Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/06/01/virtualization_mobile_phones/

Virtualization moves to centre of mobile agenda

No more OS wars?

By Wireless Watch

Posted in Virtualization, 1st June 2009 07:02 GMT

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 war” and could also force closed systems like the iPhone and BlackBerry to open up more.

VMWare

VMWare has a strong position in the data center and this will only be enhanced by the importance of virtualization to the cloud computing trend (it was a key partner at the recent launch of Cisco‘s Unified Computing assault on the cloud/server space). Cisco will also be keen to dominate the whole food chain down to the devices that access the cloud, and these are increasingly mobile.

But although VMWare will hope to attract the IP giant‘s attention in the smartphone space with its Mobile Virtualization Platform (MVP), it will have competition from VirtualLogix (in which Cisco, Intel and others have invested), Wind River Systems and Open Kernel Labs.

VMWare is 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, easing IT support, and more than one virtual phone can be run a single piece of hardware.

This seems to prefigure a more blue sky notion showed off by Intel researchers last week, geared to the explosion of mobile access to cloud services and storage – its concept, CloneCloud, would clone a mobile internet device in the data center cloud and then the clone would support its alter ego out in the field.

A complete online copy of the device's data and applications, up to several gigabytes in size, would be kept in the cloud and synced with the “real” phone to keep itself updated. This would improve central support for the user, and offload many processor intensive tasks to the back end infrastructure, reducing stress on the phone, battery and cellular network.

The results would be returned across the internet to the phone, speeding up tasks like graphics processing and supporting high end video or gaming. Intel even says CloneCloud would be able to decide dynamically whether a task would be better processed by the device itself or in the cloud, depending on its processing burden and the quality of the network connection.

As TelecomTV points out, the logical extension would be for multiple devices of different formats – phones, PCs, MIDs, games players and future products – all to draw on a personal data and apps store, held in the cloud on a “masterclone”. This would allow for simultaneous updating of all a user‘s devices.

Other approaches

But other firms are pitching for this space too. http://www.ok-labs.com/ 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 to provide easily deployed and securely managed access to enterprise and desktop applications from wireless devices.

OKL last week announced OK:Symbian, a virtualized version of Symbian OS, which can then be used as a guest operating system on top of OKL4.

This lets Symbian developers or vendors run multiple mobile OSes or multiple instances of the Symbian platform on a single device, and migrate Symbian apps to new hardware. Suppliers can also put Symbian on far cheaper hardware to spread the software platform to budget markets, said OKL – another key objective of mobile virtualization specialists.

"This is the first step of the coming together of mobile phone and enterprise virtualization," OKL’s CEO Steve Subar told Linuxdevices.com. "This solution can easily deliver applications to mobile users, including delivering Windows applications on phones that don't run Windows. Corporate users only want to carry one mobile device, so there needs to be an easy interface to open and manage content.”

While OKL concentrates mainly on Symbian, VirtualLogix was the first to get virtualization on to midrange handsets running Android, announcing this at Mobile World Congress in February.

It showed a version of its VLX virtualization stack for Android, running on an ST-Ericsson ARM9-based reference design. This used a version of the existing VLX-MH (Mobile Handsets), and the firm also makes VLX-DM (Digital Media) and VLX-NI (Network Infrastructure), plus a new variant for mobile internet devices.

Unlike enterprise virtualization products such as VMWare, which abstract all physical hardware for easier installation and configuration, VLX lets guest OSes access physical hardware subsystems directly, for faster performance, VirtualLogix explains. However, developers can securely isolate critical applications.

Copyright © 2009, Wireless Watch

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