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Re: [MirageOS-devel] [RFC] Unicore Subproject Proposal

At a first glance it this appears to be an awesome proposal! I'll give
it a more thorough read over the weekend.


On Thu, Sep 7, 2017 at 3:25 AM, Felipe Huici <Felipe.Huici@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> Dear all,
> Following up on discussions that Simon Kuenzer had with several of you at
> the last Xen summit, we’re now submitting a Xen subproject proposal based
> on our Unicore work. Could you please review it?
> Thanks,
> Felipe Huici & Simon Kuenzer - NEC Labs Heidelberg.
> PROPOSAL: Unicore
> =================
> Roles
> -----
> Project Leads: Simon Kuenzer <simon.kuenzer@xxxxxxxxx> (main lead)
>                Felipe Huici  <felipe.huici@xxxxxxxxx>    (co-lead)
>                Florian Schmidt <florian.schmidt@xxxxxxxxx> (co-lead)
> Project Mentor:  Lars Kurth <lars.kurth@xxxxxxxxxx>
> Project Sponsor: -To be found-
> Background
> ----------
> In recent years, several papers and projects dedicated to unikernels have
> shown the immense potential for performance gains that these have. By
> leveraging specialization and the use of minimalistic OSes, unikernels are
> able to yield impressive numbers, including fast instantiation times (tens
> of milliseconds or less), tiny memory footprints (a few MBs or even KBs),
> high network throughput (10-40 Gb/s), and high consolidation (e.g., being
> able to run thousands of instances on a single commodity server), not to
> mention a reduced attack surface and the potential for easier
> certification. Unikernel projects worthy of mention include MirageOS,
> ClickOS, Erlang on Xen, OSv, HALVM, and Minicache, among others.
> The fundamental drawback of unikernels is that they require that
> applications be manually ported to the underlying minimalistic OS (e.g.
> having to port nginx, snort, mysql or memcached to MiniOS or OSv); this
> requires both expert work and often considerable amount of time. In
> essence, we need to pick between either high performance with unikernels,
> or no porting effort but decreased performance and decreased efficiency
> with standard OS/VM images. The goal of this proposal is to change this
> status quo by providing a highly configurable unikernel code base; we call
> this base Unicore.
> This project also aims to concentrate the various efforts currently going
> on in the Xen community regarding minimalistic OSes (essentially different
> variants of MiniOS). We think that splitting the community across these
> variants is counter-productive and hope that Unicore will provide a common
> place for all or most improvements and customizations of minimalistic
> OSes. The long term goal is to replace something like MiniOS with a tool
> that can automatically build such a minimalistic OS.
> Unicore - The "Unikernel Core"
> ---------------------------------
> The high level goal of Unicore is to be able to build unikernels targeted
> at specific applications without requiring the time-consuming, expert work
> that building such a unikernel requires today. An additional goal (or
> hope) of Unicore is that all developers interested in unikernel
> development would contribute by supplying libraries rather than working on
> independent projects with different code bases as it is done now. The main
> idea behind Unicore is depicted in Figure 1 and consists of two basic
> components:
> [Attachment: unicore-oneslider.pdf]
> Figure 1. Unicore architecture.
> Library pools would contain libraries that the user of Unicore can select
> from to create the unikernel. From the bottom up, library pools are
> organized into (1) the architecture library tool, containing libraries
> specific to a computer architecture (e.g., x86_64, ARM32 or MIPS); (2) the
> platform tool, where target platforms can be Xen, KVM, bare metal (i.e. no
> virtualization) and user-space Linux; and (3) the main library pool,
> containing a rich set of functionality to build the unikernel from. This
> last library includes drivers (both virtual such as netback/netfront and
> physical such as ixgbe), filesystems, memory allocators, schedulers,
> network stacks, standard libs (e.g. libc, openssl, etc.), runtimes (e.g. a
> Python interpreter and debugging and profiling tools. These pools of
> libraries constitute a code base for creating unikernels. As shown, a
> library can be relatively large (e.g libc) or quite small (a scheduler),
> which should allow for a fair amount of customization for the unikernel.
> The Unicore build tool is in charge of compiling the application and the
> selected libraries together to create a binary for a specific platform and
> architecture (e.g., Xen on x86_64). The tool is currently inspired by
> Linux’s kconfig system and consists of a set of Makefiles. It allows users
> to select libraries, to configure them, and to warn them when library
> dependencies are not met. In addition, the tool can also simultaneously
> generate binaries for multiple platforms.
> As an example, imagine a user wanting to generate a network driver domain
> unikernel. In this case, we would assume the “application” to be the
> netback driver. To select this application, the user would first run “make
> menuconfig” from within the netback application folder. The Makefile there
> would set a variable to indicate what the application is, and would
> include the main Unicore Makefiles so that the unikernel can be built
> (Step 1 in the figure). Using the menu-based system, the user chooses the
> relevant libraries; for a Xen driver domain this would include a physical
> network driver, the netback driver, the libxenplat library and a library
> from the architecture library pool such as libx86_64arch (Step 2 in the
> figure). With this in place, the user saves the configuration and types
> “make” to build the unikernel (Step 3) and xl create to run it (Step 4).
> A note on the ABI/API: because Unicore allows for customization of the
> unikernels, the ABI (or API since there is no kernel) would be custom,
> that is, defined by the libraries the user selected. Having said that, it
> would be perfectly possible, for instance, to build POSIX-compliant
> unikernels with it.
> Relevance to Xen and its Community
> -----------------------------------
> Unikernels are important to a number of areas relevant to the Xen
> community, including IoT, automotive, stub domains and driver domain
> disaggregation. Unicore could help boost the progress in all of these
> areas by quickly providing the necessary tools to create  unikernels for
> them. For instance, for a driver domain, the user would include the
> “library” containing the relevant hardware driver and corresponding
> back-end driver, and in principle Unicore would take care of the rest.
> In addition, Unicore could eventually replace Mini-OS, providing a
> cleaner, more stable and flexible base from which to build unikernels for
> projects (the modularization of Mini-OS is in fact already taking place).
> Current Status
> --------------
> Unicore is at an early stage. For now it includes some base libraries with
> code extracted from Mini-OS as well as a build tool inspired by
> Linux's KConfig system. Unicore is currently able to build "hello world"
> unikernels for Xen and Linux user space on x86_64 and ARMv7.
> Incubation
> ----------
> The reason behind making Unicore a Xen sub-project project is to (1) bring
> the existence of Unicore to the attention of the Xen community
> and to outside world; (2) to attempt to harness interest and potentially
> development cycles from people and companies interested in
> unikernels; and (3) to concentrate maintenance resources from people
> interested in unikernels within the community.
> License
> -------
> The main license of the run-time components of Unicore will be a 3-clause
> BSD license, unless there is a good reason not to use it (e.g. we may
> import 2-clause BSD licensed code from Mini-OS, which we would *not*
> anticipate to change). The Makefile system would be licensed under GPL v2
> or later as we want to be able to use KConfig functionality from
> Buildroot/Linux.
> Required Infrastructure
> -----------------------
> The official repositories should be created on
> [http://xenbits.xenproject.org/] under `unicore.git`. There should be a
> main repository for the core unicore implementation and additional
> repositories for some more advanced extension libraries (e.g., lwIP,
> newlib).
> ### Main repository
> `unicore.git`
> ### Repositories for extension libraries
> Repositories for additional libraries that are supported by the Unicore
> project should exist under a separate directory:
> `unicore-libs/`
> For example:
> `unicore-libs/lwip.git`
> `unicore-libs/newlib.git`
> ### Mailing list
> In the beginning we would use the MiniOS mailing list
> (minios-devel@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx). When we get traction with Unicore we
> could consider splitting that traffic onto a unicore mailing list.
> ============================================================
> Dr. Felipe Huici
> Chief Researcher, Networked Systems and Data
> Analytics Group
> NEC Laboratories Europe, Network Research Division
> Kurfuerstenanlage 36, D-69115 Heidelberg
> Tel.     +49
> (0)6221 4342-241
> Fax:     +49
> (0)6221 4342-155
> e-mail:
> felipe.huici@xxxxxxxxx
> ============================================================
> NEC Europe Limited Registered Office: NEC House, 1
> Victoria Road, London W3 6BL Registered in England 2832014

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