02
Apr
parallels2

Go ahead and file this one in the Super Cool Tech category. A Russian blog, Rozetked.ru, posted video of a Galaxy S2 running two copies of Android at the same time. The three-and-a-half minute video takes us through a demo switching between a pair of ROMs while playing music from both, proving that the hardware resources can be shared. After the audio segment, we are shown decently high frame rates on a 3D benchmarking app and Angry Birds. According to the team behind the project, running two concurrent instances of Android only takes about 10% off of battery life while the impact on system speed is negligible. Unfortunately, the voiceover and original subtitles are in Russian, but the automatic translation on YouTube does a passable job of clearing things up for the rest of us. (You may need to manually enable subtitles.)

The project comes from a team of students at the St. Petersburg University of Russian Academy of Sciences in collaboration with Parallels, a company well-known for its cloud computing and virtualization products. We reached out to Parallels, and they were happy to confirm the video's legitimacy.

I can assure you that this video states total truth. Indeed, Parallels has strong connection to the project evolvement. The technology’s been researched by group of students in Parallels Lab (it is our own educational laboratories in leading Russian Universities) at St. Petersburg University of Russian Academy of Sciences. To be specific, it is an experimental student project supervised by Parallels pros. The technology allows running multiple Android isolated environments on single Android device - effective and scalable with low overhead on virtualization. Yet it is still a technology with plans for further product development.

Best regards,

Yulia

As you can see, development is still in the early stages, meaning this might not be available as a product for quite a while. And when it does become a product, locked bootloaders and a wide variety of driver-related issues will probably make manual installation impractical for average users and expensive for the company to support. More likely, Parallels will license the software to OEMs like Samsung and HTC and bundle it with devices, or include it as part of a firmware update. Despite a few potential hurdles to get over, this advancement really is something to be excited about. The potential for virtualization in the mobile space is amazing, and may ultimately lead to the next revolution in how we use our devices.

Thanks, Denis Mukhin.

Rozetked.ru

Cody Toombs
Cody is a Software Engineer and Writer with a mildly overwhelming obsession with smartphones and the mobile world. If he’s been pulled away from the computer for any length of time, you might find him talking about cocktails and movies, sometimes resulting in the consumption of both.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001016188235 Sahib Singh

    Go S2!

    • Lalit Mali

      Go where?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001016188235 Sahib Singh

        Forward?

    • Simon Belmont

      I agree. The S2 is still a good phone.

      Heck, Samsung is even still supporting it with new OS version updates. That's pretty awesome.

      • Parry

        I still have this SII. Running Rootbox right now [coming from Omega]. Still a damn good piece of hardware even if it's 'outdated'.

  • Clifford Rebelo

    So with something like this I can run CM on my GS3, then when I want just switch over to stock on the fly? The only reason I'm still stock is to use apt-x bluetooth streaming in my car. I would love to use CM and switch on stock during car mode for music listening.

    • http://code.google.com/p/lg-v909 Aaron Echols

      Yes, in theory.

    • RitishOemraw

      Would be cool to have CM and Stock running at the same time, although being able to switch on the fly would have been better imo. Maybe in due time :D

    • ProductFRED

      You can already do this with Siyah kernel on the International Galaxy S3. Dual booting. There's even a triple booting mod. But I don't know of any way to do this concurently.

      • Clifford Rebelo

        On the fly would be the way to go. The way I do it is hop in my car and scan an NFC tag to turn on car mode, GPS, bluetooth, etc. If it can automatically switch from CM to stock when scanned that would be amazing. Even if it takes 10 seconds or so I can use that time to put on my seatbelt and find my sunglasses. Scan the tag again and BOOM back to CM. Please someone make this happen! This is why I love Android.

  • Wilfredo Alarcon

    So, it's fundamentally different, but the end user will see it as having 2 accounts on one device (akin to what 4.2.x does now)?

    • http://code.google.com/p/lg-v909 Aaron Echols

      No, this is very different. It will be two different installs of Android running side-by-side.

      • Wilfredo Alarcon

        Right. I get it. But the end-user will see what exactly? Mind you, not all will be techsavvy to know that 2 roms or different installs are running simultaneously.
        Won't they see it/treat it as 2 logins on one device (in general)???

        • http://code.google.com/p/lg-v909 Aaron Echols

          If you're running 4.2.x next to 2.3.x, you'll know. So no...

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            But if you are an end user and have 4.2, why in the world would you install 2.3 to run alongside it?

          • http://code.google.com/p/lg-v909 Aaron Echols

            You wouldn't, unless you were running a custom skinned version of 2.3, which is lighter on resources for quick boot option to access just a couple quick functions, such as: Camera, flashlight, or some OEM service. This isn't going to be aimed at the consumer, but the OEM...

          • http://www.facebook.com/rmourar Ricardo Moura Rocha

            You can also use to switch between heavily customize versions of android, like say Amazon's ROM on the kindle fire or even run an instance of sense and another of stock android...

          • Nicktrance

            Or maybe running a fully functional, stable 4.1 with an early version of a rom using 4.2

          • Simon Belmont

            Nostalgia? Yeah, you're right, it's pretty pointless.

            Though, I do get a kick out of playing with older versions of Android on my older devices. It's like a blast from the past...erm...of two years ago.

          • Justin Swanson

            I don't see a reason for someone who isn't developing to do that. If you're a developer and want to support multiple versions of Android (thinking 2.3, 3.2(?), 4.0, 4.1, 4.2) you might want to be able to switch, on the fly to those OSes and test the app.

            For power users, they might want to test new ROMs without losing their old. Or as someone else mentioned (@dasunsrule32:disqus ) you might want a fast boot ROM (to make a quick emergency call) and a fully featured ROM.

            Slightly Off Topic: for a while I have been wishing I had a fast boot option in Android that would basically get me to the dialer so I could make a call (this was back with my SGS that froze all the freaking time). I could implement sometime like that, with this.

            For end users, their isn't much for them to do. If they are running the carrier pushed ROM, they could download and boot into the new one (to test) before fully updating the ROM.

            I like new ideas and glad that people are always pushing for new things.

          • dextersgenius

            One word - Chainfire3D. :)

        • Nicktrance

          This IS aimed at power users, doesn't make sense for non tech savvy users to even have this running. You also need root for this to work so you need to be decently tech savvy to get there xD.

  • http://tinyroar.com Cats-R-Friend

    This would be great for developers, swapping from gingerbread based rom to ics to jb.

    • Mike Reid

      If it works, yes. Flashing ROMs all the time is a pain.

      But as a low level hardware dev, I very much doubt some hardware can be shared very well, especially picking ROMs at "random". Audio and bluetooth at least will be difficult.

      Perhaps some special audio libraries were used to allow sharing ?

      • Евгений Баталов

        1. We have prohibited Android access to audio devices on kernel level. We even don't need any special kernel patching for this particular feature.
        2. Then we have supplied each Android with a proxy audio library (our HAL implementation) which connects to our AudioServer which uses audio hardware to play/record/mix sound.

  • http://twitter.com/Darkmyth_pt Darkmyth PT

    somehow i couldnt understand his speech...

  • flippingthecoins

    How it will be useful for the users?

    • http://twitter.com/PetrBa Petr Bažout

      Not sure how for regular users, but imagine that possibilities for power users. :D

      • http://twitter.com/misterE33 Mr E

        i'm still not sure. i could see this is a neat way to try out a new rom. i guess it's possible you could keep running two roms for legacy features. anything else?

        • http://twitter.com/navjotbatra Navjot

          You get an S4 but want to run stock Android. You can use AOSP as your daily driver but you can switch to TouchWiz anytime you want to use things like Group Play or S-health, etc.

    • Nicktrance

      Being able to use different features from separate ROMs could be useful, although the best use I can think of is being able to test early versions of a ROM while at the same time having a more stable, fully functioning ROM in case the other causes problems.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

    The narrator gives a few usage examples, but both are totally moronic.

    1. Having one OS that is full-on and one light and with visual effects disabled or w/e, so that you can switch to it when you are low on battery (that's moronic - that's going to use more battery. Why wouldn't you just apply the battery-saving settings to the main OS instead?).

    2. And having one OS for yourself, one for the spouse, and one for your kid. Also not the right approach to the situations - Android already supports multi-user, that should be the way to go for multiple family members if you're already going to run something this custom. His argument is - sure, but this way you can even run Android 4.2 with Android 2.3 side-by-side. But who the hell would want that for their family? If you have a phone that already runs 4.2, why in the world would you run 2.3 with it?

    I definitely see use for this - for developers, testers, ROM flashers, but not for the examples he gave. Or maybe if you could multi-boot Android with another OS that way, running at the same time.

    Anyway - it's a pretty fascinating concept and I'm glad it ended up not being fake (thanks to Yulia from Parallels for responding to my inquiry! This delayed the article by a few extra days, but hey - due diligence).

    She also sent over these answers in response to my additional questions:
    1. How is RAM handled?
    Modern phones provide enough RAM to run 2 Android instances without RAM contention.
    We can turn "swapping" mechanism on in Linux kernel to add RAM which is backed by persistent storage on older models.

    2. Is it shared or split per instance?
    RAM is shared but each Android RAM is isolated by the Linux kernel.

    3. Are there any plans to open-source this solution or release it to the public any time soon?
    We cannot comment on our plans. The technology is under research.

  • zhopudey

    Android can run 2 instances just fine on a dual core and 1gb ram?? Then why on earth do we need quad cores and moar ram?

    • Samsung Fanboy

      more, not moar.

      • SetiroN

        *mo4r, not moar

    • spunker88

      Its CM7 which can run fine on 512MB of RAM, even down to 256MB although multitasking takes a hit.

      • Simon Belmont

        Confirmed. My old Sprint HTC Hero runs CM7.2 awesomely and it sports 288MB of RAM.

        The multitasking is still quite good. The only app that really gets kicked out of RAM slightly more is the browser is you're hitting up a lot of graphic intense websites.

    • Simon Belmont

      So we can run four instances? Haha.

      Sorry, I had to say it. Cheers.

  • Andy_in_Indy

    Can this be run without modifying the initially installed kernel? If so, this would mean the end of locked boot loaders. Otherwise, its uses seem limited compared to "safeboot" style bootstrapping and kexec kernel swapping.

  • Marculus Smith

    I've been looking for something like this for about... ever. Work ROM and Personal ROM would make my life about... awesome(r)

    • Samsung Fanboy

      the S4 should make your life awesome, it will have work and personal profiles.

  • Dave Bovee

    I'm a basic user, no technical expertise. I can see how this would interest people who are constantly messing with their phones; does anybody ever do any research on how to make an AT&T-locked gingerbread galaxy just do everything they advertised it would do? Consumer humor :-D

  • Greek_Ice

    Interesting implementation, and just another reason why I enjoy Android being open sourced. Almost makes me regret selling my GS2...but not really

  • Sootie

    If you can run windows phone 8 and android at the exact same time this suddenly becomes very interesting. There is still a very limited use case for it but there is still a use case for it. Virtualization for desktop computers is still relativity limited use but for the people who have that specific need it is extremely handy (Running a 6vm lab on my desktop at the moment)

  • wolfkabal

    The first thing that comes to mind for this is corporate world. I just got done doing a review on Divide which uses a separate "container" to run corporate apps (email, contacts, sms, etc). The one underlying flaw though was still that of rooting. But with something like this, a user could still run all their personal apps / OS in a rooted state, and then still keep a fully unrooted (secure) rom for corporate use!

    Though the question of what it takes to run this in the first place (root?) and how permissions of the base client are.