, its Vega 1-based, 96-core unit, 5U unit "started" at $89,000. With another processor generation and a few slammed doors behind it, the company appears willing to sacrifice hypothetical margins for increased interest.

Azul has also learned that it needs to supply more concrete performance information. And so we find the wee server maker bragging about a world record SPECjbb2005 benchmark set with a high-end 16-chip (768-core) box that ships next year. (Azul will also have another higher-end system that ships in the first half of 2007.)

The company once had a nasty tendency to keep performance information secret and issued little more than whispered promises that BEA's software hummed on its machines.

Azul, incidentally, has firmed up that relationship with BEA but is still missing a similar partnership with IBM around WebSphere and with Microsoft around .Net. It's also still involved in a legal dispute with Sun.

The customer win press releases from Azul remain rare creatures. The start-up spends most of its time banging on about a win with BT.

In addition, its virtual machine speed-up play continues to look fairly limited and so far out of the ordinary that it would make most customers uncomfortable.

We are, however, impressed with how Azul has matured its sales operations. Few start-ups come through with the pricing and performance proof changes in such short order. And analysts seem to be picking up on this as well.

"Azul seems much more measured, much more serious, and much more grounded," wrote Illuminata's Jonathan Eunice. "Beyond being a welcome shift, this narrowing of focus gives Azul much more opportunity to discuss things at which it’s genuinely advantaged."

Well said. ®

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