Mobile virtualization race heats up
Published: 22 May, 2009
Six months after VMware announced plans for a mobile version of its virtualization platform - used to manage data center resources and PCs more efficiently - it says the technology will be seen in handsets next year, as it seeks to see off competition from mobile specialists such as VirtualLogix.
Virtualization would enable enterprise users, in particular, to run multiple operating systems and multiple profiles (such as work and personal) on one device. This could help to reduce the importance of the 'operating system wars' and could also force closed systems like the iPhone and BlackBerry to open up more.
VMWare has been working with unspecified cellphone makers to embed its technology in their high end and products. MVP adds a virtual machine - a layer that decouples the applications and data from the underlying hardware, and the first phones incorporating this layer should appear late in 2009 or at the start of 2010. Using virtualization, the IT department will able to set up one profile that supports all the company's policies in areas like security, but allows end users to run anything they like within their personal profile. The phone's data will be a portable file that can be moved between devices if one is lost or damaged, which seems to prefigure a more bluesky notion showed off by Intel researchers last week, CloneCloud. This would clone a mobile internet device in the data center cloud and then the clone would support its alter ego out in the field.
But other firms are pitching for this space too. Open Kernel Labs (OK Labs) and server virtualization stalwart Citrix (currently a rumored acquisition target for Cisco) said this month that they will collaborate on the Citrix Receiver virtualization client, based on the OKL4 mobile hypervisor. This combined product will let Android, Symbian or Windows Mobile phones display secure, virtualized desktop images - not as broad in concept as VMWare's MVP, but designed "provide easily deployed and securely managed access to enterprise and desktop applications from wireless devices".
While OKL concentrates mainly on Symbian, VirtualLogix (in which Cisco has a stake, as well as its close partnership in the enterprise with VMWare) was the first to get virtualization on to midrange handsets running Android, announcing this at Mobile World Congress in February.