Will VMware miss the mobile virtualization curve?

Will VMware miss the mobile virtualization curve?

Summary: VMware is interested in mobile virtualization, but appears to be facing an innovator's dilemma. The company has so much growth ahead with server, desktop and data center virtualization that it may miss the boat on mobile.

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VMware is interested in mobile virtualization, but appears to be facing an innovator's dilemma. The company has so much growth ahead with server, desktop and data center virtualization that it may miss the boat on mobile.

That theory on VMware and mobile virtualization was sparked by a panel at GigaOm's Mobilize conference last week. The panel featured a few odd exchanges where a VMware executive was talking about the lack of mobile virtualization use cases while another CEO was touting it.

What struck me is how odd it was that VMware was almost pooh poohing the idea of mobile virtualization---at least for now.

Srinivas Krishnamurti, senior director for mobile solutions at VMware, said there wasn't a use case for mobile virtualization. Krishnamurti's point is that the mobile distribution channel is different, perhaps too different to warrant much attention. Carriers, mobile OS makers and app creators all want a piece of the revenue pie and need a reason to want virtualization, he said.

"If there were killer applications (for mobile virtualization) there would be uses already," said Krishnamurti. "We haven't found the compelling ROI yet."

After all, the use of hypervisors on servers and PCs would be added after a purchase. Handset virtualization needs to be embedded. "Each party will ask 'what's in it for me and why do I need a new layer of software?'" said Krishnamurti.

The big question here is whether VMware was focused on mobile virtualization ROI for its own business or customers overall.

Steve Subar, CEO of Open Kernel Labs, repeatedly countered Krishnamurti's take on mobile virtualization. Subar said the killer apps are "enterprise enablement on mobile devices." Virtualization gives companies more mobile security and allows IT managers to isolate enterprise apps from data.

Subar added that Open Kernel Labs has installed its virtualization software on 700 million handsets. Subar argued that handset makers are eyeing virtualization to deliver a smartphone experience for lower costs.

Add it up and Subar is saying a mobile virtualization inflection point is around the corner. Krishnamurti is betting that mobile virtualization will take more time to take off. It'll be interesting to see which side turns out to be right.

Topics: Cloud, CXO, Hardware, Mobility, Storage, Virtualization, VMware

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6 comments
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  • yawn

    These devices barely have the memory, processor power, and battery life to run native apps. Virtualization? Talk about ludicrous. VMWare is right not to waste time on it.
    dgurney
    • Virtualization has started already

      @dgurney
      Virtualization will certainly have a place on mobile and embedded devices in general. Paravirtualization makes creating the core applications of the device secure and full hypervisor virtualization will arrive in time. Take a look at ARMs TrustZone - virtualization would separate the touch pay card system embedded in your mobile from the rest of the software to completely isolate it.
      The latest cortex A15 already includes virtualization in its hardware.
      At the least I could see 3 or 4 virtualized spheres in embedded devices.
      First environment for the core OS
      Second for critical applications - telephony stack, touch payment / oyster card / banking systems
      Third for standard apps - inbuilt mail client / media player etc.
      Fourth for third party apps.
      Keeps everything safe and no matter how poorly an app is developed you will always have your core device experience running and protected.
      Currently some of this is done through seperate SoCs (telephony stack, payment systems etc) but virtualizing in software with general Vt like hardware assist will reduce both costs and bulk.

      As for horsepower, the A15 and successor chips and their competitors will have no issues. Multi core and higher clock speeds are on their way to mainstream use and Intel and AMD entering the fray with their experience will see things move very rapidly in the next 3-5 years.
      thomas.beckett
      • RE: Will VMware miss the mobile virtualization curve?

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  • Blink and everything changes

    Absolutely agree with Thomas, just blink and likes of A15 comes out to change the game... not to mention what new versions of Atom has up it's sleeves!

    Larry, where did the 750m handsets Steve Subar talked about comes from? I thought there are roughly 100-150m smartphones in existence today, according to Comscore 45.5m in the USA in 2010.

    regards, Horace
    h.lim
    • RE: Will VMware miss the mobile virtualization curve?

      @h.lim@... he was referring to feature phones. Apparently the use case is using virtualization to deliver smartphone features on cheap devices.
      Larry Dignan
  • RE: Will VMware miss the mobile virtualization curve?

    Hi,

    Just a question : What about the Mobile Virtualization Platform from VMware ? Because VMware purchased the french Company "Trango" in 2008...
    So I don't understand why you're talking about the miss of the mobile virtualization curve concerning VMware...

    Regards,

    Prosti
    ProstiNico