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Dual-identity smartphones could bridge BYOD private, corporate divide

Lucas Mearian | Nov. 27, 2012
Late next year, consumers will be able to buy smartphones that either come with native hypervisor software or use an app allowing them to run two interfaces on the phone: one for personal use, one for work.

Sylvia acknowledged that both OSes need to boot, but said there's no performance issue. "It's the standard Android boot time," she said.

"In Red Bend's solution, the personal virtual phone boots first, and then the virtual work phone boots second. After the first one is running, it takes a few moments and then the second one is good to go, too," Sylvia said. "What goes into the work-phone instance will all be customized on the back end by the IT admins."

During a meeting with Computerworld, Sylvia demonstrated how Red Bend's technology works on an Android-enabled Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone prototype.

During the demo, if the phone was displaying the private user interface and a phone call came in from a person listed in the phone's corporate contact list, the device automatically changed interfaces to the business instance. The phone smoothly moved between the two distinct interfaces.

"The performance can be totally optimized because I'm only seeing one instance at a time," Sylvia said. "The other OS is there, but it's not consuming the same resources at the same time."

Some smart phone makers are looking at other UI implementations, such as an icon on the home screen that switches back and forth between private and corporate instances when pressed. "The [ones] we're working with are designing their phones to be virtualized. So the issues of additional RAM, which is the main requirement for this hypervisor, will be addressed on an enterprise-ready phone," Sylvia said.

Red Bend, which got its start in 1999 writing software that enabled AOL browser upgrades, moved into the mobile area in 2003 with its Firmware Over The Air (FOTA) technology. It's now used on 1.6 billion mobile devices for mobile OS and app updates.

Red Bend began developing its mobile virtualization platform after it acquired VirtualLogix in 2010.

When the technology is available in the second half of 2013, a dual-identity smartphone buyer would simply tell their corporate IT admins about the device. If the company has Red Bend's Software Management Center installed on its mobile device management (MDM) servers, the software will initiate an OMA Device Management session and send a delta file to the phone. The delta file copies the Android OS to create a second instance on the device.

The IT administrator can then customize the "corporate image" on the smartphone with whatever applications the company has chosen for its employees. For example, the corporate image could include a VPN, meeting apps, and access to the company email system.

VMware's Horizon Mobile software

VMware has also been working on the idea of a Type 1 hypervisor on mobile phones. Four years ago, VMware purchased France-based Trango Virtual Processors, a maker of Type 1 hypervisor technology. After several years of development, however, VMware decided not to use Trango's technology because it didn't see support among smartphone manufacturers for hardware-based virtualization, according to Srinivas Krishnamurti, VMware's senior director of Mobile Solutions.


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