Friday, January 22, 2016

On Docker absorbing Unikernel

Docker just bought Unikernel. This is an interesting move from this company. It allows Docker to make a counter move to its usual strategy which revolved around expanding its deployment practice, management tools and platform management offer.



The main attraction of unikernels, for Docker and its users, are performance and security. While some may argue that performance might be a red herring. You have to remember that, with unikernel, Docker is able to make a significant foray in the world of :
  • networking where real time performance in NVF is crucial (Rump is really nice for that). Storage might also be another use case.
  • IoT where speed and minimalist footprint provide a significant advantages
On the Security side , obviously, this will enable docker to deflect a lot of the concerns that have been plaguing them in the debate of Virtual machine vs containers.. This will allow potential customers that are kind of interested in Docker but have been put off for either security, isolation, performance to try out this alternative.
In order to make unikernels attractive to the current its current developer base. Docker will have to put tremendous efforts in creating user friendly DevOps mechanism that made Docker popular. This is a significant challenge as unikernels often requires specific tools and application build to run. Making this offer transparent and easy to use will make or break this acquisition. Capstan from OsV is a step is a right direction to achieve that by example.

However, Docker might have a darker motivation :
  • if docker successfully embrace the unikernel tech, will accelerate the vendor lock in due to its inherent nature. 
  • if docker fails it would have simply extinguish a competitor and part of a competing tech with it.
Either way I feel that docker has a greater challenge ahead with the rise of AWS Lambda style stacks.