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Centrify: Prediction 2013 - The Year of Mobile Virtualization

VMblog Predictions

Virtualization and Cloud executives share their predictions for 2013.  Read them in this series exclusive.

Contributed article by Tom Kemp, CEO and Co-founder of Centrify Corporation

Prediction 2013 - The Year of Mobile Virtualization

Virtualization from a server perspective has been a disruptive force in the IT world, resulting in VMware being the fourth largest software company in terms of market cap and analysts estimating that well over 50% of servers are now virtualized.  Desktop virtualization?  Well ... definitely not as successful as server virtualization but that's another story.  So what's the next platform that virtualization will be deployed on en masse?  My answer is mobile devices ... and here's why in 2013 that mobile virtualization will be a huge trend within IT.

We all know about the massive wave of adoption of smartphones and tablets.  Some analysts have pointed out that over the last few years mobile device adoption has run circles around the adoption rates of PCs in the 80s, the Internet boom in the 90s, and social networking over the last few years, making smart mobile device adoption the most widely adopted consumer technology in history outside the adoption of radios over the initial 5-8 year period of time. 

A little history.  Given that this is a consumer revolution, consumers are naturally bringing these mobile devices into work and accessing corporation information such as email from these devices.  This is known as Bring Your Own Device ("BYOD") and most analysts agree that well over half the smartphones in the workforce are in fact personally owned vs. company owned.   Users within minutes of purchasing their device are already hooking their devices into their corporate email, and are beginning to expect (and complain if they are not getting what they want) that corporate IT deliver mobile business apps that are just as easy to use as what the apps they get from the Apple iTunes store or Google Play.

Clearly having personal owned devices accessing corporate data and apps raises a bunch of security and risk concerns.  Given that mobile devices are easily lost or stolen, corporations don't want valuable corporate data being viewed by a cabdriver or some random guy at the bar, so corporate IT needs the ability to locate, lock and/or wipe devices in 2013.  Corporate IT will also need the ability to restrict what apps can be deployed on an employee's phone via whitelisting and blacklisting to improve employee productivity and minimize the risk of malware intruding into the corporate network.   And they probably don't want to pay the phone bill for a personal call to an employee's aunt in Timbuktu, but would want to reimburse the employee for work-related calls.

One solution has been mobile device management ("MDM"), which historically has had an all or nothing approach to managing the device itself.  Employee leaves the company?  Wipe the device, even though the ex-employee has songs and photos on it, potentially causing some destruction of property issues here.  Block Plants vs. Zombies?  Heck yes says corporate IT, we don't want him playing that game while on the job.  But it's the employee's phone and he wants to play that game at night, should he not have that right?  Locate a lost or stolen phone?  Sure says corporate IT.  But employees don't want corporate IT snooping on where they are after hours (or even during business hours for that matter).  Force the need for a passcode to unlock the phone?  Yes says corporate IT, but what happens when the child of the employee tries to use the phone to play a game and does too many invalid PIN attempts and causes the phone to be locked?  Clearly MDM can add value but can cause more problems too.

Another solution has been to buy a corporate phone for the employee while the employee purchases and also uses their own personal phone.  But the natural inclination for most people is to simply carry one device - who wants to carry around two phones?  And companies in the end have to buy each employee a phone, vs. leveraging the costs savings associated with the employee buying their own phone.  Again not a good solution.

Back to the 2013 prediction.  Given these solutions are causing headaches for both employers and employees, there is a huge need for virtualization for the smart devices themselves, where the corporate and business data and apps are stored in their own "virtualized instance" (aka "workspace" aka "container" aka "sandbox") on the device.  So even in the case that the device itself has no unlock passcode and no corresponding security policies, the secure container of business apps on the phone cannot be accessed unless the appropriate passcode is entered.  And inside the container the user is able to share data between business apps (e.g. copy and paste text from an email into a CRM record), but corporate IT would of course not want data inside the container copy-and-pasted onto a non-container app such as Twitter or Facebook.  And of course corporate IT should have the ability to wipe the container if the device is lost or the employee leaves the organization, but not delete music, photos, personal apps, etc. that the employee put on the phone.

Virtualization of mobile devices is a great win for employees and employers, and even provides the flexibility that if a user is say a contractor working at multiple companies, the contractor can have multiple containers on his or her phones, one for each client.  And it sounds like the carriers are working on technology so that eventually each container could be tied to its own data plan, making a clearer division between work and personal usage.

There are a number of ways third party and mobile OS and device vendors are already looking to provide virtualization on smart devices, ranging from creating encrypted folders to wrapping apps or even through virtualization of the underlying mobile operating systems.  No matter how implemented, mobile virtualization is a key technology that represents the needed solution to a significant pain point in this BYOD world. 

In 2013, definitely expect multiple MDM vendors to add this capability (through organic development or through acquisitions) in 2013, as well as pureplay startups popping up to this address painpoint.  And don't be surprised if even the underlying device manufacturer or mobile OS vendor adds this capability to their offerings as more and more businesses make this a requirement.  In the latter case, if sandboxing comes standard with the mobile devices, even expect the need for MDM to eventually be replaced by a new market called Mobile Container Management (MCM).

Like most technology adoption, virtualization adoption has been driven by ROI and significant user "itches" that need to be "scratched."  We saw that in the case of server virtualization where server consolidation was a huge ROI driver.  We have not yet seen (and may never see) the big adoption for desktop virtualization, and just like mobile devices are replacing PCs, we will see the shift of virtualization get greater adoption on mobile devices than it will ever see on the desktop side of things.   And I predict 2013 will be huge year for virtualization of mobile.


About the Author

Tom Kemp is the CEO and co-founder of Centrify Corporation (, a leading provider of enterprise security software solutions for on-premise and cloud environments. Previously he was Entrepreneur in Residence at Mayfield, a leading Silicon Valley venture capital firm. Tom was also one of the first employees and a founding team member of NetIQ Corporation that IPOed in 1999.  Kemp started his career at Oracle Corporation. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science and in history from the University of Michigan. You can follow Tom on Twitter at!/ThomasRKemp or follow his Centrify blog at or his Forbes blog at

Published Tuesday, November 13, 2012 7:38 AM by David Marshall
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