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Docker acquires Unikernel Systems – viewing a future beyond containers?

Docker, the Californian technology company behind the open source virtual container platform, today announced the acquisition of Unikernel Systems, a Cambridge-based startup.

Unikernel Systems has a rather unique product that Docker plans to integrate into its own tools and services as it views a future beyond just containers. The integration of Unikernels into Docker would allow developers to build even more efficient microservice architectures.

What makes Unikernels interesting is that it brings fine tuned specialisation to virtualisation by not just duplicating and isolating full OS kernels, but by minimising the functionality to a bare minimum to run a specific application. What this means is that when compiling the OS kernel it would only add libraries required by the specific application it would be running.

The result of isolation and specialisation of the OS kernel is a very slick, fast, finely tuned OS with a tiny security footprint, which is ideally suited to very high performance and high security applications, for example financial trading floor applications and with an eye to the future Internet of Things.

Docker founder and CTO, Solomon Hykes, admits that though this might be a rather obscure acquisition, Docker is actually acquiring a team with very deep technical knowledge, which will allow Docker to be more aggressive in addressing problems deeper in the stack.

However, it also fits with Docker’s desire to move away from just containers and push forward microservices as an ecosystem, and unikernels then makes perfect sense, for as Hykes says; “With containers, developers “got a taste of small, and the next step in shrinking the payload from VMs to containers to unikernels.”