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Can you virtualize enterprise applications on mobile devices like you would a desktop? What would t

Learn about the benefits virtualizing enterprise applications on mobile devices, including information on VMware and Cisco.

Can you virtualize enterprise applications on mobile devices like you would a desktop? What would the benefits be?
Virtualization on mobile devices is in its early days, but is possible and commercial products are emerging to support this. The benefits were summed up at Cisco's recent launch of its Unified Computing architecture, by CEO John Chambers: "Virtualization to us means any device connecting to any content from anywhere. Eventually, we see the data center carrying all the way to the home. Consumers won't know if it's a set-top box or an iPhone processing the data. They just want the application." A lot of infrastructure is required at the back end, and/or in the cloud, to support millions of mobile devices, but the benefits would be greater flexibility in supporting enterprise workers wherever they are -- with the consequent productivity and cost benefits.

At the client side, the most advanced product is VMware, which is working with Cisco on the mobile side of its UC architecture, and with other partners -- but other similar capabilities will follow from the mobile side of the industry and the enterprise side.

The new smartphones increasingly separate the specific hardware from the applications above, but VMware is taking this a step further by applying virtualization technology to the handset for the first time, enabling enterprise users, in particular, to run multiple operating systems and multiple profiles (such as work and personal) on one device. VMware's Mobile Virtualization Platform (MVP) will be embedded in high end handsets over the coming year. MVP adds an extra layer that decouples the applications and data from the underlying hardware, and the first phones incorporating this layer should appear late in 2009 or at the start of 2010.

MVP claims to give enterprise IT departments greater control over mobile devices and usage -- the centralized management issue has been a significant brake on moves towards true mobile enterprises. Using virtualization, the IT department will able to set up one profile that supports all the company's policies in areas like security, but allows end users to run anything they like within their personal profile. They will also be able to add new software, and move data and applications more easily when users upgrade to a new phone -- also key issues for mobile enterprises, which need to treat the phone in the same way as a PC.

Also, various operating systems and applications will be able to be supported in the same way on different handsets, unlocking the enterprise tie-in to a single device vendor such as RIM. Supported operating systems today include Windows CE, Symbian and Linux. MVP is based on technology VMWARE acquired from Trango Virtual Processors in October, and has been optimized to run on low power and memory constrained gadgets.

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