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Xen Project 2016 Predictions: Unikernels Pick Up Momentum, ARM Advances, Data Breaches Continue, and then there's Containers…

Virtualization and Cloud executives share their predictions for 2016.  Read them in this 8th Annual VMblog.com series exclusive.

Contributed by Stefano Stabellini and Russell Pavlicek, Xen Project Members

Unikernels Pick Up Momentum, ARM Advances, Data Breaches Continue, and then there’s Containers…

2016 marks the seventh year the Xen Project has been a collaborative project under the Linux Foundation's leadership. The open source project has more than a decade of development under its belt and is being used by more than 10 million users. Its focus is to advance virtualization in a number of different commercial and open source applications from desktop virtualization to embedded and hardware applications. It is made up of members from Alibaba, Amazon Web Services, AMD, ARM, Bromium, Cavium, Citrix, Google, Intel, NetApp, Oracle, Rackspace, and Verizon Terremark.

Two members of the Xen Project (Stefano Stabellini and Russell Pavlicek) provide a few predictions into what they think will happen with cloud computing in 2016 and beyond.

Q: What are your top three predictions for 2016?

Stabellini: ARM will be available for purchase off the shelf, security will continue to be an issue, and containers will continue to pick up momentum, but the technology's acceleration will be at a decline.

Q: How will the advancements of ARM affect the server hardware industry and do you have any additional predictions in this space?

Stabellini: As for ARM, ARM servers' advancement will create diversity in the server hardware ecosystem, which is very much needed at this point. Anytime you have more diversity in an ecosystem this will help spur innovations.

In addition to this, I think that one large web 2.0 company will adopt non-x86 servers at scale in production, but Intel's server market share won't even budge.

Q: Now onto security, why do you think this will continue to be an issue in 2016?

Stabellini: As we've seen year-over-year, likely 50+ million accounts will be stolen by a data breach. As for the why, security (as any other feature) has a cost, in terms of software development, software deployment and lifecycle management. All of these take time and money, and many companies and individuals don't seem to be willing to pay that cost. Between convenience and security, convenience is the one that usually wins.

Q: Why do you think the acceleration of containers will be at a decline?

Stabellini: Containers are hitting their peak of success right now, they have reached the top, so acceleration will decrease.

Q: Is there another technology on the rise that might curb the acceleration of containers or become more popular in 2016?

Pavlicek: Although containers will continue to pick up momentum, there will be a surge of interest in unikernels, which bundles an entire software stack (from application code to bare minimum operating system functions) into a single tiny, secure, agile executable that is suitable for direct execution as a VM.

Q: Why will unikernels pick up more momentum in 2016?

Pavlicek: Similar to containers, they create workloads that are lightweight and agile; perfect for the new needs of the cloud. Unlike containers, they have a smaller attack surface making them more secure. Due to the secure nature of unikernels, you will see more and more enterprises seriously evaluating unikernels in 2016, with an adoption curve which will rapidly escalate in 2017.

Q: As companies try to scale with containers will security concerns increase with this technology?

Hypervisor-driven virtual machines have a distinct security advantage over containers. Container providers are working hard to improve security, but it is yet to be determined if users will spend the additional time to follow the recommended guidelines. Unikernels, on the other hand, have enhanced security baked in. The status quo for security in the cloud needs to be raised significantly, and unikernels will help make that happen through an inherently security-minded architecture.

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About the Authors
  • Stefano Stabellini is technical director for the Xen Project activities at Citrix
  • Russell Pavlicek is a Xen Project Evangelist and Senior Project Manager at Citrix 
Published Thursday, December 31, 2015 10:44 AM by David Marshall
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