Computer Science Colloqium: My VM is Faster (and Safer) than your Container: The Road towards Practical Unikernels

Friday, December 15, 2017, 10:00am

Location: COMSYS seminar room (9007), E3, Ahornstr. 55

Speaker: Dr. rer. nat. Florian Schmidt, NEC Laboratories Europe


With the advent of containers, virtual machines have started developing an image problem: they seem slow, large and cumbersome compared to lightweight and nimble containers. In this talk, we will present that this perception is not necessarily true.

First, we will show results from our recent SOSP paper, showing that VMs can be extremely small and nimble, by removing unnecessary parts of the virtualized OS. This can be either done by trimming down existing Linux machines, or by creating dedicated unikernels from scratch. By optimizing the virtualization environment, we can reach further improvements that allow us to boot VMs within a few milliseconds, and up to two magnitudes faster than docker containers of similar functionality.

Second, we will present Unikraft, a new unikernel configuration and building framework that we recently released as an open-source project under the auspices of the Linux Foundation. This tool is aimed at making creation of unikernels faster, increasing the usability of unikernels and mitigating one of their main drawbacks, the labor-intensive creation process. By using a modular toolbox, developers can pick and choose required components, creating unikernels tailor-made to the application's requirements, both for Xen and kvm.


Florian Schmidt is a researcher at the Systems and Machine Learning Group at NEC Laboratories Europe. He received his PhD at RWTH Aachen University in 2015, and studied in Aachen and Tokyo. His research interests span the area of systems and performance research, with a special focus on operating systems, virtualization, profiling, and applying machine learning concepts to systems research.

The computer science lecturers invite interested people to join.