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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.

"It's hard for us to put our arms around it. By virtualizing, we normalize and abstract away all that fragmentation and give IT their own version of Android to manage," he said. "And, there's no chance a Type 2 hypervisor will show up on an Apple device" because of the proprietary nature of Apple's hardware.

Other mobile virtualization players

Other companies, such as Israel-based CellRox and Good Technology in Sunnyvale, Calif. are also developing technology for dual-identity smartphones.

Like VMware's Horizon Mobile software, CellRox's ThinVisor is a kernel-enabled hypervisor that runs on the smartphone and creates multiple "personas" to keep corporate data and private data separate. In September, CellRox announced it had launched its BYOD Multi-Persona app toolkit for Android Ice Cream Sandwich-enabled mobile device manufacturers to embed the capability on their smartphones.

Good Technology places encrypted containers in a sandboxed segment of a file system on the phone, where corporations can run their own apps securely and separate from a user's personal apps. Gartner's Dulaney said Good Technology's product isn't truly a hypervisor because it has basically built an application development container.

ARM and AMD plan new hypervisor processors

For many dual OS-instance technologies to succeed, today's mobile processors will have to become more powerful to handle the added workload and incorporate native data management and security features.

Red Bend has signed a partnership agreement with chip maker Advanced RISC Machines Ltd. (ARM) to produce processors powerful enough to run dual-OS phones. Those are expected out in the second half of 2013.

"BYOD is not just about running two OSes," said Ron Perez, an AMD fellow and the director of its security architecture organization. "It's [also] about what to do with the data produced in that corporate environment that's on the device."

In a move away from its traditional server market space, AMD earlier this year also partnered with ARM to develop x86 chips that will have ARM microcontrollers dedicated to mobile security.

ARM, and now AMD, are also working with the non-profit standards organization, GlobalPlatform, to develop the Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) API Specification. Founded in 1999, GlobalPlatform has its roots in the smartcard and payment market with member organizations such as Visa, MasterCard and American Express.

Using the ARM microcontroller on the x86 chip, the TEE would create a separate area on a mobile phone's main processor that uses data encryption algorithms to secure sensitive data stored on the device. Mobile capabilities already on smartphones would allow IT organizations to track mobile devices and erase only corporate data if the device is lost or compromised, or if the employee has left the company. For example, geo-sensor technology on smartphones would allow corporations to track where employee-owned mobile phones are and wipe the devices if they left a specified region.

 

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