Virtualisation comes to mobile phones

Virtualisation specialist VMware is banking on the smartphone boom and open source mobile operating systems to make room for a virtual machine in your mobile phone.

The company’s new Mobile Virtualization Platform (MVP) does for ARM-powered handsets (including those using XScale processors) what its traditional virtualisation engines do for x86 servers desktops and notebooks. MVP is built on technology acquired from Trango in October this year which supports a range of mobile operating systems include Symbian and the Windows CE foundation that underlies Windows Mobile.

MVP is designed to sit atop smartphone hardware and effectively decouple the operating system applications and data and VMware promises the virtualisation layer “is optimised to run efficiently on low-power-consuming and memory-constrained mobile phones.”

Open-source operating systems such as Android and Symbian will benefit from mobile VMs for the delivery of “trusted services” VMware says. “Increasingly handset vendors and carriers are looking to migrate from proprietary operating systems to rich open operating systems to enable their customers to access the widest selection of applications. With this transition to open operating systems protection of trusted services such as digital rights management authentication and billing is becoming an increasing concern.”

Each mobile virtual machine becomes a secure native “execution environment” for such services. “VMware MVP allows vendors to isolate these important trusted services from the open operating system and run them in isolated and tamper-proof virtual machines so that even if the open environment is compromised the trusted services are not impacted.”

The company expects mobile phone vendors will rely on virtualisation to make handsets available on several operating systems without having to rewrite drivers and applications for each OS and processor.

Virtualisation could also allow an individual’s smartphone to take on a “corporate phone personality” in order to meet a company’s IT policies for security and manageability and make it easier to move to a new handset by capturing all the data and settings on your current phone as a VM image and applying this to a new phone.