Java-based network attached processing vendor Azul Systems Inc has launched legal action against Sun Microsystems Inc designed to protect itself from what it called “predatory attacks” from the systems vendor.
Mountain View, California-based Azul filed a suit for declaratory relief in the Northern District of California to protect itself against Sun’s claim to what Azul’s president and CEO Stephen DeWitt called exorbitant licensing fees.
DeWitt told Computer Business Review that Santa Clara, California-based Sun first approached Azul just over a year ago to serve notice that they were concerned we had a number of ex-Sun employees here and that we may be breaching patents.
Since then, Azul has offered Sun the opportunity to verify its claims via audits and confidential disclosures, according to DeWitt, but the systems vendor has instead threatened patent and trade secret litigation unless Azul granted Sun significant ownership and exorbitant licensing fees.
Sun continues to maintain a unilateral position, that having access to information that may change their position is not of interest to them, said DeWitt, adding that Azul has therefore filed for declaratory relief for the court to decide if there is an infringement case to answer.
Sun Microsystems had not responded to a request for comment at press time.
DeWitt is a former Sun employee, having previously served as vice president and general manager for content delivery and edge computing after Sun bought Cobalt Networks Inc, where DeWitt was CEO, in September 2000.
Azul had subsequently hired Shahin Khan, formerly the head of Sun Microsystems’s HPC unit and its chief of marketing, to be its chief marketing officer, but DeWitt maintained that really there was no background at all from Sun until I showed up.
Azul’s JVM is based on Sun’s HotSpot JVM but the company maintains that it is a Java licensee in good standing. The company was founded in April 2002 and worked in secret on its Vega processor and Azul Virtual Machine technology before emerging in September 2004 and beginning shipments in April 2005.
The Azul Compute Appliance has been specifically designed to support virtual machine environments like Java Virtual Machines, enabling users to mount the network-attached processing resource and offload JVM workloads on to the dedicated resources.
The network-attached processing model is being pitched as an alternative to the myriad of under-utilized general-purpose servers that have been deployed in recent years to handle Java-based application processing.
DeWitt said Azul was more than happy to enter into a licensing agreement with Sun if the terms were agreeable to both parties and denied that any patent or trade secret infringement had occurred.
Of the patent they’ve shared with us, and they’ve shared a handful or so, we don’t believe there’s any infringement, he said. Our goal is to have these sort of license programs in place with all the major vendors, DeWitt told Computer Business Review. We are more than prepared to enter into an industry standard agreement.
Instead, he said, Sun has launched a competitively motivated lawsuit designed to disrupt the network-attached processing startup. I’m probably the world’s most non-litigious individual, said DeWitt. The one thing I will not do is allow anyone, be they Sun or my mother – and I love my mother – to stand in front of the innovation that defines this industry.