Story 2014-07-12

Unikernels: rise of the virtual-library operating system

in code on (#3QG)
Mssrs. Anil Madhavapeddy and David J. Scott over at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) ask: What if all layers in a virtual appliance were compiled within the same safe, high-level language framework? Good question, and I suspect we'll find out soon enough, because the trend in virtualization seems to be leading us in this direction.
While operating-system virtualization is undeniably useful, it adds yet another layer to an already highly layered software stack now including: support for old physical protocols (e.g., disk standards developed in the 1980s, such as IDE); irrelevant optimizations (e.g., disk elevator algorithms on SSD drives); backward-compatible interfaces (e.g., POSIX); user-space processes and threads (in addition to VMs on a hypervisor); and managed-code runtimes (e.g., OCaml, .NET, or Java). All of these layers sit beneath the application code. Are we really doomed to adding new layers of indirection and abstraction every few years, leaving future generations of programmers to become virtual archaeologists as they dig through hundreds of layers of software emulation to debug even the simplest applications?
This project intends to reduce the different layers of software and operating system to simple-API systems that can be installed and used like virtual appliances, perhaps [ed. note: this is my analogy, not the author's] the way Busybox reduces the POSIX standard to a simpler and smaller binary executable.

The Post-Silicon future

in hardware on (#3QF)
story imageIt's hard to understate the impact of the silicon chip and the advances wrought by Moore's law and steady research and development in miniaturizing transistors on silicon. But we're getting close to the limits, and getting beyond 9nm puts us at the limits of physics, it would seem. So what's next?

IBM is hoping it will be the first to find out. Not one to shy away from the big bets, IBM is putting $3B into researching the next step, including having a go at 7nm processes, new semiconducting materials like Gallium-Arsenide, and technologies like carbon nanotubes and graphene. At 7nm, the game changes significantly, and quantum physics begins to matter as much as traditional physics. Steve Torbak points out there's hope for technologies like racetrack memory and neuromorphic memory, too.

Or maybe, there's still room for improvement with what we've got. We're not done with Systems-on-a-Chip, after all, and DARPA has recently taken this approach to put an entire communications stack on a dime-sized chip.

[Ed. note: All I know is, to watch the next generation of silly cat videos, we're going to need a serious boost in hardware. /grin]

Pipedot: let's make this site fly

in pipedot on (#3QE)
When Bryan said he was going to focus on coding the site, I thought to myself, "well maybe that's the end of this: it will turn into a software project and nothing more." Then I went back to the other well-known News-for-X sites and had a look around. It's a Goldilocks and the Three Bears story: one has a semi-decent news and a large community but an awful interface. Another has an awful interface and a medium-sized community, crappy news, and no editing. There's Reddit too, and although everyone says the gold is in the sub-reddits, I found few sub-reddits that were really chock-full of awesome comments and something about Reddit lends itself to the quick repartee and stupid puns instead of real conversation.

So I'm going to throw my weight behind Pipedot. It's got a great interface that works well on every screen I use, and huge potential. All we need are some more contributors. Give me a hand getting the word out. Here's how you can help.

Got a lot of time? We could certainly use another editor.
This place will only be as good as its submitted articles. You know what to do.
Got a good idea for a poll? Post it here or submit it to the list:

Otherwise, help get the word out! Link Pipedot articles to other places you read news: ArsTechnica, the Register, OSNews, Usenet, the millions of Android sites, the Verge, and so on. If you're not into those things, how about emailing your friends with a link to Pipedot. We could use more voices around here. Spread links on IRC if that's your thing.

There's an RSS feed. But Pipedot articles are getting distributed by Twitter now too. Follow @Pipedot and retweet as far and wide as you can. The Twittersphere is (inexplicably) a great echo chamber for linking to Pipedot articles and getting the word out. I'm also thinking about paying to have an advert or two placed in some strategic places. Got any suggestions for the best placement of these adverts? Let me know.

Hoping to see this place turn into something awesome.