Unikernels: The Next Generation of Cloud Technology

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What Is a Unikernel?

A unikernel is an entire application stack — from operating environment to the application — rolled into a single executable. There is no actual operating system, no general-purpose utilities, no assortment of device drivers; just a single program that sits bare and alone in a virtual machine. The result is a tiny, agile, and secure package, which is ideal for the cloud. The unikernel concept has long been used in the embedded systems area, where a standalone program is embedded into chips in an intelligent device. But, the concept of creating cloud-ready unikernels to populate workloads in the data center is entirely new. From web servers to network function virtualization (NFV) to databases, the unikernel concept can revolutionize the cloud as we know it.

Most technologists have heard about software containers (or simply "containers") – a technology that became popularized by Docker, which is an open platform for building, shipping and running distributed applications through containers. Containers use shared operating systems to create a capsule, of sorts, to contain your application.

They are increasingly popular, but are not the panacea able to solve all the new challenges cloud computing presents. Problems mainly pertaining to security tend to hinder this technology. However, a new technology on the rise — unikernels — holds great promise for the next generation of cloud infrastructure.

For this slideshow, the Xen Project provides background on what this new technology is, how it fits within the greater cloud infrastructure ecosystem, why it's well-suited to the future of cloud computing, how it compares with containers, and how to choose between the unikernels and containers to best support the needs of specific IT environments.

 

Related Topics : Cloud Computing, Dell, Services Vendors, SMBs, Web Platform Vendors

 
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