Motorola Ventures today put an undisclosed amount of money into Sunnyvale, Calif.-based startup VirtualLogix, which aims to do for communications equipment and mobile devices what VMware has done for the server. I’m pretty leery of companies throwing around the v-word, but with its take on virtualization, VirtualLogix is actually creating value.
For proof, check out the plans for a sub-$100 multimedia 3G phone developed by Purple Labs using NXP chips running VirtualLogix’s software. The software allows a processor to run a rich operating system on the same chip that controls the baseband access. (In a typical smartphone — depending on the applications and radios needed — this takes two or more chips.) The end result is a high-end feature on a low-end phone using fewer chips. That’s excellent for device makers, but VirtualLogix counts among its investors TI and Intel, two companies that want to sell more chips.
VirtualLogix CEO Peter Richards explained this contrast away by saying the chip vendors just want to make customers happier. But while that may be true, what’s really behind the chip firms’ interest is VirtualLogix’s ability to take software written for single-core chips and run it on multicore chips by virtualizing the multicore hardware. Multicore chips aren’t in phones right now, but given how much we want our handheld devices to do, they will be.
The other beneficiary of virtualizing a communications device is the gear market, where VirtualLogix customers such as Alcatel-Lucent are using the software to combine multiple products, like call routing servers, call management servers, etc., into one box rather than four or five. Virtualization as offered by VMware and Xen is creating a lot of savings by allowing companies to reduce the number of servers they use in data centers, so it stands to reason that it can do the same in the telecommunications world.