Mobile phones to VMware: Can you virtualize me now? Good.

VMware unveiled its plan to bring virtualization to the mobile phone market through its October acquisition of Trango Virtual Processors

After dominating the market for virtualization products on servers, desktops, and applications, VMware has now moved its sights on to mobile phones. The company introduced its Mobile Virtualization Platform (MVP) to the market on Monday. It was able to do so because of the quiet acquisition made last month of a small French company, Trango Virtual Processors, that specializes in virtualization software for mobile phones.

So what did VMware get with the Trango acquisition? What is MVP? VMware said MVP is a thin layer of software, a 20K-30K hypervisor, that will be embedded on mobile phones. It decouples the applications and data from the underlying hardware and is optimized to run efficiently on low-power-consuming and memory-constrained mobile phones.

VMware claims that this mobile phone virtualization technology will help handset vendors reduce development time and get mobile phones with value-added services to market faster. They also claim that end users will benefit by being able to run multiple profiles on the same phone, giving them the option of personal or work use applications.

The MVP currently supports a wide range of real-time and rich operating systems including Windows CE 5.0 and 6.0, Linux 2.6.x, Symbian 9.x, eCos, µITRON NORTi, and µC/OS-II.

Many cell phones are based on a common underlying Advanced Risc Machine or ARM chipset design. There were 2.9 billion chips produced last year on the ARM chipset. Gartner sees virtualization in the mobile space as a very promising and potentially a fast emerging market, predicting that by 2012 more than 50 percent of new smartphones shipped will be virtualized.

But just like in the x86 server and desktop virtualization market, VMware isn't the only game in town. One company that's been leading the mobile virtualization industry for a while is VirtualLogix.

According to Fadi Nasser, director of product marketing at VirtualLogix, VMware's acquisition into their market brings along with it some hits and misses.

"VMware's acquisition of Trango catapults embedded virtualization into the mainstream," said Nasser. "This validates the market dominated by VirtualLogix and brings much-needed customer education on a grander scale. Customers become aware of the use cases of embedded real-time virtualization in terms of consolidation, multicore adoption, hybrid configurations of AMP and SMP, RTOS and general rich OS side, etc."

But Nasser went on to say, "What this does not bring is pervasiveness and adaptability to embedded applications. The embedded market, from industrial to medical and automotive devices, is a fragmented market with many OS flavors and equally diverse processor architectures. VMware's acquired technology, Trango, is based on a microkernel approach which suffers from a lack of portability when it comes to new environments."

VMware's expertise is on the x86 market, so it will be interesting to see how well it does entering the seemingly unknown. VMware aims to have the first phones available by the end of next year or the beginning of 2010, though the company is keeping the names of the vendors it is working with under lock and key.


Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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