Unikernels are a growing technology that augment existing virtual machine and container deployments with compact, single-purpose appliances. Two main flavors exist: clean-slate unikernels, which are often language specific, such as MirageOS (OCaml) and HaLVM (Haskell), and more evolutionary unikernels that leverage existing OS technology recreated in library form, notably Rump Kernel used to build Rumprun unikernels.
To date, these have been something of a specialist’s game: promising technology that requires considerable effort and expertise to actually deploy. After a brief introduction for newcomers to unikernels, Richard Mortier and Anil Madhavapeddy demonstrate the great strides that have been taken recently to integrate unikernels with existing deployments. Specifically, Richard and Anil show various ways in which Rumprun and MirageOS unikernels can be used to deploy a LAMP stack, all managed using the popular Docker toolchain (Docker build, Docker run, and the Docker Hub). The result is unikernels that can be used to augment and evolve existing Linux container- and VM-based deployments, one microservice at a time. We no longer need a revolution—welcome to the evolution.
Richard Mortier is a member of faculty in the Systems Research Group at the Cambridge University Computer Lab. His past work includes Internet routing, distributed system performance analysis, network management, aesthetic designable machine-readable codes, and home networking. Richard works at the intersection of systems and networking with human-computer interaction and is currently focused on how to build user-centric systems infrastructure that enables people to better support themselves in a ubiquitous computing world through human-data interaction.
Anil Madhavapeddy is a member of technical staff at Docker, as well as faculty at the Cambridge University Computer Laboratory. Anil was on the original team at Cambridge that developed the Xen hypervisor and is currently hacking on the unikernel movement. Anil has a diverse background in industry at NetApp, XenSource, Citrix, Intel, and NASA. He is an active member of the open source development community with the OpenBSD operating system and more, as well as the steering committee chair of the Commercial Uses of Functional Programming conference.
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