App virtualization could streamline mobility

* Tackling mobile lifecycle, security issues

Smartphones and other intelligent handheld devices are increasingly mimicking the functions of traditional PCs, having grown powerful enough to store corporate applications and data.

One worry about this trend is the lifecycle associated with these devices. Smartphones and other handhelds have a greater intrinsic value once applications and data are stored on them. As such, the IT department no longer wants to turn them over every 6 to 12 months, as has been common in the past. The cost of the change is much more than that of the device itself when there are locally stored applications and data files to be ported to new devices.

One possible way around the lifecycle issue is to use traditional application virtualization technology. Those of you who have long run Citrix Presentation Server software for speeding up remote applications know that this means running the client portion of an application in a central place, alongside the server. This way, the client-server messaging and downloading occur locally to each other, so they are fast. Only screen shots are sent over the WAN (in this case, the wireless network).

Application virtualization, points out Anthony Ricco, a Citrix senior director, enables devices to age because they don't have to continually gain more CPU, memory, and storage to accommodate the company's latest applications.

Security, of course, becomes another issue with small mobile devices storing important corporate information. (Remember the BlackBerry that sold on eBay in 2003 with proprietary Morgan Stanley data still on it? Shudder!) The smaller the device, the easier it is to lose.

A lost or stolen device using Citrix or other application virtualization would have no proprietary application data on it for someone to exploit. "In addition, you can't pass a virus over the network in a screen shot," says Ricco.

There's one hitch about running your mobile client software somewhere other than in your local client device, of course: If you should lose your network connection, you're out of luck.

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