VMware bringing virtualization to mobile devices in 2010

VMware plans to capitalize on the booming mobile device market by making virtualized services available to smartphones and mobile device makers. The VMware “Mobile Virtualization Platform” (MVP) will create a virtual machine for mobile devices, allowing a single device to sport many underlying features. These could be in most phones by 2011, though a push for 50% adoption in the 2012 and later timeframe seems more likely, according to Gartner.
For starters, mobile devices will have virtual machines which allow them to move the entire phone from device to device, and without regard to the physical characteristics of the device, as anything not supported will be emulated by VMware’s software.

In addition, user data will be able to be moved from device to device without having to move the virtual phone itself, allowing for complete replication of devices, such as a corporate roll-out with regular updates as the needs of the organization change. For personal use, such abilities would allow one to own a Blackberry, iPhone and Pre all at the same time, and keep every device in synch as easily as using VMware’s “synch with other device”-like feature.

In addition, complex settings across multiple devices will be made easier through a common interface. The underlying VMware hypervisor (VMware software which runs the virtual phone within), will handle the technical difficulties by converting the inner settings of the virtual machine.

Clive Longbottom, a senior director with Quocirca — a research and analysis company examining “emerging technologies” — has stated:

At the moment, there’s an element of ‘what’s the point?’ but it’s certainly interesting a year or two out… I can see that a field engineer might find it useful to be working using a scheduling application, then have the ability to switch to his laptop image and see boiler plans and instructions when the need arises. Being able to divide mobile devices into different systems could potentially be very powerful. However, at the moment, I don’t think devices like the iPhone are necessarily sophisticated or powerful enough to handle this kind of technology.

See CNet, and VMware’s MVP page.

Note about VMware

For those who don’t know, VMware is a software company specializing in virtualization software for desktops and servers, all the way through enterprise-level rollout. The software they’ve created, primarily VMware ESX and VMware Server, along with supplemental toolkits and management consoles, allows an organization to manage unlimited numbers of virtual machines operating on limited numbers of physical hardware.

Virtual devices can be powered on, suspended, stopped, migrated (while running) from machine to machine, a feature which may also be possible in the future with VMware’s mobile surge. Consider a phone getting ready to die. The last thing you do before it dies is transfer the live, running virtual phone software within the device from that ready-to-die device into your other fully-charged device, and without missing more than a few seconds of the conversation while the transfer is made.

Virtualization enables capabilities which are not possible in any other way, or through any other form of technology. It is also for this reason that companies like Intel and AMD have invested hundreds of millions in adding virtualization technology to their x86-based chips, which are Vanderpool and Pacifica hardware extensions, respectively.

Rick’s Opinion

For every electronic device meant for personal use or direct consumption (such as a supercomputer cluster crunching some form of data), no matter the size, scope, or purpose, it is absolutely essential that such devices operate in a virtual way. Virtualization affords so many powerful additions that most people today don’t even recognize — including experts in fields that could directly benefit from the technology, such as software developers.

With the decreasing price of physical components, such as DRAM, SSD, CPUs, integrated devices and software, and the availability of such devices in multi-million volumes, it only makes sense. People will upgrade devices regularly.

When the physical device wears out, it would be nice to continue using everything that existed within its software, but on a new physical device. That’s a feature virtualization allows.

BY Rick Hodgin

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