Are you ready for VMI (Virtual Mobile Infrastructure)? It's like VDI, but for remoting mobile OSes

Gabe, Jack, and I have started talking about VMI more and more on our podcasts and at our events, but it just occurred to me that we never actually wrote a "This is VMI" article for BrianMadden.com.

Gabe, Jack, and I have started talking about VMI more and more on our podcasts and at our events, but it just occurred to me that we never actually wrote a “This is VMI” article for BrianMadden.com. So today’s topic is “This is VMI!"

As you might surmise from the name, VMI is like VDI except it’s mobile instead of desktop. But we’re not talking about remoting Windows to mobile devices, rather, VMI is remoting mobile OSes to mobile devices.

Umm… What?

Yeah, that’s right. VMI is remoting mobile OSes to mobile devices. With VMI you have a mobile OS (almost definitely Android) running as a VM in a datacenter, and then you can provide remote access to those Android apps to users out in the world using iPhones, Android phones, Blackberrys, Windows phones, etc.

Why in the world would anyone want to do that? For the same reasons people use VDI and Windows desktop remoting, including ease of deployment, security, and BYOD.

  • VMI makes it easy to deliver corporate mobile apps to users regardless of the device platform the users have. So instead of building separate apps for each platform, you can just build a single Android app that all users can use.
  • You also have the security benefit since all you have loaded on the phone is a remoting client. So a lost phone doesn’t have to be wiped.
  • VMI is also great for BYOD because you get the automatic work/personal separation. Your users can use their locked-down corporate apps without needing device restrictions, MDM policies, MAM, etc.

Similar to how the Windows remoting clients can connect client-side drive mapping, peripherals, and printers, the VMI clients can access the client’s location, camera, touch, accelerometer, and other client-side characteristics which they can provide to the remote Android app.

Speaking of Android, at this point it seems that all the VMI vendors only support Android as the remotely-hosted platform, though they have client software for iOS. (In other words, the hosted apps are Android, but users can access those Android apps from their iPhones.) This makes sense since Android is open source which means the VMI vendors can do what they need to do to get it to run in a VM in a datacenter. Obviously Apple would never allow anyone to run iOS as a VM in a datacenter.

VMI is great because it’s remoting mobile apps to mobile devices, so you don’t get the awkward form-factor translation that has to take place when you remote desktop apps to mobile devices.

There are several vendors who offer VMI solutions today, including Raytheon, Hypori, and Nubo. I would imagine that Citrix, VMware, and other desktop virtualization vendors will make moves in this space in the near future. After all, shouldn’t the Citrix Receiver for iOS be able to connect to remote mobile apps in the same way it connects to remote Windows apps?

When I first heard about VMI, I thought it was really stupid. But the more I think about it, the more I like it. VMI will definitely be a “thing” in the years ahead. Our mobility expert Jack Madden will be starting a Raytheon trial this week, with trials of Hypori and Nubo to come soon. (Stay tuned for his results!)

 What do you think about VMI? Yay? Yawn? Horror? Other?

 

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Don't forgot Citrix bought Virtual last year. techcrunch.com/.../citrix-acquires-virtual-an-android-and-ios-virtualization-company


So they have the tech to do mobile OS virtualisation and of course the protocol.


It doesn't exactly sound like Virtual and their product is very mature though.


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Meh!


First: nothing beats running a native mobile app locally on your device.


Second: even in 2015, we are not always-connected. Offline access is in most cases stil required. Well, we can probably wait until someone comes up with 'offline VMI'. Now THAT sounds stupid, huh?


Third: we still need those real productivity apps, that really help today's business. Adding VMI is just another platform.


And what's really new? What does it solve that we today cannot do? (-> Oke oke, delivering Android apps to Windows Phone and/or iOS.... )


The current initiatives on Mobile Application Management getting more and more mature. I foresee that more of these features will be incorporated into the mobile operating systems, thus lessen the need for a "EMM" solution.


So, "2016 will be the year of VMI!". I don't believe it.


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@Peter Sterk: Nothing beats a native app? We're not always connected? This is just another "thing" to manage? What does it really do that we can't do today?


Wait.. were you talking about VMI or VDI? :)


Of course all those things apply, but they also apply to VDI & remote Windows apps, yet there are still plenty of good use cases for VDI even though it's more expensive, we don't always have connections, etc. So I feel the same is true for VMI. It's nice to know it's out there and I can see using it for a few apps here and there in a lot of companies.


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While I can see a lot of value in that direction (i.e. security and central management), IMO, aligned with Peter's first point here, it will not take off with the standard VDI protocols (a.k.a. remote rendering). It *has* to go down at least one layer to the controls level, in order to render native client controls and populate data as opposed to just remotely render native controls.


Otherwise, user experience is going to kill it. VDI works well for desktop but suffers from major mismatches when it comes to Mobile UX.


Interestingly, I recently published a blog post exactly on that subject...


blog.reddomobility.com/remote-rendering-protocols-cannot-deliver-mobile-ux


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If running iOS in the data center is supported I could see some healthcare providers looking at this. Some don't want iPADs and iPhones but they have their doctors bringing in certain applications that have now become a part of their ecosystem. Native execution would be nice but how many developers are going to target Windows 10 with their mobile apps?


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This is really big! Finally we have a solution to the Flappy Bird issue!


Seriously, just like VDI and SBC before it, there are probably many perfectly valid cases that support this model, plus it's cool....


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If I remember correctly (and it's possible I don't), Citrix demonstrated running iOS in a data center shortly after the Virtual acquisition. So the technology is there, though the licensing and partnerships probably aren't.


I wonder if IBM getting all cozy with Apple could lead to progress there.


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For mobile app management, VMI is one of those nirvana solutions that can manage any app on any device.


With today's MAM we need to have special apps (apps made with SDKs, app wrapping, etc) or special devices (iOS 7/8, Samsung Knox, virtualized/dual persona Android, etc) and both have lots of tradeoffs.


But VMI? It just works. Any device. Any app. (Well... as long as it's Android, and as long as you're allowed to get it into a VMI VM. (Certifying VMI solutions to work with Google Play could be an interesting question.))


Another thought is that Windows 10 could be the remotely-hosted platform. We could benefit from our years of Windows remoting experience, but still have an OS that's now designed to be used from a mobile device.


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"Another thought is that Windows 10 could be the remotely-hosted platform. We could benefit from our years of Windows remoting experience, but still have an OS that's now designed to be used from a mobile device."


But no apps we actually want to remote ;-)


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The one thing that concerns me about the VMI is Apple's excessively dictatorial control of what apps can and cannot do. Remoting a Windows app or desktop is one thing, but if  Raytheon, Hypori, or Nubo start to gain traction Apple might take the position that remoting an an Android app crosses some arbitrary line and reach for the ban hammer.


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"I would imagine that Citrix, VMware, and other desktop virtualization vendors will make moves in this space in the near future."


Sounds like it has to happen pretty soon!


--KB


Karen J. Bannan, commenting on behalf of IDG and VMware.


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<humor> Shhh, nobody tell Apple that we're all about to start running Android apps on our iPhones! </humor>


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Hi Kevin,


One of the aspects VMI would help the healthcare industry most is how well it would complement a Single sign-on process. And we all know how badly that's needed for that industry and a few others...


VMI running a mobile OS from a remote server supports all the mobile devices and OSs and the enterprise apps and SaaS tools that are part of the app ecosystem for providers. This enables setting up an SSO which grants access to all of these resources, all froma centrally managed and secured environment. The One Time Password systems and all other authentication details are not exposed to mobile devices, neutralizing many of the security risks that mobile devices introduced to the network.


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@Itzik


> ... user experience is going to kill it. VDI works well for desktop but suffers from major mismatches when it comes to Mobile UX.


Don't bet on that being your ticket to success.


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