Containers & Unikernels – TechUnplugged 2016 – Austin – What I Learned!


On Tuesday February 2nd, Groundhog Day, I had the great opportunity to both attend and participate in the great community event, TechUnplugged. If you’re not familiar with TechUnplugged, they coin themselves as “A Different Kind of Conference.” What makes TU different from the rest? In my opinion the best part of the event was the huge amount of well known community contributors that attend and participate! Also, don’t expect to hear any vendor pitches here – it should be a pitch free zone, as we’re all well versed in Internet searching tools – it’s easy to check out the tech of an organization.

Well, I had the great opportunity of hangingout with Nigel Poulton, United Kingdom as well as Joep Piscaer, Netherlands.  Both Nigel and Joep delivered sessions at TechUnplugged that talked about the concepts of Containers and Unikernels technologies in the Public Cloud environment and IaaC – Infrastructure as Code. Both Nigel and Joep see this as the technology wave of the future!

Traditionally for developers and IT folks building environments rapidly was an extreme challenge. It took large amounts of human effort as well as capital efforts to get these types of environments up and running. Containers and even more so Unikernels set out to fix these challenges and we’re seeing this as being a huge play in the Public Cloud environments like Amazon Web Service and Microsoft Azure. Just last week Microsoft Announced their initial Technical Preview of Azure Stack – Their on-premises version of the complete Azure experience.

Unlike traditional Virtual Machines, Unikernels serve one purpose and one purpose only, no bloat, no drivers, nothing! They’re a completely singular environment. Sounds like a traditional container, eh? I’d say so….but you notice I mentioned the fact that this is a large play in the Public Cloud. The most important components in these hyper-scale environments are both predictability and security. Unikernels provides both of those. Being that these isolated application run-time environments run completely isolated and are extremely lightweight with very low memory consumption as well as processes running they provide a smaller attack footprint. Another piece is how the applications are compiled…each app is compiled completely differently than the other, even though they could be serving the same purpose. Each Unikernel OS, for instance MiniOS or Mirage could be deployed a WebServer or NameResolution but since the compiling occurs within the Application Layer, they’re unique! Furthermore, this gives the ability to deliver services and provision resources through JSON files where users leveraging these Public Cloud environments can build up and tear down environments easily.

I am anxious to begin learning more about the tech as it seems super cool and I thank Nigel and Joep for their community knowledge sharing 🙂 Also, I’ll openly admit that Unikernels is a new concept to me so hanging with Nigel and Joep yesterday and listening in on their sessions was great and I learned quite a bit…Learning is CONSTANT!!!

If you’re interested in learning more (just as I am) or contributing to the OpenSource Project.

Lastly, it’s an interesting time in the application virtualization era and it will be really fun to see how things play out within the hyper-scale Public Cloud as well as they Hybrid Cloud with the introduction of both Azure Stack as well as Nano Server within Windows Server 2016.

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