VMware Horizon Mirage - SCCM Killer?

By Brian Wagner
Posted in Virtualization
On May 03, 2013

VMware has released an operating system and application management solution. Mirage, part of the VMware Horizon suite, is focused on managing both physical and virtual machines. The solution can roll out operating system upgrades, patches, and applications.

Mirage was born out of an acquisition of Wanova. The product was designed to not only handle updates of O/S and applications, but to capture the contents of each machine. The contents can then be deployed to different hardware or to a VM. Mirage accomplishes a few things:

  • Backup of all physical and virtual desktops, with ability to recover the backups to new physical or virtual machines
  • Standardization of operating system, applications, service packs, rollups, and hotfixes across the diverse desktop landscape
  • Role-based provisioning of applications
  • Deployment across multiple sites with local cache servers
  • Deduplication and compression of the data written to storage
  • In-place upgrades from Windows XP to Windows 7

The last bullet is interesting. It allows for a new Windows 7 image to be rolled out with core applications plus role-based applications, but preserves the user personalization. Moreover, Mirage is smart enough to review all the files on the machine and only send the files that are changing as part of the upgrade. If certain files, let's say Office 2010, are staying the same, it doesn't send those bits. So it is not using a complete install of the operating system, then applications, or just deploying an image. It is an intelligent engine to figure out all the required changes, whether it is a Windows XP to Windows 7, or Adobe Acrobat 9 to X, it only sends the deltas.

It accomplishes this by creating a "layer" with the customized changes that apply to each individual desktop. This capability is unique, and doesn't make assumptions that certain prerequisites or application components are there; it checks for them each time (leveraging the local copy of the image that is on the backend) and creates the layer dynamically. These layers are deployed in the background and take effect on reboot. Even Windows 7 can be deployed in the background, going into effect on reboot.

Another nice feature is that the user can leverage the backup capability to perform self-service restores of local files.

Below is the architecture of Mirage:


Below is the branch support using the branch reflector to roll out the layers to the local clients, reducing WAN traffic:


VMware  Horizon Mirage is going after Microsoft's SCCM product, and seems to offer some compelling reasons why it should be considered. Yes, it delivers the operating system and applications, and so does SCCM. So, why should I look at Mirage? Well, the addition of backup/recovery, layering to reduce footprint of updates with snapshot capability with rollback, the ability to deploy Windows 7 in the background while the user is working, and more.

Talk to Gotham about how Mirage can provide centralized desktop management across all platforms, or enhance and accelerate a Windows 7 rollout.

Brian Wagner

Brian Wagner

Brian has over ten years’ experience in the planning, design, and implementation of technology solutions. He supervises technical specialists at projects, and has spoken at many technical seminars. Brian is an application integration specialist with experience configuring over 1,000 applications to work in multi-user environments, and manages Gotham’s thin client and server consolidation practices.