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From Unikernels to Nabla Containers

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Abstract: As interest continues in lightweight units of execution for the cloud, Linux containers continue to be plagued by a perceived lack of isolation. At the same time, unikernels have offered an alternative to containers that is not only lightweight, but also inherits the isolation properties (and also some downsides of) VMs. In this talk I will argue that virtualization is not necessary for unikernels to maintain a similar level of isolation to VMs. I will also describe ongoing efforts toward a new container runtime called Nabla, based on running unikernels as processes, discuss some of the challenges in bridging the gap between containers and unikernels, and highlight future research directions.

Bio: Dan Williams is a Research Staff Member at the IBM T .J. Watson Research Lab in Yorktown Heights, NY, where he works in the cloud research organization on unikernels and containers. His current research led to the Solo5 project (used by MirageOS) and Nabla containers. His research interests span low-level operating systems and security.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Systems Research Group Seminar series.

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