Virtualisation on mobile devices is becoming more and more of a reality. After last week's VMware release of further details on its forthcoming smartphone hypervisor, Citrix Systems has joined the fray with a mobile version of their application virtualisation software, XenApp.
The new initiative would offer a free XenApp plug-in available from Apple's AppStore that would allow Apple's iPhone to connect to any enterprise applications hosted on a XenApp server. (This functionality will also be available for dozens of Windows Mobile and Symbian devices as well.) It's expected to go online in the first half of next year.
Chris Fleck, Citrix's vice-president of solutions development, said that the move toward XenApp on the iPhone was really motivated by customer demand. The company's Web forums have been deluged with requests for more iPhone compatibility, he said--even from non-Citrix users in the consumer space.
Now is a good time to move virtualisation onto the mobile device, and especially the iPhone, said Fleck. "There's bigger screens, faster networks, and the ability to use 'gestures' to pan and zoom. Before, there was only the small form factor, painfully small screens, and inconsistent networks," he said.
This was behind VMware's recent VMware Mobile Virtualisation Platform (MVP) release as well--first mentioned at September's VMWorld conference, VMware released further details last week.
Srinivas Krishnamurti, director of product management and market development with VMware, said that VMware also wanted to cash in on the growing smartphone market. Said Krishnamurti: "Two years ago we looked at the mobile phone market as the next frontier, and we wanted to build a hypervisor on a mobile device. These phones are no longer a communication device, but a computation device."
(VirtualLogix and Open Kernel Labs have also debuted mobile device virtualisation so far.)
The MVP hypervisor will be embedded in certain smartphone models. "We don't expect people to go to our website and download it," said Krishnamurti. "We're speaking with a number of handset and carriers about proof-of-concept right now." With the long lead time of phone manufacturers, he said, the products should arrive in around 12 to 18 months.
"This will also make it easier on the handset makers (as devices can be more OS-agnostic)," said Info-Tech Research senior analyst Group's Mark Tauschek.
Now, Citrix's Fleck said, there will be myriad business-oriented options available to iPhone and other smartphone users, including doctors being able to securely access and update patient information, salespeople being able to check customer files, and the ability to utilise workflow and ERP programs remotely. Security will even be enhanced, he said, as data won't be left on the actual device.