Feature Article

February 25, 2013

Entire Mobile Operator Infrastructure Will be Infused by Mobile Virtualization

iGR, a market strategy firm whose focus is on the wireless and mobile communications industry, endlessly researches emerging, as well as, existing technologies, consumer markets and the technology industries. According to iGR, “We use our detailed research to offer a range of services to help companies improve their position in the marketplace, clearly define their future direction and ultimately improve their bottom line.”

Recently, iGR announced that it believes that in the short two year period between 2014 and 2016 we will see mobile virtualization beginning to mature in the marketplace. Iain Gillott said, "Mobile virtualization appears to be the current Holy Grail for the wireless and mobile industry. iGR believes that finding, developing and deploying effective mobile virtualization solutions will be a challenge like none other that will take at least two to four years to become a reality."

Mobile virtualization is a technology that enables multiple operating systems or “virtual machines” to run simultaneously on a mobile phone or on a connected wireless device. It uses a hypervisor to create a secure separation between the primary hardware and the software that runs on top of it. Virtualization technology has been used widely for many years in other fields such as data servers which are basically storage virtualization and personal computers or desktop virtualization.

Hypervisor, or virtual machine manager (VMM) is a piece of computer software, firmware or hardware that creates and runs virtual machines. A computer on which a hypervisor is running one or more virtual machines is defined as a host machine, with each virtual machine being called a guest machine. The hypervisor presents the guest operating systems with a virtual operating platform and manages the execution of the guest operating systems.

Today's mobile phones boast computing capabilities once found only in mainframe computers and workstations. Mobile CPU clocks run hundreds of MHz, and mobile 32 bit processors access gigabytes of memory. Additionally, mobile network connections can stream data at broadband speeds. It should come as no surprise that today’s smartphones can also host mobile virtualization platforms.

iGR says that mobile operators will initially have to rely on a number of hardware and software vendors. This could cause a lot of confusion. That is due to the fact that the current standard for mobile virtualization can be considered to be in its infancy. Because of the immature state of the mobile virtualization standards, iGR sees that many of these firms will have interim solutions before coming up with a solid platform. This will extend to smartphones and tablets, as well as, the eNodeB, network servers, SON, LTE backbone and the EPC.

iGR defines three types of mobile virtualization. These are described in detail in their report, which is titled, Mobile Virtualization: Impact on the Mobile Ecosystem. The three types of mobile virtualization are:

  • Mobile application virtualization: when an application is separated from the other apps and services running on the mobile device.
  • Mobile access virtualization: occurs when the mobile device connects to multiple radio access networks (RAN) transparently to the user.
  • Mobile core virtualization: when the evolved packet core (EPC) is fully virtualized and run in a data center with off-the-shelf hardware.

The report from iGR provides an introduction to mobile virtualization, the potential impact on the current mobile ecosystem, profiles of the major virtualization vendors and solution providers, discussion of major threats and opportunities, and a forecast of the likely mobile virtualization developments in the next 48 months.

You can read some of the questions that the report asks here. If you want to read the entire report, you can download it after you purchase it from iGR’s website.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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