Docker Acquires Unikernel Systems
January 22, 2016

Docker has acquired Unikernel Systems, a Cambridge, UK-based company focused on unikernel development.

Comprised of pioneers from the Xen Project, the open-source virtualization platform that fuels the majority of workloads on public clouds, and developers with experience in operating systems and modern day application-centric programming languages, the Unikernel Systems team brings to Docker a rich heritage in developing next-generation infrastructure technologies.

Unikernels are designed to eliminate complexity and reduce footprint by compiling source code into a custom operating system that includes only the functionality required by the application logic. Aspects of unikernel technology are already broadly in use today in leading networking and storage solutions, as much of the Internet has been built on the idea of single function appliance with minimal OS infrastructure. Unikernel Systems has been building on these technology foundations to make unikernels more broadly adaptable and the tooling around them more available to the entire systems makers community.

“We are honored to have the Unikernel Systems team, with its incredible pedigree, join the Docker family,” said Solomon Hykes, founder and CTO of Docker. “Our shared vision to take transformative technology and make it accessible to a much wider audience has made the union a natural fit and it aligns with one of our core tenets to separate applications from infrastructure constraints. Through the Docker platform, unikernels will be on a ‘continuum’ with Linux and Windows containers, enabling users to create truly hybrid applications across all formats with a uniform workflow.”

By combining the familiar tooling and portability of Docker with the efficiency and specialization of next-generation unikernel technology, organizations have a flexible platform to build, ship and run distributed applications without being restricted to a particular infrastructure. Because workloads that reach the data center today are on a spectrum from physical machine to container to hypervisor, only the Docker platform can further widen the scope and provide more flexibility for orchestrating hybrid applications.

“We are excited to be part of an organization and a community like Docker that will have such a positive impact on the work that our team and the broader unikernel community have accomplished thus far,” said Anil Madhavapeddy, co-founder and CTO of Unikernel Systems. “Similar to what Docker has done for Linux containers, by combining forces, we will be able to unlock the entire Docker ecosystem for use with unikernels, including orchestration and networking. The integration with Docker tooling will accelerate the progress of unikernels and enable users to choose how they ‘containerize’ and manage their application - from the data center to the cloud to the Internet of Things.”

Through the integration of the two teams, Docker will have access to a wealth of deep systems, kernel and virtualization expertise, which will benefit users across the Docker platform. Additionally, as demonstrated at DockerCon EU last fall, unikernels can be integrated with a Docker deployment, including leveraging Docker orchestration and networking to create specialized distributed applications. With this combination, the possibilities are endless for IT operations and cloud operators as it enables them to support microservices applications that could span across Windows containers, Linux containers and unikernels with a common user experience.

“We live in an era of ever-increasing complexity across the infrastructure space. Developers and IT organizations are searching for ways to meet the challenge of providing application functionality to their end users, with high performance, minimized security risks and agility,” said Fintan Ryan, Industry Analyst at RedMonk.“Unikernels address many of these challenges. With the acquisition of Unikernel Systems and a commitment to bring unikernel technologies to the Docker toolchain, Docker is investing in the future. We will see many more developers begin to use unikernels, in areas as diverse as microservices and IoT, with the simplicity they have become used to from the Docker toolchain.”

Benefiting from Docker’s support for open source, the Unikernel Systems team will continue to contribute to open source unikernel projects, including MirageOS, Rumprun and unikernel.org. Through the Docker project and community, the open source unikernel community will receive increased visibility and contributions to accelerate the adoption and democratization of unikernel technology.

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