#49: Azul, Open Source, and the Zulu Build of OpenJDK

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Azul, the JVM, and the JDK

Simon Ritter and Geertjan Wielenga are the brains behind Azul, a company focused on providing the best Java Development Kit (JDK) and Java Virtual Machine (JVM) possible. It’s also the biggest Java-only company in the world. As Simon says, “Azul is all about Java.”

Azul has two products:

  • Zing — A high-performance JVM. As Simon describes it, “Zing is where we've taken open JDK, we've taken Hotspot, replaced certain parts of it, and then make it into a high-performance version.”
  • Zulu — A free and open source distribution of the JDK, commercially supported by Azul.

Azul focuses on high performance with Zing

The JVM is very powerful, capable of high performance while also scaling well for hundreds, thousands, or millions of users. But Simon and Geertjan wanted to improve performance even further with Zing. They focused on two main areas: garbage collection and just-in-time (or JIT) compilation.

With Zing, the garbage collection algorithm is written to allow garbage collection concurrently with the application threads. Simon explains the benefit of this. “From a garbage collection perspective, we eliminate pretty much all the latency that's there, and it's very beneficial to a lot of applications.”

For Zing’s JIT compilation, Simon and Geertjan replaced the C to JIT compiler in the JVM with one called Falcon (based on another open source project). Simon says, “By using Falcon, we can actually get better throughput in terms of number of transactions per second through our JVM.”

Azul’s open source contributions

Simon and Geertjan believe in giving back to the open source community. One way they give back is with Foojay (Friends of Open JDK), an integration platform for Java reference material. Or as Simon calls it, “a Wikipedia for Java knowledge.” Foojay has a Slack channel, Twitter, blog, and events calendar where everyday Java users can connect and share tips and tricks.

Azul has also produced another open source tool called J Hiccup, which monitors the latency effect of the JVM and the operations system hardware on an application. Simon says, “J Hiccup compares the impact of the JVM latency on your application, both with and without Zing. When you show the Zing latency graph, it's just a flat line at the bottom — no spikes. J Hiccup is quite an effective way of proving that we can do what we say we do.”

Try Zing or Zulu, or connect with other Java users on Foojay.

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58 episodes