Introduction to Virtual Mobile Infrastructure (VMI)
What is Virtual Mobile Infrastructure?
Virtual Mobile Infrastructure (VMI) is a mobile-centric technology that runs mobile apps on a mobile operating system (OS)/virtual machine that is located on a remote server. It’s often referred to as Mobile VDI because it essentially applies the same principles that allowed Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) to run desktop applications on desktops and mobile devices - only this time mobile apps are accessed remotely from mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, phablets and wearables.
How It Works?
The platform houses a customized mobile OS that is hosted on virtual machines (VMs). These VMs are run on a hypervisor on a centralized host machine. Each VM is able to run multiple user sessions, as well as host guests using different operating systems. A connection broker is used to connect between the organization’s data and mobile devices connected to the network.
In addition to running native user sessions, this system is also responsible for user activation/authentication and the lifecycle of the infrastructure (i.e. platform VMs and storage). Multiple user sessions can run simultaneously on the same platform. Every user is isolated within a closed sandbox, and every authorized app is isolated from other apps within the user sandbox. The client application and all virtualized mobile apps are transferred in the form of a single thin client app to the user’s mobile device. The thin client app runs independently of the remote platform OS, and can run on any mobile device and OS (iOS, and Android are usually supported). The user interface is a virtual imitation of the apps running on the server and is displayed on the user’s device as a flat image. This image cannot be analyzed or manipulated at the device level. Device features such as screen print are locked. Mobile devices receive pixel information from the remote apps, and in return send key, gesture, location and device information. No apps or data are saved or stored on the device itself. One secured communication protocol is used to transfer user input back to the remote server in order to provide maximum security.
The Question is, why we Need VMI?
Android is the dominant OS for smartphones, with more than 80% market share in 2015, followed by Apple (12.1 percent) and Windows (7.1 percent). However, despite the large user base, Android in particular represents a fragmented and challenging ecosystem with large numbers of disparate devices designed by manufacturers around the world. This is in sharp contrast to iOS, which is well known for its closed system tightly controlled by Apple. VMI makes managing BYOD for Android devices just as uniform and easy as iOS, utilizing a single gold disk image of Android to manage and support all end users, regardless of their device or operating system.
Today, many organizations claim to follow a mobile-first strategy, yet end users on mobile devices struggle to access an estimated 78 percent of enterprise applications. These business apps - including ERP, CRM, SharePoint, Lync and others - require significant processing power and battery capacity often beyond a user's individual device capabilities. Moving mobile apps to the cloud and providing geographically distributed compute notes eliminates many of these challenges while ensuring consistent quality of service and extreme scale.
With VMI, all applications and data are stored in a VM on enterprise servers in the cloud, ensuring there is no data at-rest on a local device-ever. If a device is lost or stolen, or an employee leaves the organization, IT can immediately block or revoke the user's access. This ensures enterprise data remains safe, without requiring remote wiping or other more complex security measures. It also protects the employee from intrusive access to and tracking of activities on their personal device by separating work and personal environments on the same computing device.
Many organizations have made significant investments in enterprise mobility solutions such as Mobile Application Management (MAM) and Mobile Device Management (MDM). These solutions offer an effective approach for managing enterprise-owned devices, but face challenges when implemented on users' personal devices. VMI complements existing MAM and MDM solutions, while extending their value to contractors, partners and customers outside of your immediate control.
With VMI, there is no inventory to manage or replace; just a cloud of VMs stored on a server, and one virtual device per employee - accessible from every device they own. VM devices can be created based on templates (including template-defined resources such as compute, memory, etc.), allowing multiple sets of users to be created at the same time, driven by an external system such as Active Directory. When business resources or criteria change, global updates can be pushed to users without touching every individual device. VMI also streamlines mobile app provisioning, allowing enterprises to develop or acquire only one version of an application and deliver it universally, regardless of employees' mobile platform. Application updates follow the same one-to-many model.
In VMI architecture, the data is usually detached from the OS in a central storage. This gives IT more flexibility while allowing user sessions to be run each time on a different virtual machine. It is also easier for IT to manage and backup the storage from a central location. Data is usually encrypted by using separate keys for each user ensuring that even an admin will not be able to access the data.
Conclusion - Mobile by design
Because VMI is optimized for smartphones and tablets with small touch screens and many sensors, users enjoy native apps and a full mobile experience. VMI supports unmodified commercial apps, allowing for greater workflow and productivity, and complements sandbox container solutions that provide limited offline access to apps such as corporate email by providing a richer user experience when the user is online (the vast majority of the time).
Users can also access separate work and personal environments from a single device, enjoying Facebook and Instagram and sending personal emails without worrying that corporate IT teams will seize data or wipe their data. When an employee leaves an organization, IT simply revokes their access privileges to the virtual mobile device.
Similar to VDI, there are many different business scenarios in which organizations should evaluate VMI. The most common include:
Healthcare - Enables access to electronic health records and other sensitive apps and data from mobile devices, in compliance with HIPAA privacy requirements.
Financial Services - Facilitates access to more sensitive client transaction data and business processes, from both personally owned and enterprise owned devices.
Retail - Supports secure Point of Sale as a Service for credit card transactions; Protecting the confidentiality of customer data accessed both from on and off premises.
Enterprise BYOD - Provides secure access to native apps from employee-owned mobile devices; keeping all data secure in the data center while at the same time not infringing on personal privacy.
Commercial Services - Extends the mobile enterprise to contractors, partners and customers.
Classified mobility - Allows government and security services to access data and applications from classified mobile devices, ensuring compliance with the thin client requirements of NSA’s Mobility Capability Package.
With 1.9 billion devices expected to hit the market by 2018, IT professionals are on the hunt for a more effective way to secure the enterprise. VMI provides the access they need without compromising security or user experience.