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Vodafone to launch 'dual persona' mobile client

Is mobile virtualisation the solution to IT departments' BYOD woes?

Vodafone Global Enterprise, the business services division of Vodafone Group, has revealed it is working on a 'dual persona' mobile client, that will enable business customers to compartmentalise their personal and business applications.

Speaking at a round table event in London yesterday, Nick Webb, head of solutions marketing at Vodafone Global Enterprise (VGE), said that the company is currently conducting trials on dual persona, and hopes to make the technology available to customers later this year.

Dual persona, also known as mobile virtualisation, has been touted as a way to enable the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) revolution. It works in the same way as desktop virtualisation, using a hypervisor to support multiple domains on the same hardware.

Users can keep all their enterprise data and applications in one domain, which is provisioned and managed by the IT department, and create a separate domain for all their other applications, games and contacts - thereby retaining privacy and control of their personal mobile environments.

Telefnica, parent company of UK mobile operator O2, announced plans earlier this year to launch a dual persona service, powered by VMware's Horizon Mobile virtualisation technology, and companies such as ShoreTel and Enterproid also offer their own versions of the technology.

"Dual persona devices are starting to gain credence," said Webb. "We are experimenting with different options - making the service native to the device or finding a way to split everything. We will go as far as splitting the billing eventually."

While dual persona goes a long way to addressing the security concerns of IT departments - many of which balk at the at the idea of supporting devices that run both enterprise and consumer applications - Rob Walker, partner at Ernst & Young, warned that there are still grey areas around liability.

This means that the HR, Finance and IT departments all need to be involved in defining the policies around BYOD within an organisation, he said.

IDC analyst Mike Cansfield added that many people are still very distrustful of BYOD, because they do not want business to encroach on their personal lives. This is particularly true among older employees, who are less attuned to new flexible and collaborative ways of working.

Furthermore, the financial benefits of BYOD are yet to be proven. While a company may save money by not buying hundreds of handsets, this could be outweighed by the cost of implementing mobile device management (MDM) software that supports multiple platforms.

As a result, some organisations are now adopting a "choose-your-own-device" (CYOD) strategy, meaning that the company supports a limited range of devices and employees can make a choice from within that catalogue.

Simon Gale, chief technology officer at IBM workplace services, said that businesses are currently in a transition period with BYOD. As devices become more diverse, IT departments are looking for new points of standardisation.

This standardisation could be "vertical" (finding a standard means of securing the device's connection to the organisation via a VPN or reverse proxy) or "horizontal" (finding a standard way of providing access to systems and data through specific browsers or software clients like Citrix Receiver).

"Data loss prevention is becoming more and more important," said Gale. "Imagine a world where all data was appropriately categorised - you wouldn't even need dual persona."

BYOD presents a tremendous opportunity to increase employee flexibility, but it has to be fit for purpose, added Cansfield. If organisations fail to establish policies to handle the influx of new devices into the workplace, this movement will end up happening under the radar, causing much bigger problems in the future.


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