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Xen Project Releases MirageOS

February 27, 2017

MirageOS v3.0 includes support and tooling that allows MirageOS unikernels to target additional hypervisors such as KVM and FreeBSD's bhyve. MirageOS 3.0 also provides building blocks that can be used within traditional applications for advanced features and capabilities like out-of-the-box VPN support in native applications.

The current generation of cloud computing requires workloads that are efficient, fast and secure. Unikernels allow developers to include only the bare minimum of traditional operating system components to create lean, efficient, and fast-to-boot applications, whether they are working with microservices, embedded devices, or IoT. The open source MirageOS ecosystem now consists of hundreds of these systems building blocks that can be combined with application code into single-purpose unikernels or be used as components.

Fintan Ryan, industry analyst at RedMonk commented, "Interest in unikernels continues to grow, and with the release of MirageOS v3.0, including the contribution of KVM support from IBM research, developers can enjoy an expanded set of target platforms. With MirageOS in widespread usage as a key component of Docker for Mac and Windows, and Docker Inc's ongoing support of the project, the MirageOS ecosystem looks well placed for a strong future."

New Targets for MirageOS: Expanding its Ecosystem
MirageOS v3.0 adds new targets for virtio and ukvm via the Solo5 unikernel base contributed by IBM. The virtio target allows deployment of unikernels onto KVM/QEMU and FreeBSD's bhyve. The new ukvm target extends the unikernel philosophy of modularity and "only what is required" to the next layer down, creating a monitor with thinner interfaces that are specialised to the guest unikernel.

Giovanni Pacifici, Vice President of Cloud and Cognitive Platform at IBM Research said, "Unikernels are emerging in response to needs for an ever-more responsive and secure cloud. This technology has the potential to influence cloud applications, serverless computing, network function virtualization, and Internet of Things, making these platforms more efficient and secure. IBM Research is excited to be part of the MirageOS 3.0 release. Through contributions like the Solo5 unikernel base and 'ukvm', we are helping lay the foundation for new ways of using the cloud in the cognitive era."

Real world deployments of MirageOS

A number of use cases that illustrate the versatility and the high-growth potential of MirageOS have emerged since its inception in December 2013, including:

•Docker for Mac and Windows used MirageOS to provide the filesystem and networking translation layers between OSX, Windows and Linux, allowing for a more seamless user experience on the most popular operating systems.

Patrick Chanezon, Chief Developer Advocate at Docker said, "Using MirageOS libraries as building blocks helped us accelerate development on Docker for Mac and Windows. By using the MirageOS TCP/IP stack, we enabled a critical feature for customers on enterprise networks — that Docker for Mac can be used even when connected to restrictive corporate VPNs. We're excited that users now have an integrated environment for building, assembling and shipping applications from Mac or Windows."

•Ericsson Research in Silicon Valley have demonstrated a new standalone software platform concept to unify automation, orchestration and the compilation of a designated set of Network Function Virtualization (NFV) platforms. These platforms do not rely on current cloud orchestration or software-defined network technologies, but instead introduce the concept of 'nanoservices' that are orchestrated by MirageOS unikernels and Xen.

By applying unikernel technology to the NFV space, Ericsson Research demonstrated a set of specialized highly secure and stable 'nano-NFVs' that can easily be streamed into its next-gen cloud with better performance and security than existing NFVs.

Per Karlsson, Head of Ericsson Research Silicon Valley noted, "Applying Unikernel technology and MirageOS offered Ericsson Research a new way of innovating, designing and implementing a new event-driven framework that we used for a technical PoC. We are looking forward to applying the new features of MirageOS 3.0 to further explore possibilities for optimizing our prototype."

Improvement to User Experience and General Growth
Contributions to the project have vastly grown creating a more stable base of libraries and tooling. User experience has improved in many different areas including the build, packaging and release process, debugging and logging, workflow to simplify the development phase, and documentation.

Since its last major release in June 2014, the project has received an uptick in interest and contributions from research groups and now has over 350 contributors across hundreds of repositories. This includes Mindy Preston, the current release manager, who first came to the project as a Xen Project Outreachy intern. Outreachy is an organization that helps people from groups underrepresented in free and open source software get involved.

Lars Kurth, Chairperson of the Xen Project Advisory Board said, "Having a healthy open source community is essential in the growth and vitality of incubation projects that the Xen Project fosters. MirageOS has done a great job of activating its community to create more tooling and use cases for this project and unikernels in general. We look forward to seeing this project continue to mature and expand as we believe that unikernels are the next wave of instrumenting applications for the current and future needs of cloud computing."

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