UKL, a Linux-based Unikernel with a Community-based Approach Created via the Boston University Red Hat Collaboratory

Over at the now + Next Red Hat blog, Ph.D. researcher Ali Raza details a Collaboratory effort he worked on this summer as an intern to build UKL, a Linux-based Unikernel.

Ali worked under the advisement of Dr. Orran Krieger at BU as well as Red Hatters Richard W.M. Jones and Ulrich Drepper (who recently gave a Collaboratory Colloquium talk), with consultation from James Cadden and Tommy Unger from the Boston University Elastic Building Block Runtime (EbbRT) team.

What is different about UKL in comparison to other unikernel projects?

  • Unikernels have been around for many years, but tend to take either a “clean slate” or “fork” approach, disconnecting their codebases from the broader community of developers who help with maintainership and pre-existing users who likely won’t want to take the leap to port their applications to something new.
  • UKL takes a community-based approach, by focusing on producing something that could be upstreamed and by working to keep any changes to the codebases involved extremely minimal.

The initial version of UKL involves changing just one line of the Linux codebase, with minor changes made to glibc by Ulrich Drepper. With such minimal changes, compatibility with existing applications that run on Linux can be maintained, and the potential for upstream adoption is much greater.

Read more about this exciting Collaboratory project, including the roadmap ahead, in Ali’s blog post:

UKL: A Unikernel Based on Linux

You can also check out our Linux Unikernels Collaboratory project page, or the new paper on Linux unikernels to be presented at the 17th Workshop on Hot Topics in Operating Systems in Bertinoro, Italy next month: Unikernels: The Next Stage of Linux’s Dominance.