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DeferPanic secures $1.5 M seed round to popularize unikernel concept

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We’ve all probably heard of containers and virtual machines by now. Virtualization enabled IT to break down a single server into multiple machines. Containers allowed you take that concept and make it even smaller. DeferPanic wants to take another step with a technology called Unikernels. Today, the company announced its $1.5 million seed round.

The round was led by Initialized Capital. Other Investors included Hack.VC, Ron Gula, Ray Rothrock, Justin Label, Liquid2 and BloomBerg Beta. The round was funded on a post valuation of $6 million, founder and CEO Ian Eyberg told TechCrunch.

Unikernels are a kind of container, but Eyberg is careful to distinguish them from the kinds of containers we are talking about when we are looking at Docker and Kubernetes. They are a specialized, very light-weight form of virtualization with some key features that should make them extremely attractive to companies trying to build at speed while avoiding being hacked (just about everyone).

First of all, you can put just about any application in a unikernal, even your older legacy ones and enjoy some big advantages. The biggest perhaps is a unikernal is by design a single isolated entity. It only runs the application inside it and nothing more. That means, you can’t execute any other code against it, which effectively eliminates any form of attack.

The unikernel itself is so efficient, you can pack 100-200 per host, as opposed to 5-6 VMs. “We spin up 1000s of unikernels on crappy servers in seconds. There is a lot of room for growth,” Eyberg explained.

While Eyberg says this technology has been around for some time with bigger companies like Ericsson and NEC working on them, up until now, they have been confined to geeks who were willing to put in the sweat to make them work. Just as it took some time for containers to really take hold before the commercialization of Kubernetes as an orchestration layer, Eyberg sees his company bringing a similar dynamic to unikernels.

“Up until now been a real pain in the ass to manage [unikernels]. The orchestration side is its own ball of craziness. If you don’t have a low level background you probably aren’t playing with them. We are one of the only ones to build a platform, allowing you to click a button and you are off to the races,” he said.

You may be wondering how the company abstracts the unikernel down to such a small size, but Eyberg says it’s because the operating system, typically Linux when it comes to virtualization, has always been bigger than it has to be.

He sees finding a way of eliminating this OS bloat as a key to the unikernal platform success. Instead of placing the entire OS in the unikernel container, he puts the absolute bare minimum, which usually only includes a network and disk drivers. That greatly reduces the size and feeds into the other benefits.

The company, which is launching out of the Alchemist Accelerator, is announcing its unikernel orchestration tool and the funding this week at the RSA security conference.

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