Dual-Boot Technology Coming to Android in 2013


Working for a large company these days often means needing to be in contact with the office 24/7. A problem that many companies face is that they are not able, or not willing, to provide a second mobile device to all of their employees. This results in many employees essentially being forced into the 'Bring-Your-Own-Device' (BYOD) situation, which is not ideal for either party involved.

Employees are often forced to install security software and data protection systems that allow the corporate office to wipe the devices in the name of company security. Employees not only have to worry about their phone being wiped, they also have to deal with a plethora of security features that prevent the easy and smooth access to their devices to which they are accustomed to. The situation isn't ideal for employers either, due to a variety of personal changes that may have been made to the device by its owner the act of keeping information secure becomes a daunting task.


So how can companies keep their data secure while allowing employees to keep using the BYOD system? The answer potentially lies with new technology due out in 2013 that would allow users to operate two instances of the same OS simultaneously. There are two ways that this is achieved, and the two primary companies introducing this technology are moving in markedly different directions. The two methods are called Type 1 and Type 2, because apparently there was no room for creativity in the development process.

Type 1 vs. Type 2

The technology goes by the name hypervisor, which sounds considerably cooler than its two sub-types. Type 1 is considered more secure by analysts because it is built from processor up to be fully integrated. Red Bend, one of the two primary companies involved, has opted to go with the Type 1 style of integration and has already partnered with ARM in the development of a new mobile chip due out next year based on the Cortex-A15 core, which will take advantage of this new technology.

Not only is Red Bend working with ARM on this chip set, AMD itself has partnered with ARM to license and develop new x86 processors which are designed for virtualized devices. Type 1 operates by dual booting a personal OS instance and a corporate OS instance at the same time. Users can continue to customize and use their personal OS just as they would without the new system, while the company's IT department will maintain control over the corporate OS instance.


Type 1 may be more secure, but it hasn't won over everyone. There are concerns that the dual-boot method will be too taxing on the system, but Lori Sylvia, executive Vice President of Marketing for Red Bend offered a rebuttal to that concern:

"It's the standard Android boot time…In Red Bend's solution, the personal virtual phone boots first, and then the virtual work phone boots second. After the first one is running, it takes a few moments and then the second one is good to go, too."

During a demo of the dual-boot system, Sylvia showed how when an instance of the personal OS is running and a call comes through on the business side the transition is smooth and seamless. She went on to explain how neither OS is using up resources when the user is using the other instance. "The other OS is there," Sylvia said, "but it's not consuming the same resources at the same time."


When a user purchases a Type 1 device in 2013 they simply let their IT department know about the new device, and if the company already has Red Bend's Software Management Center installed then the company will send out a delta file to initiate the second OS instance. The delta file simply copies the Android OS and creates a second image which can be modified by the IT department.

Type 2 hypervisor isn't based on processor integration, but instead runs on top of the existing OS in a virtual form. VMWare, the developer of the Type 2 system, initially began work on a separate Type 1 system, but after years of development came to the conclusion that manufacturers simply weren't interested in investing a ton of money into a product they didn't see being very popular. It looks like they may be right too, because they already have LG, Samsung, and Motorola on board for embedding Horizon Mobile software, as it's being called.

The software may come pre-installed on the device, or be available in a free download as an app once the device is purchased. The company is choosing to make the app and hypervisor technology free to manufacturers and users, and opting to make their profits from the management aspect of the system. Companies will purchase the Horizon Mobile Manager software, which will allow them to easily add new devices to the company ecosystem. In fact, the scalability factors and ecosystem issues were another primary driver for VMWare to move away from a Type 1 system, which they believe will be too difficult to manage in a large corporation.


Supported Systems

While Red Bend's software is currently only in development for the Android OS, VMWare plans to offer their virtual option on both Android and iOS, but there's no plan yet to integrate with Windows Mobile. The company is waiting to see how things take off with the other systems before making that decision.

Despite the fact that VMWare is already planning to offer their services on iOS devices, it doesn't look good for future implementation. VMWare's Senior Director of Mobile Solutions stated:

"It's hard for us to put our arms around it. By virtualizing, we normalize and abstract away all that fragmentation and give IT their own version of Android to manage. And, there's no chance a Type 2 hypervisor will show up on an Apple device because of the proprietary nature of Apple's hardware."


It's difficult to see which type of hypervisor will be the clear winner next year, or whether there will even be a clear winner early in the fight. Although VMWare and the Type 2 system have more manufacturers on board, it's important to remember the large role ARM technology plays in the mobile industry. Either way, the manner in which employees interact with their personal phones as business devices looks like it will change dramatically in the next few years.

Source: ComputerWorld