June 25, 2005 12:59 PM PDT

BEA plans chip-based Java speed boost

BEA Systems is expected to detail a plan next week to speed its version of Java for servers by letting the software run directly on processors.

Java, invented by Sun Microsystems 10 years ago, is a layer of software that lets programs run on different computers without having to be adapted for each one. Making software portable in this way is useful, but Java comes with a performance penalty.

Sources familiar with the company's plans said BEA will announce at the JavaOne trade show that it's working on a version of JRockit--its virtual machine software that runs Java programs--that runs directly on a computer's hardware. In contrast, most Java today runs on an operating system such as Windows, Linux or Solaris.

Likely processors BEA could support include Intel's Xeon, IBM's Power and Sun's Sparc, one source said.

BEA is one of the leading companies in the market for Java on servers. Its chief competitor is IBM, but open-source efforts such as JBoss also are catching on.

BEA isn't the only one to try to give Java hardware help. Sun was the first, launching but eventually canceling a Java processor called PicoJava. Next came a chips to speed Java in cell phones--products from companies such as ARM Holdings that made it to market.

Most recently, start-up Azul Systems has begun selling special-purpose servers for as much as $800,000. They're packed with customized chips that provide a centralized pool of processing power for executing Java programs; the company emphasizes the flexibility of its approach rather than performance.

BEA also is expected to disclose at the show a strategy that embraces virtualization, a technology that can make a computing infrastructure more flexible and efficient by breaking the tight link between hardware and software.


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Native Code Compiler
Why not just write a native code compiler? Those who want
increased performance at the cost of portability would compile
their Java programs into native machine code instead of Java
Posted by (5 comments )
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Native execution chips
Native execution Java chips have been available for a few years. Currently these target smaller editions and configurations of Java, such as J2ME/CLDC. My company developed JStamp (www.jstamp.com) which is 1 x 2 inches and will run on a 9V 'transistor' battery for up to 40 hours. It's good for robotics and industrial applications. It's not a PC or server replacement, but you might want to know that these solutions exist.

To speed up servers, you could certainly build a chip capable of running J2EE natively but it's probably easier to just cross compile to the native instruction set of the hardware. These days PC-type hardware is so cheap that using a multi-processor CPU built with off the shelf hardware is probably much more cost-effective than doing any custom hardware design.
Posted by bboyes (2 comments )
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"Raw Iron"
Reminds me of an initiative launched by Oracle years ago, called "raw iron", but as far as I can tell that initiative has not gone anywhere. A desperate move by BEA?
Posted by (6 comments )
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