VMWare shows off mobile virtualization on Android

Users can securely seperate work applications from their personal applications

VMWare is showing off a mobile virtualization platform that will let people run a personal profile and a seperate, secure profile for work applications on the same Android phone.

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VMWare CTO Stephen Herrod showed off the software on an LG Optimus Black at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The company is now testing the software internally and with partners.

The idea is that enterprises can let their employees buy an Android phone but isolate the personal applications from the corporate apps in order to reduce potential security issues. "The goal for this product is a bring-your-own-PC type of world," Herrod said. "So we want to move to a world where the company is not buying you a phone. Buy what you like and bring it to work and we'll give you a way to use it in an enterprise-safe way."

For now, a piece of the software required to use the virtualization platform must be installed on the phone by the manufacturer -- it can't be downloaded later -- and so VMWare is working with partners like LG to preload that software. Once a worker brings the phone to the office, an IT administrator can use the management console to send over an additional application. That app appears on the home screen of the phone and when the user touches it, it launches the isolated corporate version of the phone.

IT administrators can set a variety of policies and allow different workers access to different capabilities. For instance, IT administrators can shut off cut and paste so that a user can't copy something from their personal files and paste into a corporate file. Administrators can also opt to shut off the camera, GPS and Bluetooth.

They can also remotely wipe data only from the corporate side of the phone and include a corporate app store that includes approved applications that users can download.

The software includes a VPN so that people can use a protected connection to reach the corporate network from the work side of the phone.

Herrod envisions a variety of ways that the service can be deployed. An enterprise could allow users to receive voice over IP calls from the PBX on the phones. Those calls might have a different ring than those that are dialed to the user's personal phone number.

Or, an operator could offer phones that have dual SIM cards so that a user could have two totally separate lines. Even with a single SIM, VMWare can create a virtual SIM that separates the data traffic into two accounts. "We are getting a lot of interest from providers because of the potential for two different data plans or selling a data plan to a customer who didn't have one," he said.

VMWare is working on offering the service through operators so that it can support the variety of approaches that the operators might want, he said.

VMWare imagines that the mobile virtualization application on the phone will be free but that enterprises will pay per user for the management software.

The company hopes to start field trials in the middle of the year but couldn't predict when the commercial product might become available.

For now, VMWare is only working on an Android offering, since that is an operating system that many companies would like to let workers use but is too insecure for many. "The goal is to get the solution out and see the customer demand and go from there," Herrod said.

VMWare first started talking about its mobile virtualization platform in December but is now demonstrating it on the LG Optimus Black.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service
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