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containersUS based container software pioneer Docker has announced the acquisition of Cambridge start up Unikernel Systems, so it can create even tinier self contained virtual system instances.

Open source based Docker automates the running of applications in self contained units of operating system software (containers). It traditionally did this by creating a layer of abstraction from operating-system-level virtualization on Linux. This resource isolation allows multiple independent jobs to run within a single Linux instance, which obviates the need to spin up a new virtual machine. The technology provided by Unikernel, according to Docker, takes the autonomy of individual events to a new level, with independent entities running on a virtual server at an even smaller, more microcosmic level.

The new expertise bought by Docker means that it can give every application its own Virtual Machine with a specialized unikernel, according to Docker community marketing manager Adam Herzog.

Unikernel takes away the rigid distinction between operating system Kernels and the applications that run over them, creating more fluidity and exchange between the two. When source code is compiled a custom operating system is created for each application which makes for a much more efficient way of working and more effective functions. The key to efficiency of unikernels is their size and adaptability, according to the Docker blog. Being brought into the open source stable will make them more readily available to developers, it argued.

Unikernel was founded by ex-alumni from hypervisor company Xen including Anil Madhavapeddy, David Scott, Thomas Gazagnaire and Amir Chaudhry. Since unikernels can run on ‘bare metal’ (hardware without any operating system or hypervisor) they take the efficiency of virtual machines further, according to the Docker blog. Unikernels are an important part of the future of the container ecosystem since they effectively absorb the operating system into the containers, Scott says. Since an application only needs to take on the scraps of operating system code that it needs, Unikernels could eventually make the operating system redundant, it claimed.

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