Azul Systems claims it can offer three times the computing performance of its previous networking models - with more due by mid-2007.

Azul's new models Vega 3210 and Vega 3220 are half the size and consume 20 per cent less energy than the previous top-end model, said the company. They are aimed at large companies with complex, compute-intensive Java-based applications whose workloads can be off-loaded onto Azul's heavily multi-core boxes. Typical workloads include SAP, Oracle, BEA, IBM WebSphere and JBoss.

They contain custom-designed processors, the Vega 3210 with two and the 3220 with four. However, the chips house multiple cores so the 3220 offers 192 cores and 48GB of memory, while consuming 1,000W of electricity. It also offers four gigabit Ethernet ports. The 3210 halves those numbers for an electricity consumption of 580W. Both systems contain redundant power supplies and fans, and the ability to automatically re-configure themselves in the event of component failure.

According to Azul, the chips offer up to 10 times the performance of the industry-standard x86 processors when running SPECjbb2005 benchmarks, because they're a design dedicated to the running of Java-based applications. The company also showed XMLMark 1.2 benchmark figures that it claimed demonstrated an 11.2 times speed advantage over Sun's Niagara processor and 8.3 times over the AMD Opteron.

It also claimed that a stack of three 3220 systems with 96GB of RAM offers an advantage of 396 per cent in power and cooling savings in one quarter of the space, compared to a stack of 36 Opteron 800-based systems which offers comparable computing power.

"We're not asking customers to rip and replace," said marketing VP Ram Appalarju. "You just add the system into the network and run an Azul VM which takes the application and runs it on the appliance. All resource allocation is automatic."

Azul was keen to stress that it now has what it called real-world customer reference sites. They include Pegasus Solutions, BT OpenReach, True Credit, NBX, and a number of telcos and financial services companies. "There's no technology risk to customers with these kinds of reference sites," said Appalarju. He said that BT selected Azul's products after it tried to set up what he called the world's largest B2B gateway using standard technology "but it wouldn't scale and it was worried it would blow its SLAs," said Appalarju.

Financial services companies are buying them, said Azul, with the aim of acquiring mainframe-style performance at much lower cost. Prices start at under $50,000, said Appalarju. The forthcoming 2007 systems will house up to eight chips with a corresponding increase in cores and computing power - a maximum of 768 cores, said Azul.

On its ongoing legal spat with Sun, where Azul's founder and CEO Stephen DeWitt used to work, Azul said that the case will be settled in court. The company admitted that potential customers had raised the issue as one of concern, but all has subsequently signed up. "We have mitigated the risk," said a spokeswoman.