Start-up Nation: JVM developers have their heads in the cloud

Dublin-based firm has come up with a technology solution to virtualise Java

John Matthew Holt, founder of Waratek

Waratek is a Dublin-based company which has developed an innovative solution that allows companies to virtualise their Java applications to operate in the cloud. It has created a new Java Virtual Machine (JVM) which allows existing Java applications to run at a higher efficiency, leading to potentially huge savings for the many large institutions which run IT systems in Java.

Founded by John Matthew Holt, a Sydney native and chief technical officer of the company, Waratek launched its IT solution at the end of last year. It now employs 27 people at its Dublin office, with additional staff in London and New York. It was recently granted Gartner Cool Vendor status and voted Innotribe Innovator finalist as a company important to the future of the financial services sector.

The company has 56 granted patents for its technology. It is now working with six of the top 20 global banks, with another 14 engagements outside the financial services sector. It is backed by 50 international investors, the largest being Mangrove Capital Partners, the biggest investor in Skype.

'Plug and play'
Waratek's "plug and play" technology is essentially a re-architecture of the Java platform – it is novel and unique and does not require any coding changes.

"As a company we are very committed to a single generic product that requires no customisation for any specific industry sector or customer. We go through a lot of testing with Oracle to ensure that that is the case," says Holt.


The Waratek CloudVM is officially certified by Oracle through the Java TCK (Technology Compatibility Kit) and is a "turnkey" replacement for existing product. "Our customers are using products which are principally Java Virtual Machines by Oracle and IBM, so we have created a new JVM which basically runs on top of existing JVMs with new efficiency and capability."

He says the problem with Java is that it was invented before virtualisation and cloud computing. “Basically Waratek has made Java ‘virtualisable’ – making it operate in the cloud much better than it did before. Java hasn’t changed, but the computing landscape is very different today than it was in 1995 when it was invented.

“There are mobile devices, virtualisation and cloud computing and Java doesn’t know any of these things. There is a need to address that.”

Holt says the financial services industry has been first to catch on to the technology. “Because they are such huge consumers of IT they also tend to be some of the first adopters . . . banks increasingly are a great bellwether of what the success of a new technology will be but, ultimately, once a technology gets traction in financial services, it can quickly scale into other industry sectors.”

Waratek wants to attract large financial institutions which can spend hundreds of millions of euro running their IT estates. Holt says the Waratek CloudVM can save such institutions up to 30 or 40 per cent, while imbuing their systems with elasticity and multi-tenancy inherent in the cloud.

The importance of security around multi-tenancy is a huge issue for Waratek. The company has built up significant expertise in the Dublin base to test the system to the highest industry standards.

It runs pilots and proof-of-concept engagements with interested parties who must go through a due diligence process to check that the product does what it says on the tin. Holt says it has been “comprehensively successful” in any such tests.

"When we looked within Europe, Ireland stood out in terms of the talent pool to draw from," Holt adds of the decision to base the company in Dublin. "By being based here we would attract and retain very sophisticated engineers."

'Lighthouse customers'
The short-term plan is to establish a number of what he calls "lighthouse customers" – big name companies that adopt their product in a large deployment and then publicly acknowledge Waratek and "the virtues of our product".

The company has just expanded into Asia and the plan is to expand global sales and to reach into the US. "The US is a far larger market for us and also has the reputation for being an early adopter, so it's the natural home for a complex product like our JVM. Cracking the US market would be a very important part of our strategy."