Enterprise mobility depends on virtualization, high-powered smartphones

VMware's CTO explains that there are three key pillars to virtualization and mobility for enterprise.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

A constant discussion in the tech world these days debates whether or not we are in the post-PC era.

Stephen Herrod, VMware's chief technology officer, argued that we have a much more mobile lifestyle -- both personally and professionally -- while speaking at GigaOM's Mobilize 2011 forum in San Francisco on Tuesday morning.

Basically, he called it "a mess." In order to see out the success of enterprise mobility, we have to depend on three pillars: applications, data and people. All three of these factors intertwine, so it's difficult to break them down one by one.

At the core of everything is the mobile device. High-powered smartphones coupled with advancing virtualization make enterprise mobility possible. VMware has a number of solutions dedicated towards virtualizing the phone (and tablets). Customers can opt among using virtual desktops on multiple devices to bring software to the gadget and saving information to a central datacenter or locally, as well as native application options.

"There's no one-size-fits-all way to access your data," Herrod posited.

As for enterprise apps, Herrod said that many of the enterprise apps being written now are often built upon a "hybrid" model that splits data and features between front-end and back-end layers. The difference should really be seamless to the end user.

However, after producing six iPad apps and several for Android, Herrod pointed out that native apps are not the only way to go and reiterated the importance of HTML5 as well.

"The space moves so quickly, you don't want to lock yourself into one standard way of writing them," Herrod asserted.

Currently, VMware's most robust virtual offerings surround Windows. Although iOS isn't impossible, Herrod didn't promise any announcements soon. What we can look forward to soon is solutions optimized for Android.

VMware is starting with the device first rather than conquering the entire platform all at once. Herrod recalled that VMware has announced deals with LG and Samsung that will host VMware's enterprise mobility platform (including virtual desktop, security and data integrity features) pre-loaded.

But these devices are anything but ordinary. The easiest way to put it is that these smartphones will have a dual-persona.

"This is where your head begins to hurt a little bit," Herrod joked, "You can literally create completely two separate phones on the same device." Users can break down the features all the way down to separate ringtones for work and personal calls and even separate data plans (i.e. meaning that an employer will pay for the work data plan, and the user is still responsible for their personal data plan, etc.).

The point is to give enterprise employees the chance to have better and higher-end smartphone options, but IT still gets control over the device. Herrod expressed that there is usually a "disconnect" that IT doesn't offer anything as good as the consumer choices.

Additionally, it saves the employee from having to carry more than one phone, which is especially important as more and more consumers are leaning in the direction of consolidation among gadgets. Just look at point-and-shoot digital cameras and mini HD camcorders on smartphones. (That isn't to say that point-and-shoots are gone -- they certainly aren't -- although the same might not be said for long about the latter.)

There is also the potential for users to be able to provision two phone numbers for the same device. Herrod said that this is possible as a virtual SIM card could be enabled, and field trials have shown that some customers actually want two numbers and others do not. However, early versions will likely not have two numbers. Herrod said that VMware is "not restricted by the technology but more so by the partnerships we choose."

At the moment, these products are still in field trials, but VMware is planning to start shipping them early next year. The goal is to eventually expand to all Android devices that can support the platform (likely Gingerbread and higher), but Herrod explained that it is "easier to work with handset manufacturers to get into their particular builds" first.

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