Since the primary software components of a user's PC is split into manageable layers, administrators can individually back up those layers and then push the layers down to endpoints to solve problems, similar to a rollback, but with a great deal more granularity and control. At first blush, it would seem that a library of CVDs would require massive amounts of storage (number of desktops multiplied by the storage used on each one) and consume copious amounts of bandwidth (constantly synchronizing endpoint files across the network) when in motion. However, Mirage addresses these issues as well by leveraging de-duplication technology, both on storage and in synchronization traffic.
With the de-duplication technology, hundreds of CVDs may only need to take the equivalent space of a few stored desktop machines. For example, if you have 500 CVDs that are running the same OS and the same applications, you would only need a single copy of the OS and application files, as well as user files that are the same across multiple CVDs. Of course, your results may vary, depending upon the level of commonality on your managed desktops.
On the bandwidth front, efficient compression and an intelligent client application that leverages bandwidth throttling will speed the synchronization process significantly. Because of this, Mirage proves to be an effective solution for remote users connecting over a WAN.
I was able to test both the de-duplication and compression technologies used, and I was impressed with the effectiveness. My six test desktop PCs collectively used about 220GB of disk space; once converted into CVDs, space needed on the network was about 35GB. Moving data over the wire from the desktops to the CVDs and back was very fast, approaching 70 percent of line speed on my 100Mbps Ethernet connections. Further speeding synchronization is how Mirage identifies files that have already been synchronized and skips those files during the synchronization process. No time (or bandwidth) is wasted by synchronizing information that the Mirage server or the desktop already has.
I found the basic deployment of Mirage was surprisingly straightforward and consisted of little more than configuring a Mirage server and deploying the client application to each endpoint. In my experience, that was much less complicated than any VDI product I tested, which required multiple components to be installed, integrated and configured.
The Mirage Client is a small file, and can be distributed via e-mail, downloaded from a Website or easily distributed via other means. Once installed, the local desktop is captured and stored on the Mirage server using a wizard called "Centralize Endpoint." Centralizing an endpoint consists of capturing the desktop contents, including user-installed applications, data and user settings. That can happen in the background, while the user continues to work. Once the desktop was centralized, I was able to create an image of the OS, along with the applications I wanted to provision centrally (for example, MS Office and/or antivirus suites). I was able to store the combination of those layers as a CVD.
I saw the new endpoint listed on the management console under a pending designation, allowing me to execute a wizard to automatically centralize the endpoint. There may be some situations where you don't want to capture every bit of information on a user's desktop. For example, what if the user has gigabytes of MP3s or other non-business-related information on his or her desktop? Arguably, you could create a policy to ban those files or delete them, but that proves to be taking an anti-user stanceânot a politically correct move in some organizations.
With Mirage, I created policies that excluded files and directories from the processâI could still let users do what they want on their desktops but not be responsible for allocating storage or backup procedures for non-corporate files. I found this to be an appropriate way to allow workers to use their PCs however they want, yet still protect the core components, applications and data sets needed for their jobs.
Creating CVDs, backing up data/desktops and enforcing policies is only the beginning of Mirage's capabilities. Administrators will find some of the other capabilities incredibly powerful and useful. For example, Mirage allows the creation of a BI from a CVD. That BI consists of the primary OS files needed by a desktop PC. The BI comes from a reference machine (an example system of how an administrator wants a newly deployed PC to look).