Local Host Cache

The Local Host Cache (LHC) feature enables connection brokering operations in a Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops service deployment to continue when a Cloud Connector cannot communicate with Citrix Cloud. Local Host Cache engages when the network connection is lost for 20 seconds.

With Local Host Cache, users who are connected when an outage occurs can continue working uninterrupted. Reconnections and new connections experience minimal connection delays.

Data content

Local Host Cache includes the following information, which is a subset of the information in the main database:

  • Identities of users and groups who are specifically assigned rights to resources published from the Site.
  • Identities of users who are currently using, or who have recently used, published resources from the Site.
  • Identities of VDA machines (including Remote PC Access machines) configured in the Site.
  • Identities (names and IP addresses) of client Citrix Workspace app machines being actively used to connect to published resources.

It also contains information for currently active connections that were established while the main database was unavailable:

  • Results of any client machine endpoint analysis performed by Citrix Workspace app.
  • Identities of infrastructure machines (such as Citrix Gateway and StoreFront servers) involved with the Site.
  • Dates and times and types of recent activity by users.

How it works

During normal operations:

Normal operations image

  • The Brokering Principal (Citrix Remote Broker Provider Service) on a Cloud Connector accepts connection requests from StoreFront, and communicates with Citrix Cloud to connect users with VDAs that are registered with the Cloud Connector.
  • The Citrix Config Synchronizer Service (CSS) checks with the broker in Citrix Cloud approximately every two minutes to see if any configuration changes have been made. Those changes can be administrator-initiated (such as changing a Delivery Group property) or system actions (such as machine assignments).
  • If a configuration change has occurred since the previous check, the CSS synchronizes (copies) information to a secondary broker (Citrix High Availability Service, HA broker in the figure above) on the Cloud Connector. All configuration data is copied, not just items that have changed since the previous check. The secondary broker imports the data into a Microsoft SQL Server Express LocalDB database on the Cloud Connector. The CSS ensures that the information in the secondary broker’s LocalDB database matches the information in the site database in Citrix Cloud. The LocalDB database is re-created each time synchronization occurs.

The LocalDB database is installed automatically when you install a Cloud Connector. That database cannot be shared across Cloud Connectors. You do not need to back up this database; it is recreated every time a configuration change is detected.

  • If no changes occurred since the last check, the configuration data is not copied.

During an outage:

Outage image

When an outage begins:

  • The secondary broker starts listening for and processing connection requests.
  • When the outage begins, the secondary broker does not have current VDA registration data, but as soon as a VDA communicates with it, a registration process is triggered. During that process, the secondary broker also gets current session information about that VDA.
  • While the secondary broker is handling connections, the Brokering Principal continues to monitor the connection to Citrix Cloud. When the connection is restored, the Brokering Principal instructs the secondary broker to stop listening for connection information, and the Brokering Principal resumes brokering operations. The next time a VDA communicates with the Brokering Principal, a registration process is triggered. The secondary broker removes any remaining VDA registrations from the previous outage. The CSS resumes synchronizing information when it learns that configuration changes have occurred in Citrix Cloud.

In the unlikely event that an outage begins during a synchronization, the current import is discarded and the last known configuration is used.

The event log indicates when synchronizations and outages occur.

There is no time limit imposed for operating in outage mode.

You can also intentionally trigger an outage. See Force an outage for details about why and how to do this.

Resource locations (satellite zones) with multiple Cloud Connectors

Among its other tasks, the CSS routinely provides the secondary broker with information about all Cloud Connectors in the resource location. Having that information, each secondary broker knows about all peer secondary brokers.

The secondary brokers communicate with each other on a separate channel. They use an alphabetical list of FQDN names of the machines they’re running on to determine (elect) which secondary broker will be in charge of brokering operations in the zone if an outage occurs. During the outage, all VDAs re-register with the elected secondary broker. The non-elected secondary brokers in the zone will actively reject incoming connection and VDA registration requests.

If an elected secondary broker fails during an outage, another secondary broker is elected to take over, and VDAs register with the newly elected secondary broker.

During an outage, if a Cloud Connector is restarted:

  • If that Cloud Connector is not the elected primary broker, the restart has no impact.
  • If that Cloud Connector is the elected primary broker, a different Cloud Connector is elected, causing VDAs to register. After the restarted Cloud Connector powers on, it automatically takes over brokering, which causes VDAs to register again. In this scenario, performance can be affected during the registrations.

The event log provides information about elections.

Design considerations and requirements

There is no time limit imposed for operating in outage mode. However, if the outage is due to local loss of Citrix Cloud connectivity from their resource location, customers should restore connectivity from their affected resource location as quickly as possible.

What is unavailable during an outage, and other differences

  • You cannot use Studio or run PowerShell cmdlets.
  • Monitoring data is not sent to Citrix Cloud during an outage. So, the Monitor functions (Director) do not show activity from an outage interval.
  • Hypervisor credentials cannot be obtained from the Host Service. All machines are in the unknown power state, and no power operations can be issued. However, VMs on the host that are powered-on can be used for connection requests.
  • An assigned machine can be used only if the assignment occurred during normal operations. New assignments cannot be made during an outage.
  • Automatic enrollment and configuration of Remote PC Access machines is not possible. However, machines that were enrolled and configured during normal operation are usable.
  • Server-hosted applications and desktop users may use more sessions than their configured session limits, if the resources are in different zones.
  • Users can launch applications and desktops only from registered VDAs in the zone containing the currently active/elected High Availability Service. Launches across zones (from a High Availability Service in one zone to a VDA in a different zone) are not supported during an outage.

Local Host Cache works only with customer-deployed StoreFront. It does not work with Workspace.

Local Host Cache is supported for server-hosted applications and desktops, and static (assigned) desktops.

By default, power-managed desktop VDAs in pooled Delivery Groups (created by MCS or Citrix Provisioning) that have the ShutdownDesktopsAfterUse property enabled are placed into maintenance mode when an outage occurs. You can change this default, to allow those desktops to be used during an outage. However, you cannot rely on the power management during the outage. (Power management resumes after normal operations resume.) Also, those desktops might contain data from the previous user, because they have not been restarted.

To override the default behavior, it must be enabled site-wide and for each affected Delivery Group. Place a support call to have it enabled site-wide (this command cannot be run using the Remote PowerShell SDK).

Set-BrokerSite -ReuseMachinesWithoutShutdownInOutageAllowed $true

For each affected Delivery Group, run the following PowerShell cmdlet.

Set-BrokerDesktopGroup -Name "name" -ReuseMachinesWithoutShutdownInOutage $true

Enabling this feature in the Site and the Delivery Groups does not affect how the configured ShutdownDesktopsAfterUse property works during normal operations.

RAM size considerations

The LocalDB service can use approximately 1.2 GB of RAM (up to 1 GB for the database cache, plus 200 MB for running SQL Server Express LocalDB). The High Availability Service can use up to 1 GB of RAM if an outage lasts for an extended interval with many logons occurring (for example, 12 hours with 10K users). These memory requirements are in addition to the normal RAM requirements for the Cloud Connector, so you might need to increase the total amount of RAM capacity.

CPU core and socket configuration considerations

A Cloud Connector’s CPU configuration, particularly the number of cores available to the SQL Server Express LocalDB, directly affects Local Host Cache performance, even more so than memory allocation. This CPU overhead is observed only during the outage period when the database is unreachable and the High Availability service is active.

While LocalDB can use multiple cores (up to 4), it’s limited to only a single socket. Adding more sockets does not improve the performance (for example, having 4 sockets with 1 core each). Instead, Citrix recommends using multiple sockets with multiple cores. In Citrix testing, a 2x3 (2 sockets, 3 cores) configuration provided better performance than 4x1 and 6x1 configurations.

Storage considerations

As users access resources during an outage, the LocalDB grows. For example, during a logon/logoff test running at 10 logons per second, the database grew by 1 MB every 2-3 minutes. When normal operation resumes, the local database is recreated when a configuration change is detected. The broker must have sufficient space on the drive where the LocalDB is installed to allow for the database growth during an outage. Local Host Cache also incurs additional I/O during an outage: approximately 3 MB of writes per second, with several hundred thousand reads.

Performance considerations

During an outage, one broker handles all the connections. In resource locations that load balance among multiple Cloud Connectors during normal operations, the elected broker might need to handle many more requests than normal during an outage. Therefore, CPU demands are higher. Every broker in the resource location must be able to handle the additional load imposed by LocalDB and all of the affected VDAs, because the broker elected during an outage can change.

VDI limits:

  • In a deployment with one resource location, up to 10,000 VDAs can be handled effectively during an outage.
  • In a VDI deployment with more than one resource location, up to 10,000 VDAs in each resource location can be handled effectively during an outage, to a maximum of 40,000 VDAs in the deployment. For example, each of the following deployments can be handled effectively during an outage:
    • A deployment with four secondary resource locations, each containing 10,000 VDAs.
    • A deployment with seven secondary zones, one containing 10,000 VDAs, and six containing 5,000 VDAs each.

During an outage, load management may be affected. Load evaluators (and especially, session count rules) can be exceeded.

During the time it takes all VDAs to register with a broker, that broker might not have complete information about current sessions. So, a user connection request during that interval might result in starting a new session, even though reconnection to an existing session was possible. This interval (while the new broker acquires session information from all VDAs during registration) is unavoidable. When an outage starts, connected sessions are not impacted during the transition interval, but new sessions and session reconnections can be.

This interval occurs whenever VDAs must register with a different broker:

  • An outage starts: When migrating from a Brokering Principal to a secondary broker.
  • Broker failure during an outage: When migrating from a secondary broker that failed to a newly elected secondary broker.
  • Recovery from an outage: When normal operations resume, and the Brokering Principal resumes control.

The time it takes to synchronize between brokers increases with the number of objects (such as VDAs, applications, groups). For example, synchronizing 5000 VDAs might take ten minutes or more to complete.

StoreFront requirement

Important:

Each satellite zone (resource location) must have an on-premises StoreFront installed and configured. Local Host Cache works only in resource locations containing an on-premises StoreFront.

Differences from XenApp 6.x releases

Although this Local Host Cache implementation shares the name of the Local Host Cache feature in XenApp 6.x and earlier XenApp releases, there are significant improvements. This implementation is more robust and immune to corruption. Maintenance requirements are minimized, such as eliminating the need for periodic dsmaint commands. This Local Host Cache is an entirely different implementation technically.

Manage Local Host Cache

In a Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops service deployment, Local Host Cache is always enabled. You don’t have to do anything else to configure or manage it.

As noted previously, the LocalDB database is installed automatically when you install a Cloud Connector in a resource location. Do not attempt to disable or remove it. (Citrix updates the Cloud Connector regularly. If you disable or remove the LocalDB software manually, the next Cloud Connector update replaces it.)

Verify that Local Host Cache is working

To verify that Local Host Cache is set up and working correctly:

  • Verify that the resource location contains a local StoreFront that points to the Cloud Connectors in that resource location.
  • Ensure that synchronization imports complete successfully. Check the event logs.
  • Ensure that the SQL Server LocalDB was created on each Cloud Connector. This confirms that the High Availability Service can take over, if needed.
    • On the Cloud Connector server, browse to c:\Windows\ServiceProfiles\NetworkService\
    • Verify that HaDatabaseName.mdf and HaDatabaseName_logldf are created
  • Force an outage on all Cloud Connectors in the resource location. After you’ve verified that Local Host Cache works, remember to place all of the Cloud Connectors back into normal mode. This can take approximately 15 minutes to avoid VDA registration storms.

See also Scalability considerations for using Local Host Cache with Cloud Connectors.

Event logs

Event logs indicate when synchronizations and outages occur.

Config Synchronizer Service:

During normal operations, the following events can occur when the CSS copies and exports the broker configuration and imports it to the LocalDB using the High Availability Service (secondary broker).

  • 503: The Citrix Config Sync Service received an updated configuration. This event occurs each time the High Availability Service receives an updated configuration from Citrix Cloud. It indicates the start of the synchronization process. A 504 or 505 event always follows this event.
  • 504: The Citrix Config Sync Service imported an updated configuration. The configuration import completed successfully.
  • 505: The Citrix Config Sync Service failed an import. The configuration import did not complete successfully. If a previous successful configuration is available, it will be used if an outage occurs. However, it will be out-of-date from the current configuration. If there is no previous configuration available, the service cannot participate in session brokering during an outage. In this case, see the Troubleshoot section, and contact Citrix Support.
  • 507: The Citrix Config Sync Service abandoned an import because the system is in outage mode and the Local Host Cache is being used for brokering. The service received a new configuration, but the import was abandoned because an outage occurred. This is expected behavior.

High Availability Service:

  • 3502: An outage occurred and the secondary broker (High Availability Service) is performing broker operations.
  • 3503: An outage was resolved and normal operations have resumed.
  • 3504: Indicates which secondary broker is elected, plus other brokers involved in the election.

Force an outage

You might want to deliberately force an outage.

  • If your network is going up and down repeatedly. Forcing an outage until the network issues are resolved prevents continuous transition between normal and outage modes (and the resulting frequent VDA registrations).
  • To test a disaster recovery plan.
  • To help ensure that Local Host Cache is working correctly.

To force an outage, edit the registry of each Cloud Connector server. In HKLM\Software\Citrix\DesktopServer\LHC, set OutageModeForced to 1. This instructs the broker to enter outage mode, regardless of the state of the connection to Citrix Cloud. Setting the value to 0 takes the broker out of outage mode.

Troubleshoot

Several troubleshooting tools are available when a synchronization import to the LocalDB fails and a 505 event is posted.

CDF tracing: Contains options for the ConfigSyncServer and BrokerLHC modules. Those options, along with other broker modules, can identify the problem.

Report: If a synchronization import fails, you can generate a report. This report stops at the object causing the error. This report feature affects synchronization speed, so Citrix recommends disabling it when not in use.

To enable and produce a CSS trace report, enter the command:

New-ItemProperty -Path HKLM:\SOFTWARE\Citrix\DesktopServer\LHC -Name EnableCssTraceMode -PropertyType DWORD -Value 1

The HTML report is posted at: C:\Windows\ServiceProfiles\NetworkService\ AppData\Local\Temp\CitrixBrokerConfigSyncReport.html

After the report is generated, enter the following command to disable the reporting feature:

Set-ItemProperty -Path HKLM:\SOFTWARE\Citrix\DesktopServer\LHC -Name EnableCssTraceMode -Value 0