Using VMware Mirage in Remote and Branch Offices

Oct 17, 2012
Louis Cheng

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By Tom Nikl, Product Marketing Manager, VMware Mirage, End-User Computing

Desktop management at remote and branch offices presents a significant challenge to IT departments. The challenge is magnified not just because of how IT must accomplish this feat, but also how they must accomplish it within a reasonable cost structure, while operating centrally or remotely, but with as little disruption to their end user base as possible. This is where the VMware Branch Office Desktop and specifically one significant component of this solution-VMware Mirage– come in.

First things first, VMware Mirage isn’t the same as VDI or VMware View (another component of the Branch Office Desktop solution). It isn’t running desktops in the data center- it’s running desktops locally on persistent end points (laptops, desktops, etc.) that your end users are running. This keeps end users happy because… they get to enjoy real native performance, and all the advantages with having a complete Windows system that they can customize and personalize as they see fit (including, but not limited to, installing their own applications).

So what is Mirage actually doing? Mirage keeps centralized virtual copies of every end point synchronized with the data center. Where VMware View computes desktops in the data center and delivers them over a network, Mirage, instead, is merely storing data, manipulating it, and keeping it synchronized. And this allows IT to perform all of the following:

  • Total disaster recovery of entire endpoints including user files, user profile, and user-installed applications.
  • Single image management where IT develops base images in the data center and distributes them down to collections of end points without disrupting user files, user profile, or user-installed apps.
  • Windows XP end points to Windows 7 upgrades without disrupting user data or profile.

Mirage can perform all of that- and more- with our end point centralization technology.

But how does this work over the WAN so effectively if the Mirage server is in the data center at HQ? For starters, Mirage deploys de-duplication over the network and in storage. That means that Mirage will only send data across the network when it is required, and Mirage will only store data in storage once- after that, Mirage will simply keep track of who else has those bits and track the deltas accordingly. As an example, if a remote branch office has a local office with Windows 7 users, and then installs Mirage on fifty end points at a remote branch office, the Mirage client will compute that all of the Windows 7 bits are already in the data center, so none of that Windows 7 data will synch across your WAN, because its already been stored! On top of all of this, we’ll compress anything we send over the network.

Impressed yet? There’s more! Mirage also has a feature to make the single image management feature even more efficient at remote branch offices called Branch Reflector. With just a few clicks in the Mirage Management Console, you can assign a normal Mirage end point as a Branch Reflector without any additional infrastructure or cost. From that point forward, this end point will do the following any time IT sends down a base image update to the end points at that remote branch office:

  • Download a small manifest file from the Mirage server that details the contents of the base image update.
  • Use that small manifest file to scan the local end points (at that remote branch office) for data that is in the base image and save it locally.
  • Compute the delta between the manifest file and the data found locally and download those files directly from the Mirage server to only the Branch Reflector end point.
  • Compile all of the data into the base image file and distribute it on the local network to all other end points at that remote branch office.

The combination of these processes mean that the Branch Reflector feature (which requires no additional infrastructure, setup, or cost) can reduce your bandwidth usage upwards of 90-95% because one end point is downloading only what it needs, as opposed to all end points downloading everything they need!

These are a few of the ways that VMware Mirage  can help any IT organization effectively solve their desktop management problem at their remote branch offices without breaking the bank and without requiring massive network infrastructure upgrades.

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