Hypervisors, Not Hype: IDC Says Mobile Virtualization Benefits Entire Ecosystem
Posted: July 19, 2011
By Stacy Crook, Senior Analyst, Mobile Enterprise Software Research, IDC
There’s growing buzz about mobile device virtualization throughout all segments of the mobile industry, and for good reason.
As I conducted research for a new IDC Technology Assessment on the Mobile Virtualization market, I saw a number of ways mobile device virtualization can benefit the entire mobile ecosystem, from chipset makers, OEMs and carriers to enterprises and consumers. Mobile device virtualization is interesting as there aren’t many technologies that can offer this kind of versatility to stakeholders throughout the mobile ecosystem. You can download the report here.
There are a couple of ways to approach mobile virtualization. A Type-1 hypervisor — specialized software that sits directly on the device chipset — offers unique security benefits as it protects the device software from the operating system level upward. Mobile device virtualization has the ability to change the industry by providing an opportunity for mobile operators to increase their value to consumers and enterprises via new services and value propositions. These include:
- Sub-$100 smartphones
- Isolating trusted services on open operating systems
- Enabling enterprise IT administrators to securely manage corporate data and applications on employee-liable smart devices.
Smartphones at feature-phone prices are possible because virtualization can lower the BOM of mobile devices and reduce time to market; a boon for chipset makers and manufacturers. Virtualization also enables carriers to offer smartphones to a broader market at a very competitive price, and sell additional data plans.
Mobile device virtualization enables vendors to isolate important trusted services (billing, authentication, phone service, etc.) from the open OS and run them in isolated and tamper-proof virtual machines. The bottom line is that trusted services are not affected, even if the open environment is compromised.
IDC expects that within the next few years, more than 60 percent of all smartphone business use will be done with devices owned by the employee, not the company (Worldwide Business Use Smartphone 2010–2014 Forecast and Analysis, IDC# 225054, September 2010). The first issue this raises is how to keep the enterprise data safe when employees’ phones are also surfing the Web, updating Facebook and conducting the many other tasks that we’ve all become addicted to.
That’s where mobile device virtualization comes in. The hypervisor makes it possible to run isolated virtual machines on the device, each with a separate OS. For example, you could have a secured enterprise domain where mobile enterprise applications, management and security software reside, and another domain could house the individual's personal contacts, applications, pictures, music, and so on. So, if a virus hits the consumer domain, the enterprise domain will be unaffected.
Mobile device virtualization is still in the early stages. As the market develops during the next few years, we will have the opportunity to discover new use cases for this technology that will bring even more benefits to all segments of the mobile ecosystem.
The mobile phone revolution began when the technology advanced to where you could carry your phone in your pocket, instead of having it built into your car. Now, the smartphones and mobile devices that have become essential to our lives will be even smarter, perform better and be more secure, all because of mobile virtualization.