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More virtualisation to come in mature Australian market

Australia has been hailed as a rapidly growing market for mobile virtualisation

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Reports predicting exponential growth in mobile virtualisation in Australia have left experts scratching their heads.

The country was one of the earliest and most enthusiastic markets for server virtualisation as enterprises sought to sweat their IT assets. According to Gartner analyst Michael Warrilow, 85-90% of Australian servers have now been virtualised, compared with about 75% globally.

While Warrilow said there was still pronounced activity in some markets – he estimated that China, for example, has virtualised only 30% of its servers – the market is generally considered mature, with suppliers reliant on maintenance and upgrade deals.

So when a new report from Research & Markets named Australia as one of the fastest-growing markets for mobile virtualisation, it appeared there was still more juice to be squeezed from the technology. The report suggested the global mobile virtualisation market would grow from $US2.16bn this year to $5.68bn by 2021 as enterprises sought to separate personal from work applications on mobile devices.

Mobile virtualisation involves two virtual platforms being installed on a single wireless device. The device might have one virtual environment for business use and one for personal use, or the device may be able to run two different operating systems.

The report named Australia as one of the fastest adopters in the Asia Pacific region, and said it would “witness exponential growth and is projected to be the fastest growing region in the global mobile virtualisation market”.

This came as something of a surprise to Andrew Wiles, a partner in KPMG’s IT advisory business and a former Vodafone CIO. He said he had rarely seen demand for mobile virtualisation in Australia, with most enterprises choosing to use mobile device management technology to separate work and play on mobiles.

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Mobile virtualisation allows a single physical device to be separated into multiple virtual devices. This allows companies running bring your own device (BYOD) or choose your own device (CYOD) initiatives to effectively partition devices.

There have been suggestions that the rise of the digital wallet – in which a smartphone coupled with a near field communication (NFC) chip and software replaces cash and credit cards – could be the spur for more mobile virtualisation.

But Wiles said he had yet to see a “killer” application for mobile virtualisation. Whether the virtualisation was achieved at a firmware or hypervisor level, it would have a limited impact on locked-down Apple iOS devices, he said, and instead most enterprises were getting the same sort of effect from mobile device management systems regardless of device type.

That was the case at KPMG, which used MobileIron to “lock down, control and centralise control of devices and if they are lost or stolen, to wipe them”, said Wiles.

“I can’t see where mobile virtualisation could knock mobile device management off its perch,” he said, adding that mobile virtualisation seemed still to be a solution seeking a problem.

Gartner’s Warrilow said there had been a push to virtualise the personal and work components of mobile devices, but containment had achieved the same effect with less fuss. Mobile device management and the use of containers was a more lightweight way to strike a balance between flexibility and productivity, he said.

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