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.
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?