VMware Mirage Architecture and Use Cases

Whenever I talk to customers it seems to me that there is a large number of people that either have never heard of VMware Mirage, or are not familiar with what the technology does for organizations and users. So, despite the title of this post I will also cover some of the VMware Mirage use cases.

VMware has been talking about managing end point devices for a little while. If you remember, in the past VMware talked about CVP, a client hypervizor. Last year VMware acquired Wanova, a Israeli based company that built a solution to manage Windows images and end points in a very clever way.

The first point I would like to make is that Mirage is NOT VDI.

Mirage can work with a persistent-desktop VDI deployment, and it may complement VMware View deployments, but it is not VDI. VDI runs virtual desktops in the data center and delivers them via network using an enhanced display protocol. VMware Mirage, on the other hand, leverages native Windows end points and keeps a synchronized virtual copy of that end point in the data center, more like a image backup. That virtual copy that is being synchronized in the data center is being constantly stored and manipulated – it is NOT running in the data center and thus cannot be accessed from anywhere like VDI.


The main key use cases for VMware Mirage are:

Disaster recovery, Snapshot restore, Zero-touch Break-fix
Mirage keeps a complete virtual copy of each end point synchronized with the data center. This means that if a user loses a laptop, the administrator can re-assign their previous virtual copy to a new end point (virtual or physical) and all of their previous user profile, user data, and user-installed applications will be restored to the new device – even if the new device is a different hardware make or model, or virtual instead of physical. Mirage is hardware and driver agnostic as it created different driver layers for different hardware models.

In-place Windows XP to Windows 7 Migration
Mirage allows an IT Admin to build one Windows 7 Base Layer in the data center and then deploy it to collections of end points (on LAN or WAN). The Windows 7 base layer will download on an end-users WinXP machine in the background and when the download is complete the user will be prompted to reboot. After the reboot, Windows 7 will be there, and the user’s data and profile will remain intact. The apps that were installed on the XP machine will unfortunately not persist (but those apps can be built into the Win7 base layer for deployment during migration). Also, Mirage takes a snapshot of the XP system before a migration begins, which allows easy rollback.


I think these scenarios are better understood while watching the VMworld 2012 Keynote with Vittorio Viarengo and Steve Herrod. (Please skip to 00:12:54 minutes and watch until 00:20:31).


Enter video caption here


Mirage also leverages de-duplication in storage – This means that data is only stored once no matter how many users or end point device exists in a organization. Mirage also leverages the local computer power of an end point to compute storage de-duplication before it transfers data over a network to make sure only what is required is sent over the network. All data is compressed before it is sent and  SSL can be enabled between all client-server communication.

The Mirage Branch Reflector is a peering service role that can be enabled on any endpoint device. When enabled, the Branch Reflector serves adjacent clients when downloading and updating end points in a given remote branch/site, instead of having the clients download directly from the Mirage Server cluster. Using the Branch Reflector significantly reduce bandwidth usage during Base or App Layer updates or other Base or App Layer download scenarios.

Putting all together we are can now build a diagram with VMware EUC products and it’s use according to the business case.


So this was a quick introduction to the VMware Mirage, what the product does and it’s business use cases. Moving forward, and in my following posts, I will cover more the technical and architectural aspects of the product.


  • Base Layer  – is used as a template for desktop content, cleared of specific identity information, and made suitable for central deployment to a large group of endpoints.
  • User-installed applications and machine state -  unique identifier, hostname, any configuration changes to the machine registry, DLLs, and configuration files.
  • CVD (Centralized Virtual Desktop) – the complete contents of each PC migrated to Mirage Servers. A CVD comprise four components: Base Layer, Driver Profile, User-installed applications and machine state and User settings and Data.
  • SIS – Single-Instance storage

Key Components:

  • Mirage Client – is installed on endpoint devices to enable them to run a Centralized Virtual Desktop or convert an existing desktop into a CVD.
  • Mirage Management Server – is the main component that controls and manages the Mirage Server cluster.
  • Mirage Management Console – is the graphical user interface used to perform maintenance, management, and monitoring of deployed endpoints.
  • Mirage Server – manages the storage and delivery of Base and App Layers and CVDs to clients, and
    consolidates monitoring and management communications.

The diagram below demonstrate the high level architecture of a Mirage deployment. In a following post we will deep dive into this architecture and understand how the different components relate to each other.


This article was first published by Andre Leibovici (@andreleibovici) at myvirtualcloud.net.


3 pings

    • AL on 02/13/2013 at 4:19 am

    Good article – could you clarify what happens with user settings / personalisation if using a mix of Mirage and View.
    e.g. are these avaialble across both?, does (/ where does) View “my persona” fit into the puzzle?

  1. VMware View Persona will still do it’s job of abstracting and centralizing Windows Look & Feel and user settings. Mirage agent will capture any changes happening to on the Guest OS and also centralize that for backup and DR purposes. The general feeling is that you are archiving that data twice, but they would have different use.

    I hope that makes sense.


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