What the heck’s a Unikernel? And why should you care

July 1, 2016

Just when the tech world was starting to get their heads around containers, along come unikernels.  Like containers, unikernels have been around in some form or another for quite awhile.  Their resurgence has to do in large part to their container-like functionality.  In a nutshell, unikernels combine an uber-stripped down version of an OS packaged with an individual app or service, providing a unit even smaller and more agile than a container.

Back in January Docker, seeing the strategic importance (threat?) of unikernels, acquired Unikernel Systems.  Unikernel Systems, based in Cambridge in the UK, is made up of former developers of the Xen hypervisor project.

At OSCON I caught up with Richard Mortier formally of Unikernel systems and now a Docker employee, to learn about the wild and wacky world of unikernels.

Some of the ground Richard covers

  • What is a unikernel?
  • How is Docker positioning unikernels within its portfolio?
  • Mirage System and unikernel construction
  • How unikernels augment, rather than replace containers

Unikernels: love em? hate em?

Unikernels are not without their vehement detractors.  Roman Shaposhnik, in his post “In defense of unikernels” does a pretty good job of laying out the good and the bad.  Roman’s conclusion:

….unikernels are not a panacea. Nothing is. But they are a very useful building block that doesn’t need any additional FUD. If you really want to fight something that is way overhyped you know where to find linux containers.

Extra-credit reading

  • Introducing Unik: Build and Run Unikernels with Ease – Linux.com
  • Docker bags unikernel gurus – now you can be just like Linus Torvalds – The Register
  • ‘Unikernels will send us back to the DOS era’ – DTrace guru Bryan Cantrill speaks out – The Register
  • Docker kicks off the unikernel revolution – InfoWorld

Pau for now…

 


VMware’s Photon Platform

June 29, 2016

Last week I attend DockerCon 2016 in Seattle.  Besides spending time working the Dell booth, I grabbed a bunch of folks and did some short, guerrilla-style interviews.  One of my victims was Kit Colbert who heads up VMware’s cloud native applications group.

With the onslaught of container-mania VMware, the 800-pound-VM gorilla, has had to take a hard look at the changing landscape and decide if/how they wanted to join the fray.

VMware’s response

VMware’s decision was to sally forth with not one but two entrants into the land of containers: Photon Platform and vSphere Integrated Containers.  In the video below Kit gives an overview of Photon Platform and explains how it relates to vSphere Integrated Containers.

In the second video the product manager for VMware’s vSphere Integrated Containers, Karthik Narayan, provides a double-click on this vSphere-based offering.

Some of the ground Kit covers

  • Photon is targeted at those customers who are taking a greenfield approach and are looking for a platform optimized for cloud native applications.  It GA’d this month and came with a version of Pivotal Cloud Foundry
  • Photon’s components: 1) the Photon controller which acts as a manger of all the hosts, 2) PhotonOS which is a container-optimized Linux distro and 3) Photon machine which is ESX and, going forward, will be optimized for cloud native applicaitons.
  • Native Hybrid Cloud: a tightly integrated stack from EMC composed of: Photon platform + EMC’s VxRack + Pivotal Cloud Foundry

Some of the ground Karthik covers

  • vSphere Integrated Containers are an extension of vSphere which natively integrates with Docker.  It is targeted at enterprises who want to run containers alongside existing apps and workloads.
  • It is composed of vSphere + ESX hypervisor + vCenter +VSan + NSX etc.
  • It allows enterprises to take their existing environments, add vSphere Integrated Containers and in 20 minutes have an environment that will allow their developers to work with Docker while at the same time allowing Ops to use an environment they’re familiar with to manage these new workloads.

Extra-credit reading

 

  • VMware Hires Longtime Intel Linux Exec As Its First-Ever Chief Open Source Officer – CRN
  • Compare and Contrast: Photon Controller vs VIC (vSphere Integrated Containers) –CormacHogan.com
  • VMware Photon controller – Github
  • IT pros eye Photon OS as matchmaker for vSphere, containers – TechTarget
  • Learning about VMware’s Photon Controller

Dell at DockerCon — Config guides, developer laptops, plugins and more

June 29, 2016

Today you would have to be under an IT rock if you haven’t at least heard of containers.  Containers, which have recently been made easily usable by a wide audience, allow applications to flow in a uniform package from development, to test, to production.  Containers also allow applications to be moved between public and private clouds as well as bare metal environments.  All of this increases agility and reduces friction in the overall development to deployment cycle, increasing the speed that organizations can deliver services to customers.

The 800 pound gorilla in the space is Docker which makes the most widely used container format and is building out additional offerings in the greater container ecosystem.

DockerCon

Last week in Seattle Docker held DockerCon 2016, its fourth conference promoting the general container ecosystem.  The event featured dozens of participating companies as well as a plethora of talks.  There was a ton of energy and the event even included a “full on kitty laser death match” on the main stage:

Laser cats

I attended the show and while there I attended sessions, conducted a bunch of interviews (see below) and spent time working at the Dell booth supporting Dell’s presence.

Dell Booth

At our booth we showed off four major offerings/projects in the Docker and container DockerCon Dell boothspace (here’s a video I did giving a brief overview what we were featuring).

We showed:

 

  • BlueData configuration guide:  BlueData’s platform provides customers with Big Data as a service, giving them the ability to leverage one pool of storage across multiple versions and distributions of big data tools.  The platform leverages Docker to deliver bare-metal performance with the flexibility of virtualization.  The configuration guide details the configuration set-up for BlueData’s Big-Data-as-a-Service (BDaaS) platform on Dell’s PowerEdge Servers.
  • Developer laptops: In the booth we showed off our line of Ubuntu-based developer laptops (Project Sputnik). These Linux-based systems provide a native platform for Docker-based development and allows developers to push their container-based apps to the cloud.  On the second day we gave away a “Sputnik” laptop (see below for the crowd on hand for the drawing).
  • Flocker plugin: This plugin allows ClusterHQ’s Flocker to integrate with the Dell Storage SC Series. This allows developer and operations teams to use existing storage to create portable container-level storage for Docker.
  • Docker Swarm plugin: This plugin, which is in the proof of concept phase, connects Docker Swarm with Dell’s next gen networking operating system, OS10.  The plugin automates configuration of vlan & routers for Docker’s Macvlan/Ipvlan driver orchestrated using Docker Swarm.

All in all a great show, helping to raise Dell’s presence in the space and providing us with greater insight into customer needs and the ecosystem evolution.

Waiting in front of the Dell booth for the Sputnik drawing

Waiting in front of the Dell booth for the Sputnik drawing

Video interviews:

 

Extra-credit reading

Pau for now…


Ubuntu comes to the Windows desktop — OpenStack summit

April 26, 2016

Recently an announcement was made that took a lot of people by surprise.  Canonical and Microsoft announced that Ubuntu was now able to run on the Windows desktop.

Ubuntu Goes to Microsoft’s Windows 10 Bash – LinuxInsider

Dustin Kirkland was the main man on the Canonical side who drove this.  I caught up with Dustin at the OpenStack summit to learn more about this seemingly strange move by Microsoft.

Take a listen

Some of the ground Dustin covers

  • Ubuntu and Azure and the Microsoft partnership
  • Microsoft approached Canonical about bringing Ubuntu to the Windows desktop (looking to attract developers using Linux)
  • The Microsoft kernel team has built the Windows subsystem for Linux – Translates Linux systems calls to Windows system calls – Canonical asked to deliver the userspace
  • When users type bash they end up in an environment which is essentially Ubuntu minus the kernel
  • What have been the reactions to this move from the various constituents

Extra-credit reading

Pau for now…


Where LXD fits within the virtualization and container landscape — OpenStack Summit

April 26, 2016

Yesterday here at the OpenStack summit here in Austin I caught a few of the sessions in the track that Canonical was hosting.  One of the sessions dealt with Canonical’s LXD and where it fits into the whole virtualization/container space.

The talk was given by Dustin Kirkland and after he had finished, I grabbed him to explain the basics of LXD and the landscape it fits within.

Have a listen

Some of the ground Dustin covers:

  • What is LXD and how is it different from virtual machines and containers
  • How LXD acts like a hypervisor but is fundamentally a container
  • Application containers vs Machine containers
    • Applications containers like Docker host a single proccess on a filesystem
    • Machine containers from LXD boot a full OS on their filesystems
  • Where do microservices fit in this model
  • How Docker and LXD are complementary
  • 16.04LTS ships with LXD

Pau for now…


Looking back at the original OpenStack design summit in 2010

April 26, 2016

Yesterday the OpenStack summit kicked off here in Austin, TX.   This week’s event is being attended by 7,500 individuals.

To give some perspective on the project’s growth, at the inaugural design summit back in 2010 there were 75 people in attendance.  The purpose of this initial invite-only event was to “develop a roadmap for the first release, spec out the software and spend the last two days prototyping and hacking.”

Since that time the project has been spun out of Rackspace and has become an independent foundation and today “Hundreds of the world’s largest brands rely on OpenStack to run their businesses every day.”

Thoughts from day zero

To give you a feel for the project’s origins and what it’s aspirations were at that time, below is a set of interviews conducted at the event with some of the key players.

This first one, which does a good job of setting the stage, is an interview with the initial architect/project lead for OpenStack compute, Rick Clark.

The project has come quite a way since the initial meeting back in 2010 at the Omni hotel here in Austin.  It will be interesting to see where it is six years from now.

Pau for now…


Live in Europe: Next gen XPS 13 developer edition

March 31, 2016

[Update — April 8: Offline country URLs added]

A couple of weeks ago we announced the worldwide release of the Ubuntu-based mobile Precision mobile line as well and the US availability of the next gen XPS 13 developer edition.

Today I’m happy to announce that the Skylake-based XPS 13 developer edition is now available in Europe!

Background: As you may remember, as a part of Project Sputnik, these systems began as an open-ended exploratory project to identify what developers wanted in an ideal laptop. With the community’s input, Project Sputnik became an official product and continues to evolve.

Next gen XPS 13 developer edition specsDino

  • 6thGeneration Intel® Core™Processors
  • Preloaded with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS
  • Augmented with the necessary hardware drivers, tools and utilities
  • InfinityEdge™ display, FHD and QHD+ versions available

Configurations

The following configurations will be available both online and offline in Europe.  All of three of the XPS 13 developer edition configurations come with the Intel wireless card.

  • i5/8GB: 256GB, FHD, Intel 8260
  • i7/8GB: 256GB, QHD+T, Intel 8260
  • i7/16GB 512GB, QHD+T, Intel 8260

OTA (Over-The-Air) Fixes

There were several minor fixes that were not available in time for launch but have been made available as over the air updates so make sure to run all Ubuntu updates.  (These fixes pertain to both the XPS 13 and Precisions.)

Where to order your system

The following, URLs will take you to the product pages for the developer edition in the various countries.  The countries listed below will offer the XPS 13 online.

There is a second group of nations where the developer edition is available by contacting your local Dell representative.  We will be adding that list, along with URLs, in the next couple of days. – Update: added April 8

Available online

United Kingdom www.dell.co.uk/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Ireland www.dell.ie/XPS13DeveloperEdition
Germany www.dell.de/XPS13DeveloperEdition
Austria www.dell.at/XPS13DeveloperEdition
France www.dell.fr/XPS13DeveloperEdition
Italy www.dell.it/XPS13DeveloperEdition
Spain www.dell.es/XPS13DeveloperEdition
Switzerland (German) www.dell.ch/XPS13DeveloperEdition
Switzerland (French)  www.dell.ch/fr/XPS13DeveloperEdition
The Netherlands www.dell.nl/XPS13DeveloperEdition
Belgium (Dutch) www.dell.be/XPS13DeveloperEdition
Belgium (French) www.dell.be/fr/XPS13DeveloperEdition
Denmark www.dell.dk/XPS13DeveloperEdition
Norway www.dell.no/XPS13DeveloperEdition
Sweden www.dell.se/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Available offline

Estonia http://www.dell.com/ee/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Ghana http://www.dell.com/gh/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Croatia http://www.dell.com/hr/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Israel http://www.dell.com/il/en/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Iceland http://www.dell.com/is/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Finland http://www.dell.com/fi/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Lithuania http://www.dell.com/lt/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Latvia http://www.dell.com/lv/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Libya http://www.dell.com/ly/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Nigeria http://www.dell.com/ng/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Slovenia http://www.dell.com/si/XPS13DeveloperEdition

South Africa http://www.dell.com/za/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Democratic Republic of the Congo http://www.dell.com/cd/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Congo http://www.dell.com/cg/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Algeria http://www.dell.com/dz/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Ivory Coast http://www.dell.com/ed/fr/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Gabon http://www.dell.com/ga/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Moroccο http://www.dell.com/ma/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Senegal http://www.dell.com/sn/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Tunisia http://www.dell.com/tn/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Bahrain (Arabic) http://www.dell.com/ae/ar/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Morocco (Arabic) http://www.dell.com/ma/ar/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Tunisia http://www.dell.com/tn/ar/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Algeria http://www.dell.com/dz/ar/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Russia http://www.dell.com/ru/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Belarus http://www.dell.com/rs/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Ukraine http://www.dell.com/ua/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Czech http://www.dell.com/cz/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Greece http://www.dell.com/gr/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Hungry http://www.dell.com/hu/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Israel http://www.dell.com/il/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Portuguese http://www.dell.com/pt/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Romania http://www.dell.com/ro/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Slovakia http://www.dell.com/sk/XPS13DeveloperEdition

Turkey http://www.dell.com/tr/XPS13DeveloperEdition

 

Thanks!

The entire Sputnik team would like to thank everyone in Europe for both their patience and support!  Happy hacking!

Extra-Credit reading

Pau for now

 


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