How a virtual mobile infrastructure can protect your devices and data

By Karin Kelley

Although many organizations have been reluctant to fully adopt a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) program — particularly those that are worried about the security of sensitive corporate data on vulnerable mobile devices — there really is no denying that BYOD is here to stay. Employees are using both personal and corporate devices to access critical business applications, and they expect to be able to do so from wherever they are on the network. To accommodate this phenomenon, businesses have been deploying mobile device and application management (MDM/MAM) frameworks, but a relatively new technology, virtual mobile infrastructure (VMI), is emerging as not only an alternative to MDM/MAM but a potential complementary service as well.

What is a virtual mobile infrastructure?

VMI has been compared to virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and is indeed quite similar in concept. The idea is to run centralized applications (or desktops, in the case of VDI) on a secure host in the data center, not on the device itself. VDI is used to run virtual Windows desktops, whereas with VMI mobile applications run on a customized mobile OS on virtual machines hosted in the data center. In either case, users can access critical business apps from multiple devices without any of the data actually residing on the devices themselves. Because there’s always a risk that devices will be lost or stolen, this is a valuable security measure.

How can enterprises benefit from VMI?

Another major benefit of VMI is that it offers centralized management. For instance, VMI gives IT administrators added control over their respective BYOD programs. Even if employees are using smartphones and tablets that are company-issued, they are likely conducting personal business on these devices as well. With VMI, all business apps are isolated from personal ones and stored in one secure place. This prevents organizations from having to spend valuable time and resources trying to lock down devices, which will inevitably degrade the user experience. Because corporate and personal apps run in sandboxed environments, employees can rest assured that their privacy is protected.

VMI also gives IT administrators added control over mobile app management (MAM) policies. This prevents them from having to wrap applications and makes it so there’s no need to worry about working with SDKs and larger MAM frameworks, or even the security features on the device itself.

In addition, VMI provides total control over the mobile OS. Since VMI works off of custom mobile operating systems, IT administrators have full control over upgrades to both the OS and mobile applications. As such, they can set granular security, authentication and usage policies as they choose. Finally, VMI eliminates the need for developers to write multiple apps for multiple devices and operating systems. A single app should be able to run on any device.

Although virtual mobile infrastructure is still an emerging technology, it has much promise. In a 2015 survey conducted by IDC, a majority of enterprise respondents (33.1 percent) claimed that they have already mobilized four to ten applications, and another 17.7 percent claimed that they have already mobilized more than ten.

The need for businesses to deploy some form of enterprise mobility management (EMM) tools such as VMI is clear. That said, VMI will not serve as a replacement for existing MDM/MAM technologies. As the new technology only applies to certain use cases, it will be best used to complement the existing options. For instance, if your business requires that employees are able to work offline, VMI will not suffice. Combined with other enterprise mobility strategies, however, virtual mobile infrastructure can be a game changer.

Written By

Karin Kelley

Independent Analyst & Writer

Karin is an independent industry analyst and writer, with over 10 years experience in information technology. She focuses on cloud infrastructure, hosted applications and services, end user computing and related systems management software and services. She spent nearly eight years…

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