VMware Wants to Bring Virtualization to Your Smart Phone

VMware is looking to bring its virtualization technology to smart phones and cell phones in 2009 through a new virtualization platform called the VMware Mobile Virtualization Platform, or MVP. The platform will use a small-footprint hypervisor that will allow users to have multiple virtual machines on their smart phones in the same way a desktop or notebook can host different virtual environments. To help bring the platform to market, VMware acquired Trango Virtual Processors, a company that created a hypervisor for smart phones based on the ARM processor.

VMware is looking to bring its virtualization technology into the smart phone market in 2009, with a small hypervisor that will allow nearly any mobile device to run multiple virtual machines.

On Nov. 10, VMware will announce that it will release a new virtualization platform called the Mobile Virtualization Platform, or MVP, which consists of a small, bare-metal hypervisor-20KB to 30KB-that will work with a number of mobile devices based on an ARM processor.

To bring a hypervisor to the mobile handset device market, VMware acquired a company called Trango Virtual Processors in October. VMware did not release the financial details of its latest acquisition and kept the deal quiet until the Nov. 10 announcement of the new virtualization platform.

There are only a handful of companies creating virtual platforms for smart phones and other mobile devices. In addition to Trango, OK Labs and VirtualLogix are some of the other vendors looking to create hypervisors-the thin layer of software that makes virtualization possible-that work with these ARM-based mobile devices.

When Xen.org released the 3.3 version of the Xen hypervisor earlier this year, there was talk of allowing this open-source hypervisor to work on smart phones as well.

While this market has great potential, especially as people look to smart phones as a way to access the Web and application such as e-mail, its remains a niche within the overall virtualization market. In a recent report from Gartner, analysts estimated that about 10 million hypervisors for smart phones will ship by the end of 2008. However, there are only a few handsets that customers can buy with the embedded hypervisor.

Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT Research, said virtualization is rapidly becoming like many other technologies such as 64-bit microprocessors and high-capacity hard disk drives that start in the data center and begin to spread into other devices, which then spawn whole new uses for the technology.

"Pushing virtualization into even smaller devices is an indication of how powerful those devices have become, but it also indicates how powerful and how flexible virtualization is," said King. "The fact that VMware is getting into the smart phone market means that a lot of other players are going to pile on. Microsoft certainly has a big investment there with the Windows Mobile platform."

Although VMware, still considered the leading supplier of x86 virtualization for server systems, announced MVP Nov. 10, it will not likely hit the market until late 2009. Srinivas Krishnamurti, a director of product management for VMware, said VMware is working with a number of handset markers to have them embed the hypervisor into new smart phone and cell phone designs.