The world of enterprise IT is fast becoming a dense thicket of mobile devices and applications, but VMware sees virtualization as the figurative equivalent of an industrial strength weed whacker that can bring order to the chaos.
In a Tuesday session at the GigaOM Mobilize conference in San Francisco, VMware CTO Steve Herrod outlined how virtualization can help tackle the challenges associated with exploding usage of tablets and smartphones in enterprises, which include providing access to corporate data without compromising security.
Virtualization has proven an effective tool for solving problems with the heterogeneity that's typical in today's enterprise mobility environments, Herrod said in a discussion with GigaOM Senior Writer Stacey Higginbotham.
"There's no one size fits all way to access corporate apps and data, and we're focused on ways to do that," Herrod said.
Many organizations are using virtualization to access Windows applications on tablets or thin clients, but Herrod said virtualization is also an important driver for the post-PC era. "At the end of the day, people don't buy tablets to access Windows. That’s where we think virtualization has a place," he said.
One product that reflects this line of thinking is Horizon Mobile, a combination of virtualization and management software that's designed to create separation between the personal and work functions of ARM smartphones.
"[Horizon Mobile] sends me, over the wire, a complete virtual Android phone and all of the applications on it," he said. "We see the notion of a dual persona, where IT has control of their world, as something that people are really interested in."
VMware is currently in field trials with Horizon Mobile and plans to ship it early next year, and early handset partners include LG and Samsung.
VMware's end-user computing model hinges on secure access to applications from any location or device, as well as emerging collaboration and communications technologies. These days, mobile application developers are writing hybrid apps with a back end and customized front end, Herrod said.
"The best advice I can give is that this space moves quickly and you don't want to lock yourselves into one standard way of writing them," he said.
Herrod said Cloud Foundry, the platform-as-a-service VMware unveiled in April, represents a big step down this road.
"The idea behind Cloud Foundry is let people build these apps in a new way," he said. "There's a renaissance in terms of how you build apps that's going on right now. You need a framework for different sorts of front end and back end developers."
VMware on Tuesday unveiled new iPad and updated Android versions of SlideRocket (SaaS business presentations) and Socialcast (enterprise collaboration). VMware acquired both companies earlier this year as part of its end-user computing push.
In a Q&A, an audience member asked Herrod for insight on Project Octopus, a new file sharing virtual environment that VMware is calling a "Dropbox for the enterprise."
"We're trying to bring our enterprise background to bear and allow IT to have a fighting chance to do what they need and be accountable for things like compliance. Right now there is zero alternative to Dropbox for IT to even offer," Herrod said.