Azul Updates Its Open Source Embedded/IoT Toolset for Java Runtime

Java runtime maker Azul Systems today launched a new version of its build of the OpenJDK aimed at embedded systems, mobile, and the Internet of Things (IoT) developers.

Zulu Embedded is an open-source, Java SE compliant version of the toolset for Java-based, reduced-footprint devices, such as routers and switches, ATM machines, Point of Sale (POS) systems, avionics systems, RFID readers and automotive electronics, as well as mobile devices and the emerging generation of IoT technologies.

Azul bills itself as the only company focused exclusively on the Java runtime. It's one of only two companies currently providing cross-platform JVMs; Oracle is the other one. (IBM, Red Hat, and some niche providers offer JVMs specific to their other products.) In fact, Zulu Embedded was designed to be a drop-in replacement for Oracle's HotSpot JVM, said Azul CEO and co-founder Scott Sellers, "in all ways, shapes, and forms."

Zulu Embedded is designed to allow developers to utilize a Java SE standards compliant package to suit the specific support and configuration needs of embedded systems and IoT, Sellers told ADTmag. "The difference between Zulu and Zulu Embedded is that the new version deals with all the customization that the embedded space inevitably requires," he said. "Embedded is all about custom fit: is it 32-bit or 64-bit; is it headless or headful; is it Java 6, 7, or 8; what microprocessor and operating system support is needed? Zulu Embedded provides way to take OpenJDK and do the customizations that meet the specific needs of the embedded applications."

The product has actually been available since October, and already exists on about two million devices, Sellers said. "We wanted it out there in the market for a while before an official launch," he said.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Azul created Zulu in partnership with the Microsoft Open Technologies group (MS Open Tech). The two organizations joined forces in 2013 to develop a commercial version of the OpenJDK specification for Windows Server and Windows Azure. Support was added later for a number of Linux distros, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, Ubuntu Desktop and Server, and CentOS Linux.

Brian Partridge, vice president, 451 Research Mobility team, called Zulu Embedded "an intriguing, pure open source solution for the IoT and embedded markets requiring a robust Java SE implementation."

"Today's market for embedded computing and M2M applications is wrought with fragmentation and high costs," Partridge said in a statement. "For the industry to take the next step towards realizing the expansive vision of IoT, development environments built on open source technologies have the potential to deliver the flexibility, economics, and time to market advantages needed to match an increasingly long set of compelling use cases…."

Azul's flagship product, Zing, is a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) based on Oracle's HotSpot JVM, a core component of Java SE. It's a "no-pause" JVM designed to eliminate Garbage Collection (GC) pauses, a long-standing challenge for Java developers. This pauselessness, which Azul calls "generational pauseless garbage collection" (GPGC), enables Java app instances to scale dynamically and reliably. Azul has long targeted GC, which Sellers has called the Achilles heel of Java.

Azul offers support packages for Zulu Embedded, including per device, per user, flat rate, and customer-specific plans. More information is available here.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].