BEA upgrades Java software for Intel servers

BEA Systems Inc. has released an upgrade to its JRockit Java virtual machine (JVM) for servers based on Intel Corp. processors, the company said Tuesday.

BEA acquired JRockit early last year from Sweden’s Appeal Virtual Machines AB and has worked closely with Intel to improve the product for servers based on Intel chips. Most of BEA’s customers run its WebLogic Java application server on Unix systems from the likes of Sun Microsystems Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP), but sales on Intel-based systems represent the fastest growing part of its business, said Bob Griswold, vice-president and general manager of BEA’s Java runtime group.

The main enhancements in the new release of JRockit, version 8.0, are in performance, he said. BEA improved the profiling and debugging interfaces in JRockit to help developers write faster applications and to find and fix performance bugs, he said.

“It’s the world’s fastest JVM. We’ve made that claim before but now it really is,” Griswold said.

JRockit Version 8.0 was actually available for download at the end of January for 32-bit Windows and Linux systems, Griswold said. A version for Intel’s 64-bit Itanium 2 processor will be available when Red Hat Inc. releases an Itanium 2 version of its Advanced Server operating system. He declined to say when that would be and Red Hat couldn’t be reached for comment.

JVMs are an essential part of the Java platform and having one that runs well on Intel servers is important for BEA as it tries to grow that part of its business. Other vendors including IBM Corp. offer JVMs for Intel-based systems, but BEA doesn’t want to be reliant on software provided by IBM, one of its chief rivals, noted Mike Gilpin, an analyst at Giga Information Group.

“Historically the industry looked to Microsoft to provide Intel JVMs, but they’d only have done so for Windows anyway (and not Linux). When Microsoft stopped enhancing its JVM a few years ago this created a hole” that BEA needed to fill with JRockit, Gilpin said.

He estimated that 20 per cent or more of BEA’s customers run its application server on Intel-based systems. The majority of those customers use Intel’s 32-bit processors, but Itanium 2 is “definitely” viewed among enterprises as a viable platform for Java applications, he said.

“I think they see some level of inevitability about it as the Itanium architecture becomes increasingly popular and available. This will displace some of the workload running on Unix systems,” Gilpin said.

That said, adoption of Itanium 2 systems hasn’t been as rapid as Intel would have liked, other analysts have said. While HP and others remain avid backers of Itanium, IBM’s level of public endorsement appears to have waned in recent weeks as it promotes its own Power chips.

Vendors such as IBM make more money selling systems based on their own proprietary RISC chips, BEA’s Griswold noted, but he said momentum behind Itanium is still strong. Just last week BEA said its WebLogic Server 7.0 has been certified for Itanium 2 servers from HP.

“This, along with our JVM for Itanium 2, is starting to show that Itanium 2 is a viable platform for enterprise Java,” Griswold said.