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Dual-identity smartphones could bridge BYOD private, corporate divide

New processors will allow phones to run two OSes -- one public and one corporate

November 26, 2012 06:01 AM ET

Computerworld - Late next year, consumers will be able to buy smartphones that either come with native hypervisor software or use an app allowing them to run two interfaces on the phone: one for personal use, one for work.

The technology could help address an issue that has cropped up with increasing frequency at work: Employees who bring their personal mobile devices to work and use them to communicate with clients and to access corporate data. The issue can cause friction at companies that need to safeguard their data on employee-owned smartphones and tablets and want to be able to remotely wipe the devices of data if they're lost or if an employee quits or is fired.

The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend has enabled a more efficient and mobile workforce while exposing companies to a myriad of security and data management quandaries. For example, corporate BYOD policies limit what devices can be used based on the type of mobile device management software their IT shop has deployed.

Next year, software and mobile device manufacturers will enable what are essentially two instances of the same OS on a smartphone. That will give corporations secure control over their data and employees the personal data privacy they want, keeping it from being seen or wiped by corporate IT.

VMware and Red Bend are two of the leading software companies that have already signed OEM agreements with smartphone manufacturers to create dual-identify devices from some of today's most popular models.

The two approaches to the smartphone virtualization market, however, are different and hinge on whether the software provider is using a Type 1 or Type 2 hypervisor.

A Type 1 hypervisor is hardware-based technology that creates a second copy of the OS and runs both instances in two distinct regions of a processor. A Type 2 hypervisor runs as a guest OS on top of the host OS, not in parallel like a Type 1. The guest has to communicate through the host OS in order to access the hardware.

Type 1 and Type 2 Hypervisors

Type 1 hypervisor technology is considered more secure because it's integrated into the processor, said Ken Dulaney, a vice president and distinguished analyst at research firm Gartner.

Red Bend's Type 1 hypervisor will run on a new generation of mobile processors due out next year. It now has a partnership with ARM, which is developing a new Cortex-A15 processor to take advantage of mobile virtualization. "So it's the best security combined with the best performance," said Lori Sylvia, Red Bend's executive vice president of marketing.

ARM has also partnered with AMD to develop new x86 processors that are optimized for virtualized smartphones.

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