by Christopher Lindquist

Disrupt My Business With Your Disruptive Technology? I’ll Sue!

May 04, 20062 mins

I’ve been following the progress of Azul Systems ever since I took a vendor visit with them a few months ago. The company’s Network Attached Processing product sounded like it had the potential to seriously disrupt the Java world by doing the work of dozens of traditional machines on a single, Java-dedicated “compute appliance”. Azul had even made some product-specific arrangements over software licensing because its massively multicore systems weren’t much like anything else on the market. At the time, it looked the Azul products could be a serious threat to thousands of general-purpose servers currently running Java apps.

Apparently Sun thought so, too, as the company recently sued Azul over patent infringement, abuse of trade secrets, and what it claims are nondisclosure agreements broken by former Sun employees who now work at Azul. Sun’s looking for damages and for the courts to prevent Azul from infringing on its patents–in other words, to take its products off the market.

This is disturbing no matter how things work. The Azul products have tremendous promise. And if Sun prevails and blocks their production, it will show both that Azul employees were trying to build a business on technology they didn’t own, and–perhaps worse–that Sun wasn’t trying to build that same business despite having the technology to do so.

If Azul wins, however, it will show that Sun is truly desperate to hold on to whatever grip it still can claim on the server space–to the point of bringing the lawyers instead of the R&D department into the fray (though perhaps we can assume that Sun’s R&D department are doing what they can to counter the Azul threat even as we speak.)

This is a story worth watching.