AWS Firecracker: Next Generation Virtualization for MicroVMs

“Firecracker is an open source virtualization technology that is purpose-built for creating and managing secure, multi-tenant containers and functions-based services.”

One of the great things embedded in Amazon Web Services DNA is their unparalleled vision and innovation in the compute resource space. In the cloud first era, AWS has constantly redefined what a compute resource is and should be. From the very start, AWS provided compute resource in the form of instances (virtualized servers), which quickly became the norm for customer compute resource. In more recent times, this innovation has continued in the form of services like ECS, Fargate, EKS, and Lambda, supported by underlying container technologies such as Docker. A constant theme in this innovation has been the miniaturization of compute resources, shrinking from monolithic instances to containers to serverless functions. Launching and leveraging smaller units of compute resource provides benefits to both AWS and its customers. AWS can distribute, balance and pack these smaller compute units more densely across its global, regional, and zonal physical resources. Customers can optimize their varying usage requirements versus spend equation.

AWS has leveraged container technology as an enabler for much of this miniaturization, providing a key advantage of faster launch times for the compute resource. However, running containers at scale in highly multi-tenanted environments has its own challenges, particularly when it comes to enforcing and ensuring security.

With all this in mind, AWS announced that they have made Firecracker open source at re:Invent 2018. Firecracker is their latest rethink to address the requirements of running multi-tenanted secured micro sized workloads. Firecracker provides a new type of virtualization technology which utilizes Linux KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machines) and provides a RESTful-based API interface to a virtual machine manager (VMM). Spinning up and configuring microVMs is performed via the RESTful API. With Firecracker, you can launch literally thousands of micro-virtual machines, requiring only 5MiB of memory overhead per VM with sub-second launch time (<125ms). A microVM has all of the advantages typically associated with a virtual machine, but in a smaller and more compact footprint, accomplished without compromising on security and boundary isolation between guests on the same multi-tenanted host.

Firecracker Host Integration

Firecracker has been designed and developed with the following key tenets :

  1. Built-In Security: We provide compute security barriers that enable multi-tenant workloads and cannot be mistakenly disabled by customers. Customer workloads are simultaneously considered sacred (shall not be touched) and malicious (shall be defended against).
  2. Light-weight Virtualization: We focus on transient or stateless workloads over long-running or persistent workloads. Firecracker’s hardware resources overhead is known and guaranteed.
  3. Minimalist in Features: If it’s not clearly required for our mission, we won’t build it. We maintain a single implementation per capability.
  4. Compute Oversubscription: All of the hardware compute resources exposed by Firecracker to guests can be securely oversubscribed.

To get Firecracker up and running you’ll need access to a bare metal server running Linux with KVM. AWS provides the i3. metal instance, but you can also run it on your workstation or other provider-supplied bare metal servers. If you’re considering using the i3.metal instance for running Firecracker, take into account the cost of running this beast (36 hyper-threaded cores, 512 GiB, 15.2TB SSD – costing $4.992 per hour On-Demand in Oregon).

From what I can tell having briefly read the docs and played with the technology, there aren’t many, if any, restrictions on what workload types can be processed within a microVM running on Firecracker. Having said that, and as the product name potentially implies, Firecracker’s niche spot is probably aimed at short-lived bursts of compute activity, since this is also evidenced by the fact that both Lambda and Fargate services now use Firecracker under the hood and were likely influencing its design. However, there really is no reason why longer-lived workloads can’t also be processed using this technology.

Let’s quickly summarize Firecracker key features:

  • Millisecond launch time can be as low 125ms with 5MiB memory overhead
  • Fully fledged micro virtual machines – not just containers
  • Ring-fenced security and isolation enforced between microVMs on the same host
  • Authored in Rust (https://www.rust-lang.org/)
  • Requires Linux and KVM
  • Now used internally by Fargate and Lambda
  • Open sourced under the Apache version 2.0 license
  • Documentation portal: https://firecracker-microvm.github.io/
  • Source: https://github.com/firecracker-microvm/firecracker

Firecracker looks to be both promising and popular for provisioning compute resources. In the first 24 hours since announcement, the Firecracker GitHub repository has already accumulated 21 Pull Requests from community contributors, with several more new ones appearing during the time this blog post was authored. Indeed, this latest AWS compute resource innovation has *sparked* a lot of interest.

Go ahead and light the fuse…

Learn More

Interested in learning more about virtualization? Start with our course and speak with one of our sales engineers about how we can help you drive digital transformation.

Are you at re:Invent this year? Come visit us at booth #1809 and speak to a member of our team to see how we can transform your cloud training. 

Avatar

Written by

Jeremy Cook

Jeremy is currently employed as a Cloud Researcher and Trainer - and operates within CloudAcademy's content provider team authoring technical training documentation for both AWS and GCP cloud platforms. Jeremy has achieved AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional Level, and GCP Qualified Systems Operations Professional certifications.


Related Posts

Avatar
Cloud Academy Team
— July 9, 2020

Which Certifications Should I Get?

As we mentioned in an earlier post, the old AWS slogan, “Cloud is the new normal” is indeed a reality today. Really, cloud has been the new normal for a while now and getting credentials has become an increasingly effective way to quickly showcase your abilities to recruiters and compan...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Certifications
  • Cloud Computing
  • Google Cloud Platform
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— July 2, 2020

New Content: AWS, Azure, Typescript, Java, Docker, 13 New Labs, and Much More

This month, our Content Team released a whopping 13 new labs in real cloud environments! If you haven't tried out our labs, you might not understand why we think that number is so impressive. Our labs are not “simulated” experiences — they are real cloud environments using accounts on A...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— June 19, 2020

Kickstart Your Tech Training With a Free Week on Cloud Academy

Are you looking to make a jump in your technical career? Want to get trained or certified on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform, DevOps, Kubernetes, Python, or another in-demand skill?Then you'll want to mark your calendar. Starting Monday, June 22 at 12:00 a.m. PDT (3:00 a.m. EDT), ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • cloud academy content
  • complimentary access
  • GCP
  • on the house
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— June 11, 2020

New Content: AZ-500 and AZ-400 Updates, 3 Google Professional Exam Preps, Practical ML Learning Path, C# Programming, and More

This month, our Content Team released tons of new content and labs in real cloud environments. Not only that, but we introduced our very first highly interactive "Office Hours" webinar. This webinar, Acing the AWS Solutions Architect Associate Certification, started with a quick overvie...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • DevOps
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Machine Learning
  • programming
Rebecca Willis
Rebecca Willis
— June 3, 2020

Azure vs. AWS: Which Certification Provides the Brighter Future?

More and more companies are using cloud services, prompting more and more people to switch their current IT position to something cloud-related. The problem is most people only have that much time after work to learn new technologies, and there are plenty of cloud services that you can ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • certification
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— June 2, 2020

Blog Digest: 5 Reasons to Get AWS Certified, OWASP Top 10, Getting Started with VPCs, Top 10 Soft Skills, and More

Thank you for being a valued member of our community! We recently sent out a short survey to understand what type of content you would like us to add to Cloud Academy, and we want to thank everyone who gave us their input. If you would like to complete the survey, it's not too late. It ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • blog digest
  • Certifications
  • Cloud Academy
  • OWASP
  • OWASP Top 10
  • Security
  • VPCs
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— May 11, 2020

New Content: Alibaba, Azure Cert Prep: AI-100, AZ-104, AZ-204 & AZ-400, Amazon Athena Playground, Google Cloud Developer Challenge, and much more

This month, our Content Team released 8 new learning paths, 4 courses, 7 labs in real cloud environments, and 4 new knowledge check assessments. Not only that, but we introduced our very first course on Alibaba Cloud, and our expert instructors are working 'round the clock to create 6 n...

Read more
  • alibaba
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • gitops
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • lab playground
  • programming
Avatar
Rhonda Martinez
— May 4, 2020

Top 5 Reasons to Get AWS Certified Right Now

Cloud computing trends are on the rise and have been for some time already. Fortunately, it’s never too late to start learning cloud computing. Skills like AWS and others associated with cloud computing are in high demand because cloud technologies have become crucial for many businesse...

Read more
  • Amazon Elastic Book Store
  • Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2)
  • AWS
  • AWS Certifications
  • Glacier
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— May 1, 2020

Introducing Our Newest Lab Environments: Lab Playgrounds

Want to train in a real cloud environment, but feel slowed down by spinning up your own deployments? When you consider security or pricing costs, it can be costly and challenging to get up to speed quickly for self-training. To solve this problem, Cloud Academy created a new suite of la...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Docker
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Java
  • lab playgrounds
  • Python
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— April 30, 2020

Blog Digest: AWS Breaking News, Azure DevOps, AWS Study Guide, 8 Ways to Prevent a Ransomware Attack, and More

  New articles by topicAWS Azure Data Science Google Cloud  Cloud Adoption Platform Updates & New Content Security Women in TechAWSBreaking News: All AWS Certification Exams Now Available Online As an Advanced AWS Technology Partner, C...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • blog digest
  • Certifications
  • Cloud Academy
  • programming
  • Security
Avatar
Stuart Scott
— April 27, 2020

AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate: A Study Guide

Want to take a really impactful step in your technical career? Explore the AWS Solutions Architect Associate certificate. Its new version (SAA-C02) was released on March 23, 2020, though you can still take SAA-C01 through July 1, 2020. This post will focus on version SAA-C02.The AWS...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS Certifications
  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— April 9, 2020

New on Cloud Academy: AWS Solutions Architect Exam Prep, Azure Courses, GCP Engineer Exam Prep, Programming, and More

Free content on Cloud Academy More and more customers are relying on our technology and content to keep upskilling their people in these months, and we are doing our best to keep supporting them. While the world fights the COVID-19 pandemic, we wanted to make a small contribution to he...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • programming