Crazy Talk: Firmware & Unikernels Unite

Posted on January 17, 2017

As both Containers and IoT explode, it is an interesting observation to consider the following crazy idea….. will Unikernels begin to bridge the hardware/software divide?

In the land of servers, unikernels aren’t terribly interesting, especially when containers can simply omit the kernel completely thanks to the legacy of Solaris Zones.  To replace the container with a VM seems silly and unnecessary.  However, if high density micro-servers ever take root, unikernels get more interesting, handing a physical or logical ARM or ATOM core completely to a unikernel.  Such systems have failed in the past (SeaMicro immediately comes to mind), but often failed innovations are simply ahead of their time and preempt the necessary ecosystem shifts to take advantage of them.  Such a system essentially would constitute a modern re-inventing of the mainframe.

Within the IoT device space, we sandwich our application code together with our firmware and load it into a device.  There are striking similarities to the unikernel concept.

So…  will we one day write applications that are made portable by simply layering them inter-changeably atop firmware and a unikernel?