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Sun, IBM push 64-bit Java for high-memory apps

Sun Microsystems and IBM are both pushing 64-bit versions of Java technology at the JavaOne event in San Francisco this week. Sun's Java 2, Standard Edition release 1.4 ? the first from Sun to support 64-bit architectures ? was launched late last week, and this week IBM plans to launch its own 64-bit Java, for AIX 5L, and its Power 64-bit chip architecture.

Both companies plan to support Java on Intel's new Itanium 64-bit chips in the future. A Sun spokesman said there are plans in place for Windows and Linux support on Itanium, but that the release depends on Intel's Itanium rollout schedule. Sun is also waiting to see some indications of the acceptance of the chip, he added. IBM's AIX 5L will run on Itanium, but there was no mention of how soon Java support will be ready.

The move indicates that Java is now an option for programmers working on data-intensive software applications, including scientific computational and large analytical databases. It's tailored for applications that need to address memory heaps of very large sizes. IBM plans to demonstrate a life-sciences application written by scientific software firm MicroMass, which makes it possible to search the entire human genome database in one pass over the Web for the first time.

Compaq has had a 64-bit implementation of the Java Virtual Machine for some time, because of the high floating-point performance of its Alpha chip and Tru64 Unix operating system, used mostly for specialist applications. IBM has also offered a 64-bit JVM for its iSeries AS/400s. But the two announcements mark its appearance on mainstream servers that typically run Java and Web applications.

Sun's J2SE 1.4 is out now in beta and free to download. It also adds a foundation for Web services in the form of an XML parser integrated into the core platform. Web services are expected to be one of the focuses of the JavaOne event. The final version will ship in November.

IBM's AIX Developer Kit, Java 2 Technology Edition (based on Java 1.3) includes a 64-bit JVM, just-in-time compiler and mixed-mode interpreter. It will be available free for download in July.

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