The Principles Behind ZeroVM

ZeroVM was founded on some key design tenets, which set it apart from other technologies. Use cases that require or emphasize several of these principles will most likely be a good application of the ZeroVM technology.

Small, Light, Fast

ZeroVM is extremely small, lightweight, and fast. An execution environment can start in as little as 5 milliseconds. By eliminating the operating system and only providing enough functionality to run simple applications, ZeroVM allows the creation of new execution environments for each user/request. ZeroVM statically pre-validates executables, which means there is no interpretation and thus no execution overhead (apart from the validation).


ZeroVM provides a completely secure and isolated execution environment. The security is derived from the Chromium Native Client (NaCl) project and is based on the concept of software fault isolation. ZeroVM creates a secure sandbox and validates all code that is executed inside the sandbox, ensuring a program will not accidentally or maliciously break out. This level of security allows for the execution of arbitrary user code even in untrusted multi-tenant environments like public cloud storage services. Find out more about about Native Client on the NaCl project website and in the original NaCl white paper.


ZeroVM makes it easy to create large clusters of instances, aggregating the compute power of many individual physical servers into a single execution environment. Users can leverage the power of 100s of physical servers for a few seconds or even milliseconds at time. Users can also define arbitrary connections between these instances, creating a sequentional processing pipeline or a directed acylic graph.


ZeroVM is designed to be embedded into existing storage systems. By embedding ZeroVM inside an existing storage system, for example, you can push your application to your data and run computations in situ, rather than paying the latency cost of piping data from storage to compute nodes. This can provide functionality equivalent to stored procedures for a variety of different storage systems. An example of this capability is ZeroCloud, a middleware application for OpenStack Swift which embeds ZeroVM on storage nodes and enables arbitrary in-place computation on collections of objects.

Functional (Deterministic)

Execution inside a ZeroVM environment is functionaly pure or deterministic, meaning that for any given set of inputs ZeroVM will always produce the exact same output. This makes it possible to run multiple copies of an operation in parallel ensuring you will get the exact same result from each copy. It also allows you to stop and start execution and even replay operations without impacting the output.