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Open Kernel Labs: Mobile/Wireless Virtualization Meets Enterprise IT – Predictions for 2011

What do Virtualization and Cloud executives think about 2011?  Find out in this series exclusive.

Contributed Article By Steve Subar, CEO and Founder, Open Kernel Labs

Mobile/Wireless Virtualization Meets Enterprise IT – Predictions for 2011

Even in the face of the ongoing global financial crisis, the mobile/wireless industry experienced huge growth and reinvention in 2010.  Worldwide handset volumes soared to more than 1.3 billion units (ABI Research), with 20% of them smartphones (Gartner). Mobile applications and app stores dominated the headlines, with mobile developers attaining rock star status among geeks and consumers alike. 

The coming year, 2011, promises new waves of invention and innovation, building on the trends of 2010 while opening new avenues for business and technology. This article highlights key trends for 2011, especially those that traverse the mobile/wireless ecosystem.

Virtualization, End-to-end

Most predictions for 2011 highlight evolved Cloud Computing as the game-changer for the coming year. However, the impact of a robust and ubiquitous Cloud is mostly indirect for mobile/wireless:  it gives developers and enterprise IT the option of continuing an application-centric mobile strategy or of (re)turning to thin clients using HTML5 or enablers like Citrix Agent.  It also means that mobile workers will be able to connect transparently to corporate data centers or their Cloud-based equivalents.

It is axiomatic that Cloud Computing is enabled by virtualization at multiple levels:  hardware virtualization, platform virtualization and application virtualization (*aaS).  Moreover, we are already seeing virtualization of enterprise desktops as well as increasingly ubiquitous desktop-hosted virtualization for interoperability.  In 2011, the paradigm of end-to-end virtualization will also encompass mobile end-points, to meet enterprise, government, SMB and end-user needs for security, interoperability and cost-savings.

Enterprise Mobility

In 2010, enterprise employees increasingly worked outside corporate headquarters, yielding enhanced productivity from use of mobile computing and communications, sourced both from traditional IT channels and from end-user acquisition (BYOD).  A new meme, Enterprise Mobility encapsulates this trend has also highlights key requirements from enterprise IT, especially for device security. 

The coming year will see a tipping point for Enterprise Mobility, where organizations previously prohibiting mobile access to corporate assets will sanction and support it.  The biggest challenge will still be security, and tools for sustaining Enterprise Mobility will include mobile versions of existing end-point security paradigms (anti-virus, device wipe, etc.), nascent mobile device management (MDM) suites, with underlying architectural innovation based on mobile virtualization.

Mass Market Smartphones

In 2010, worldwide smartphone deployments are slated to top 250 million units.  While this volume might constitute a burgeoning mass market phenomenon, relatively pricy smartphones remain beyond the reach (or discretion) of most consumers.

In 2011, smartphone sales won't just continue to grow - volumes will take off along a hockey-stick trajectory.  Augmenting organic segment growth will be sharp declines in acquisition costs: OEMs will be able to build and sell cheaper smartphones through dramatic reductions in handset Bills-of-Material (BoM) - the hundreds of hardware components and software line items needed to manufacture these devices.

By consolidating multiple legacy chipsets (for baseband, application processing, etc.) onto a single mainstream ARM CPU, handset manufacturers (OEMs) can ship leaner, meaner devices - with smartphone functionality at feature phone prices. Critical to BoM consolidation is mobile virtualization, lending hardware independence to mobile platforms and enabling diverse legacy software to run on a single CPU.

Announcing 4G, for Real

In 2010, operators began 4G rollouts in select areas, accompanied by overhyped interim data services.  2011 will bring actual 4G LTE networks into service, but don't expect a short-term revolution in user experience.  Current handset designs throttle 4G bandwidth by limiting wireless input/output concurrency -slinging packets upstream and down at high speeds (megabits, not kilobits/second) is the hallmark of LTE.

To address this need for speed, OEMs will start designing and deploying handsets using multicore silicon, enabled by mobile virtualization.  This dynamic duo will help OEMs and operators deliver on the promise of 4G data rates, starting in late 2011 through 2012.

Mainstream Multicore in Mobile

High-end smartphones already deploy multicore ARM CPUs, but mostly in pricier devices and mostly to run applications OSes (and nothing else).  The coming year will see dual-core ARM silicon drop in price, with 2012 bringing 3x and 4x silicon, including processors built on ARM Cortex-A15.  As multicore mobile chipsets become mainstream in 2011, the extra computing power will consolidate gains by mass market smartphones, enhancing the user experience without impacting price.

The future of multicore in mobile is bright - more computing power at affordable price points for mass market products. Challenges arise from added software complexity - talking full advantage of new silicon resources without introducing software vulnerabilities, shortening battery life or encountering the perennial specter of late delivery.  A powerful tool for taming complexity is mobile virtualization.

Metatrend - Synergy Powered by Virtualization

While distinct from one another, the trends for 2011 and beyond reinforce one another in interesting ways: virtualization enables Cloud Computing, multicore supports 4G rollout, LTE data rates accelerate Enterprise Mobility adoption, etc.  Emergent phenomena also abound:  mass market smartphones drive application sales, and vibrant apps marketplaces create pull for the smartphones running those apps.

Across the ecosystem, from silicon to software to services, the most significant underlying enabler is virtualization.  Virtualization in the Cloud and data center, on the desktop, and in ubiquitous handsets.  Mobile virtualization is not new - more than one billion phones already deploy this technology.  However, in 2011, we'll see mobile virtualization reach its actual potential, fostering the above trends and other types of innovation.

About the Author

Steve Subar – lifelong entrepreneur, adventurer, and tech aficionado – boasts a track record of successful innovation and leadership in the software industry. Steve earned his reputation as a seasoned executive by building winning teams, driving accelerated growth, developing strong customer relationships, and creating shareholder value.

Published Friday, December 17, 2010 6:30 AM by David Marshall
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