This Company Built a New Operating System for Computers That Don’t Exist

Linux is the hidden server side operating system that is at the heart of every company today. You might not have heard of it if you aren’t a geek or a software engineer but it’s there. Google, Facebook, Uber, you name it – they all run Linux and NanoVMs is betting it can do one better at least for cloud systems.

Linux happens to be 30 years old now and is largely the same as an ancient operating system, Unix, which is now 50 years old – an operating system built to run on machines like the PDP-7 that took up entire walls and cost half a million dollars when it came out in today’s money.

Even when Linux was released in 1991, software was still run on real computers like the 386 with speeds bursting up to 40MHz. It wasn’t until around 10 years later that companies such as Citrix and VMWare introduced commercialized virtualization and virtual machines started being used. Around this same time we got SMP capable CPUs with real multithreading. Another five years went by and then a small bookstore in Seattle called Amazon unleashed AWS EC2 to the masses and the public cloud was born.

The funny thing is though we still use Linux as the guest operating system in the cloud even though it has concepts that are very foreign to the cloud environment such as floppy and usb support, or the notion that you should manage a full blown operating system inside of a virtual machine that can have its entire existence flicked off with a switch. This is exacerbated by the fact that many tech companies employ thousands or tens of thousands of software engineers and run tens to hundreds of thousands of virtual machines.

The History of Software Infrastructure

Unikernels are an idea that have been kicked around ever since virtualization made them possible. The idea is that if you know you are deploying your software inside of a vm you don’t need a classic general purpose operating system such as Linux anymore – you just need to run

the application you want to run – and nothing else.

Unikernels take an existing single application such as a nginx web server or a mysql database and run that as if it were its own operating system.

This has major advantages that touch on security and performance. The focus on running one program severely limits a hackers capability of running their programs which is the whole point. Similarly, NanoVMs has shown running common application payloads such as Go web servers up to 200% faster on Google Cloud or 300% faster on AWS or shaving seconds off of the JVM boot time.

NanoVMs open source unikernel, Nanos is leading the pack here with some of its customers using it in production for over two years now. NanoVMs, with deep tech roots, has backing from the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation and the US Air Force, not to mention its stable of venture capitalists such as Initialized Capital and Joe Montana’s L2 Ventures.

If you want to learn more about NanoVMs they have opened an equity crowdfunding campaign at where ordinary investors can invest in the company.