Unikernels Are Secure. Here Is Why.

There have been put forth various arguments for why unikernels are the better choice security wise and also some contradictory opinions on why they are a disaster. I believe that from a security perspective unikernels can offer a level of security that is unprecedented in mainstream computing.

A smaller codebase

Classic operating systems are nothing if not generic. They support everything and the kitchen sink. Since they ship in their compiled form and since users cannot be expected to compile functionality as it is needed, everything needs to come prebuilt and activated. Case in point; your Windows laptop might come with various services activated (bluetooth, file sharing, name resolution, and similar services). You might not use them but they are there. Go to some random security conference and these services will likely be the attack vector that is used to break into your laptop — even though you’ve never used them.

Unikernels use sophisticated build systems that analyze the code you’re using and only link in the code that is actually used. The unused code doesn’t make it into the image created and doesn’t pose a security risk. Typically, unikernel images are in the 500KB-32MB range. Our own load balancer appliances weigh in at around 2MB.

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