Samsung backs VMware mobile hypervisor

Samsung Corp. plans to make phones running VMware’s mobile hypervisor technology and enterprises may be able to better manage those phones with new software from VMware, the virtualization company is announcing on Tuesday. 

The companies did not offer specifics about which Samsung phones might get the technology. “It will be dependent on the carriers,” said Srinivas Krishnamurti, director of product management and market development for VMware. “We have carrier partners lined up who will take us to market.” VMware isn’t saying yet which carriers are interested in selling the phones but expects them to launch in the coming months. 

VMware first started talking about its mobile virtualization product late last year and showed it off in February running on an LG phone. LG has also said it plans to make phones available with the technology, starting with phones that will be available from Verizon.

VMware’s hypervisor works on Android phones and would allow people to buy their own devices and run a separate version of the operating system dedicated to corporate applications. The idea is to isolate corporate applications like e-mail from applications that users might download for personal use that have the potential to corrupt corporate data. 

Samsung and LG must load modules from the hypervisor onto the phones in order to make them capable of using the technology. Once users buy the phones, they can download the VMware application that allows them to have a personal and a corporate profile on the phone, Krishnamurti said. 

The architecture has been criticized because it essentially runs two full versions of Android on a single phone, which has the potential to impact performance. But VMware has been working with about 100 end users at 10 different enterprises in a private beta and hasn’t heard complaints about the performance, he said. 

VMware is also announcing this week that it has developed management software that will allow enterprises to manage just the corporate side of the phone. IT managers will be able to remotely wipe just the corporate applications and data if a user loses the phone or leaves the company. The software will also let managers push applications to and set policies for the corporate profile on the phone. 

The software works in conjunction with the hypervisor running on the phone. 

Because many enterprises may already have mobile device management tools, VMware plans to release an SDK (software development kit) that would allow other vendors to incorporate the VMware management software into their products. That would allow an enterprise to use the potentially more fully functional software from a traditional mobile device management product and manage the VMware phones from the same console. 

VMware hopes to release the SDK shortly after it releases the device management product. The mobile device management software will become available once devices hit the market, which should happen in the “coming months,” VMware said. 

LG, which will be talking about its interest in mobile virtualization at VMworld, also isn’t saying when its phones will launch. The phone maker plans to also consider additional virtualization technologies, but said companies will likely be comfortable working with technology developed by VMware. “It helps that VMware’s existing base is familiar with their technology and if you have a core data center on VMware you probably will be a lot more comfortable trying out mobile virtualization from the same company,” said Ki Kim, corporate vice president of LG Electronics and head of the company’s global enterprise mobility solutions business. 

A VMware video demonstrates on an LG phone how end users will toggle between the corporate and personal profiles

Mobile virtualization has been a hot topic over the past year as IT departments feel increasing pressure from employees who want to bring devices of their choice to the office. There are other approaches, in addition to VMware’s. Open Kernel Labs is offering tools to developers that would let individual applications run in virtual machines. Enterproid has also developed software that doesn’t use traditional virtualization technology, but separates corporate applications on Android phones.

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