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Unikernels for a quick application deployment: the unicore project concludes

March 2022 marks the end of the EU-funded UNICORE Project, after 3 years of ambitious development, integration, testing and validation of a common code-base and toolchain to enable software developers to rapidly create secure, portable, scalable, high-performance solutions starting from existing applications.


The project, started in January 2019 within a consortium of 12 partners across the areas of Academia, Industry and SMEs, has reached its milestones in delivering the definitions, specifications, design and implementation of the UNICORE toolchain and, at the same time, the evaluation of the technologies developed by the consortium in a number of trials, spanning several application domains.


UNICORE addresses featureset and performance gaps in state-of-the-art DevOps-enabled solutions, enabling software developers and Independent Software Vendors, DevOps Engineers and Industry End-Users to deploy their products to a secure and flexible environment, powered by Unikernels.


The benefits of using Unikernels are the fast instantiation times, the enhanced security of the DevOps Environment, the increase in performance over SOTA virtualization solutions and the reduced power consumption.


The principal objectives of UNICORE are geared towards enabling ISVs a fast and secure deployment on Unikernel-enabled virtualization, in high-density and resilient environments.


This has been achieved by the development of a Open-Source and Free software toolkit, to enable the automation of Unikernel-based portable applications in the next generation of cloud computing environments.


Furthermore, the technologies developed in UNICORE were validated in 5 Industry-relevant Use-Cases, across 4 Application Domains - Lambda Computing, Network Function Virtualization, Internet of Things and Smart Contracts.


Consorci de Serveis Universitaris de Catalunya (CSUC) validated a Serverless Computing Use-Case focused on digital images conversions in a Unikernel-based environment. Orange Romania (ORO) and Accelleran (XLRN) demonstrated the use of Unikernels to deploy Network Function Virtualization in Border Network Gateways and Wireless 5G vRAN scenarios while Ekinops’s (OA) use-cases demonstrated the viability of Key Servers in Software-Defined Networks (SDWAN) infrastructures and a Virtual Customer-Premises Equipment (vCPE). Nextworks’s (NXW) Home Automation and IoT Use-Case validated the flexibility and performance gains of deploying their Smart Home and Smart Building Management Platform to Unikernels. Last, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) demonstrated the gains in performance, reliability and cost reduction in running components of their blockchain framework in an Unikernel Environment.


Nextworks has completed the porting of key components of its Smart Building Management Platform to Unikernels. We performed extensive functional validations on the resulting Unikernel-based solution, with the full automation of several smart home scenarios. We observed relevant performance improvements in terms of resource utilization and instantiation time. This confirms the possibility to efficiently move the system in edge environments, limiting the costs and opening the door for a variety of flexible deployments for new market targets.


UNICORE has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 82537.

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