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Mobile Device Virtualization State of the Union

What do virtualization executives think about 2009?  A Series Exclusive.

Contributed By Fadi Nasser, Director of Product Marketing, VirtualLogix

Mobile Device Virtualization State of the Union

We live in the mobile century. Almost 2 years have passed since the official introduction of the first iPhone and what a difference have those 2 years made. Since then, smart phones have gone to market with Google’s Android software and RIM has followed suit by updating their latest gizmos that do away with their trademarked trackball in favor of a touch screen. However, the real change has been beneath the surface and not so much in the esthetics. The software engine that drives such devices is undergoing radical shifts. Meanwhile, Nokia has acquired and opened access to the Symbian OS.  In tandem, Linux keeps making headway in the mobile space with more OEMs staking their futures on LiMo-based Linux platforms and the much hyped Android stack.

The primary reason behind these shifts is carriers and OEMs newfound viewpoint of handsets. Now, handsets are platforms that can dynamically generate new revenue streams, beyond the fees earned by the per-minute Voice-as-a-Service delivered on the device. First, it was ringtones sold to users. Then mobile application store concepts extended their reach into GPS-based searching, better gaming and multimedia experiences, real-time content streaming and the like. Mobile devices suddenly became an ideal platform to realize revenue through advertising. Furthermore, business-grade applications such as email and office calendars have made handsets indispensible to the mobile employee. It would soon become obvious that such devices were on their way to becoming application-ready launch pads that cater to the different profiles of the end users. The business persona at work from 8 to 5 requires different services and security permissions than the casual persona of the average off-duty user. Handsets were now morphing into a mobile personal and business computing platform replacing 20th century personal computers.

This presented an operational nightmare in a device space that is notorious for its architecture entropy and lack of interoperability. At the same time, consumers were growing more sophisticated, even expecting this level of enablement that they have experienced with their ever shrinking application-enabled laptops. This was the perfect storm brewing. Enter mobile virtualization.

Virtualization presented device manufacturers with a viable bridge to help them cross from a technology fragmented state to a more harmonious state of coexistence. The real litmus test however was the cost overhead, both in terms of dollars and performance. Performance is key and this is exactly why only real-time virtualization built from the ground up with embedded requirements in mind fits the bill. Otherwise, real time mobile software can lose its determinism and performance overhead can render virtualization unfit in such product designs. Dollars-wise, reduction in the bill-of-materials is a natural benefit for a technology that promises consolidation of subsystems and convergence of features. By hosting multiple operating environments concurrently on shared device hardware, the user is spared the need for multiple devices. From an OEM’s perspective, this creates a flexible environment that incorporates innovation at a rapid pace without incurring the need to redesign or revalidate software per product iteration.

But is this new environment a ‘trusted’ one? As a result of the increased reliance on this class of mobile gadgetry, asset holders from users to operators and content providers, have security concerns that need to be addressed by the handset manufacturers. Some of these concerns are much the same as those of users and administrators of traditional PC’s in a network. The answer is yes. With embedded virtualization, not all execution environments need be created equally. Mission critical code and highly sensitive data can be sandboxed into a trusted execution environment, protected against illegitimate accesses by compromise-prone neighboring environments. The virtualization layer, the only bit of code running in privileged mode, can monitor cross-environment accesses based on security policies defined at the outset.

All this activity in the mobile device space, accentuated by a heightened state of global competitiveness and the push for more transparency, has caused secure mobile virtualization to hatch out of its embryonic shell and emerge as a viable mainstream platform. Recent entry of established classical virtualization vendors into this market segment merely validates the promise and suitability of the technology.

So with customer appetite for more mobile content just scratching the surface, with the need for this mobile virtualization overwhelmingly present and with virtualization starting commercial adoption, this trio of factors has given birth to the perfect storm. A storm that develops once a century. Once a mobile century.

Fadi Nasser, Director of Product Marketing, VirtualLogix

Published Tuesday, December 09, 2008 5:34 AM by David Marshall
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Best Virtual Advertising » Blog Archive » Mobile Device Virtualization State of the Union : … - (Author's Link) - December 9, 2008 10:26 AM
Best Virtual Advertising » Blog Archive » Mobile Device Virtualization State of the Union : … - (Author's Link) - December 9, 2008 10:26 AM
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