VMware's Mobile Virtualization Strategy Calls for Open Source Responses

by Ostatic Staff - Nov. 10, 2008

Proprietary virtualization player VMWare has just announced its VMWare Mobile Virtualization Platform (MVP) designed to bring virtualization to mobile phones. It's due to ship in 2009, and is a lightweight software layer that can run even on memory-constrained phones. For several reasons, this virtualization platform could have an impact on mobile phones running open source operating systems, and on application development for mobile open source operating systems.

As LinuxDevices notes VMWare MVP appears to be based largely on Trango's hypervisor. VMware acquired Trango last month, and Trango's virtualization technology runs on PowerPC, ARM and MIPS platforms. In addition to reaching out to several types of processors, VMware MVP will support Linux 2.6x, Symbian 9.x, and Windows CE 5.0 and 6.0, among other operating systems.

“By abstracting the applications and data from the hardware itself, we expect that virtualization will not only enable handset vendors to accelerate time to market but can also pave the way for innovative applications and services for phone users," said VMware CEO Paul Maritz. Here is a key thing to note, from the announcement:

"VMware MVP will virtualize the hardware, enabling handset vendors to develop a software stack with an operating system and a set of applications that is not tied to the underlying hardware."

And this item directly addresses the impact that virtualization could have on open mobile platforms:

"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, billing, etc. is becoming an increasing concern. VMware MVP will allow 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."

I've written before about the considerable threats that VMware faces from open source virtualization, which is increasingly found in operating systems. The overall strategy of providing virtualization on open source phones is very sound. It has the potential to increase the security of phones and applications, allow developers to write to one common software stack, and more.

Those are areas where embedded, free open source mobile virtualization solutions could become best-of-breed. I won't be surprised to see competitive open source solutions show up quickly, focused on these same goals.