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Third-party options fill Wanova's single image management shoes

With Wanova's future in the hands of VMware, it's not hard to picture its flagship desktop management product, Mirage, being incorporated into VMware's portfolio as

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a bundled feature rather than a standalone product. But that could leave a gap in the desktop virtualization market.

If Mirage isn't offered as its own separate product, a gaping hole would be left behind in the desktop management market because Wanova occupies a very unique role. Luckily for customers, there are other options for single image management cropping up.

The wizardry of Mirage is that it can stream a single image to any piece of hardware (physical or virtual) without having to worry about drivers. It does this by injecting the drivers into the stream at runtime using something called a Driver Library. That means you can deliver any image to any device for any user, regardless of whether or not they're using virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).

It's strange to see VMware Inc. focus on physical desktops, but the company isn't the only one trying to take virtualization aspects to the physical side. Citrix Systems Inc. also hopped on board with its acquisition of Virtual Computer.

Where else can you get single image management?

In response to an article I wrote about Citrix and VMware tip-toeing toward the "physical" desktop management space, a company named SmartDeploy reached out to me. Seeing that there may be a third-party void, I took a briefing to learn about their product for physical desktop single image management.

More on VMware
and Wanova:

VMware's Wanova acquisition extends VDI to physical desktops

VMware buys Wanova: Major desktop strategy change?

SmartDeploy is similar to Mirage in that you can use it to deploy single images to any piece of hardware. The big difference is that there isn't any streaming capability. The way SmartDeploy works is by acquiring a Windows Preinstall Environment (WinPE) via PXE boot. The WinPE is a heavily modified version of the one that comes from Microsoft, and it's used to communicate with the SmartDeploy backend; find the appropriate image, drivers and other machine-specific files; image the machine and process custom configurations.

Images can be deployed to physical or virtual machines so you can truly have one single image across the board. That only makes sense with persistent VDI VMs, though, because the imaging process is just that: imaging. It's not a streaming tool, so although you can reimage a system at each boot, the user would have to wait an unrealistic amount of time while the machine is imaged from scratch. SmartDeploy isn't selling this as a desktop refresh tool, but I do wish the capability was there.

SmartDeploy isn't as advanced as Wanova Mirage, because you can stream the images to different locations and execute them on the fly, but it does deliver a single image for everything. Still, SmartDeploy plans to add a Software as a Service offering allowing you to subscribe to an image hosting service from the company or to run your own service that can provision remote machines. The company is also working on backup and restore capabilities for image deltas so user settings and changes can be portable.

Granted, there are other tools that can do this today using some sort of virtualization -- MokaFive comes to mind -- but technologies that work natively on both physical and virtual devices make a lot of sense to me. It's customizable complexity: You can make your desktop management as simple or as complex as you need it to be.

I hope VMware sells the Mirage product as a standalone product for the time being while incorporating the technology into View. It's nice to know, though, that there are other options.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Gabe Knuth
is an independent industry analyst and blogger, known throughout the world as "the other guy" at BrianMadden.com. He has been in the application delivery space for over 12 years and has seen the industry evolve from the one-trick pony of terminal services to the application and desktop virtualization of today. Gabe's focus tends to lean more toward practical, real-world technology in the industry, essentially boiling off the hype and reducing solutions to their usefulness in today's corporate environments.

This was first published in July 2012

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