Friday, November 21, 2008

VMware Acquisition Targets Virtualization for Mobile Devices

What Happened?

Last week, VMware publicly revealed that it had acquired France-based embedded virtualization vendor Trango Virtual Processors in October. The acquisition of Trango’s solutions, which support virtualization on ARM and MIPS-based architectures, is intended to help broaden VMware’s target market beyond x86 platforms and specifically into the mobile phone space.

In positioning the Trango’s virtualization technology within the mobile phone space, VMware is emphasizing:

  • The benefits to manufacturers of faster time-to-market and easier porting of more robust operating systems
  • The ability of end users to manage multiple device profiles and more seamlessly make use of PC-based applications.
VMware plans to release the new VMware Mobile Virtualization Platform (MVP) based on this technology sometime in 2009 (late 2009 by some reports).

VDC’s View

This development is big news for virtualization solution providers playing in the embedded systems space. Vendors have long been looking to ride the coattails of VMware’s success story, attempting to draw strong parallels that would signal the inevitable arrival of virtualization within the embedded systems domain as well.

However, despite the fact that some of the value propositions of virtualization within the desktop and server computing market hold true for the embedded domain, there are also key differences that make an apples-to-apples comparison challenging. One of the most glaring of these is the diversity of hardware architectures that continue to be used across embedded projects -- embedded engineering is far from a homogeneous x86 world.

Despite the growing interest in virtualization technology over the last few years, VDC’s research points to the fact that the current use of virtualization across the larger embedded space remains low. That said, VDC has also seen higher reported rates of virtualization use specific to the mobile phone segment of the embedded market. VDC anticipates that future growth of virtualization within embedded system projects is most likely to be strongest in industries where hardware architectures are either similar to PC and server environments and/or becoming more uniform and platform specific. The standardization of system platforms in industries like the mobile phone market, point to growing opportunities for virtualization going forward.

Key embedded solution competitors bracing for strong adoption of virtualization within the mobile phone market such as VirtualLogix, Open Kernel Labs, Green Hills Software, and others, likely see VMware’s move as more validation that virtualization is destined to reach the mobile and embedded markets in earnest over the coming years. However, with a large, established vendor like VMware (and parent EMC) now looking to grow its business in the mobile phone space, it also may be a cause for concern for some vendors that had previously hoped to be the VMware of embedded - but now will have to compete more directly with the virtualization giant itself.