Cassatt calls for shift from Java manual to an automatic

Give us your tired, muddled J2EE masses

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Software start-up Cassatt has slotted a new Java software management product into its virtualization line. The Collage Web Automation Module (WAM) marks the company's attempt to give customers greater control over the performance of their Java applications, allowing them to cut down on the number of servers needed to run Java code.

The new WAM sits on top of Cassatt's flagship Collage product. Initially, the WAM will only work with apps running on Version 8.1 of BEA's WebLogic Server for Linux and Solaris. In the coming months, Cassatt will add support for additional application servers.

Cassatt's products force us to talk about things like "pools" of servers and automated virtualization. Such topics prove tricky as a wide variety of vendors promise a world of multi-vendor simplicity but actually deliver something much less inspiring.

With that warning aside, Cassatt reckons it has the virtualization thing down.

The base Collage product, which started shipping in February 2005, performs the essential virtualization tasks such as eliminating the one application per server model. Collage creates a group of servers and then automatically sends off applications to the hardware. A policy management system makes sure certain applications run on the right hardware, places crucial software on higher-performing systems, adjusts to peaks and valleys in user demand and shifts applications to fresh hardware when there's a failure.

Now, instead of managing the entire server and software pool as a whole, customers can use WAM to perform many of these same tasks just on their Java applications.

Cassatt EVP of products Rich Green told us that WAM gives customers more "flexibility, granularity and control" - a skill set as welcome in the bedroom as on the server.

In particular, WAM can help move applications around a server farm to deal with unexpected spikes in demand. In the long run, Cassatt believes this will mean customers have to buy less "emergency" servers and consequently less software licenses from the likes of BEA, IBM and Oracle.

In marketing speak, Cassatt said: "Organizations have traditionally set aside dedicated application resources sufficient to handle peak loads, meaning that as much as 90 per cent of their resources sit idle most of the time, waiting for infrequent load spikes.  The Cassatt solution creates a virtual pool of an organization's Java application resources – hardware, operating systems, and middleware – freeing them to be used by all applications.  Then, the Cassatt software automatically, and without human intervention, matches applications to appropriate computing resources in order to maintain the service levels that the business requires of each of their critical Java applications."

Like any virtualization start-up, Cassatt has a tough sell ahead.

It took VMware years to have customers trust its server slicing software on production systems. And, VMware is the only major success story in the virtualization market thus far.

Cassatt, and others, must build up a similar, trusted reputation. That comes by showing time and again that their software is reliable and worth the effort.

So far, Cassatt has only convinced "about a dozen" companies to buy Collage. We'd expect that number to be a bit higher since the product has been on the market for a year. The honesty, however, is appreciated.

Overall, Cassatt wants customers to look at the long-term costs associated with their current data center designs. Companies barely use the servers they have, pay tons in software costs and sometimes shell out even more on personnel.

Collage costs $100,000 for 40 managed servers - regardless of CPU or core count - and another $5,000 per server for WAM. It argues that this additional software cost will lead to a dramatic reduction in overall IT costs by cutting down the number of boxes a company needs to manage.

For those not keeping track, Cassatt was started by Sun veteran and ex BEA chief Bill Coleman. It also has an army of other ex-Sun staffers, including Green who was Sun's point man on the Java battle with Microsoft, Rob "Did I Hear A" Gingell, who was a Sun fellow, and a huge chunk of Sun's old Colorado N1 team.

Given Coleman's track record, Cassatt seems like a decent bet. The company plans to roll out additional modules over time for more applications. ®

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