StoreFront high availability and multi-site configuration

StoreFront includes a number of features that combine to enable load balancing and failover between the deployments providing resources for stores. You can also specify dedicated disaster recovery deployments for increased resiliency. These features enable you to configure StoreFront deployments distributed over multiple sites to provide high availability for your stores. For more information, see Set up highly available multi-site store configurations.

Resource aggregation

By default, StoreFront enumerates all the deployments providing desktops and applications for a store and treats all those resources as distinct. This means that if the same resource is available from several deployments, users see an icon for each resource, which might be confusing if the resources have the same name. When you set up highly available multi-site configurations, you can group XenDesktop and XenApp deployments that deliver the same desktop or application so that identical resources can be aggregated for users. Grouped deployments do not need to be identical, but resources must have the same name and path on each server to be aggregated.

When a desktop or application is available from multiple XenDesktop and XenApp deployments configured for a particular store, StoreFront aggregates all instances of that resource and presents users with a single icon. App Controller applications cannot be aggregated. When a user starts an aggregated resource, StoreFront determines the most appropriate instance of that resource for the user on the basis of server availability, whether the user already has an active session, and the ordering you specified in your configuration.

StoreFront dynamically monitors servers that fail to respond to requests on the basis that such servers are either overloaded or temporarily unavailable. Users are directed to resource instances on other servers until communications are re-established. Where supported by the servers providing the resources, StoreFront attempts to reuse existing sessions to deliver additional resources. If a user already has an active session on a deployment that also provides the requested resource, StoreFront reuses the session if it is compatible with that resource. Minimizing the number of sessions for each user reduces the time taken to start additional desktops or applications and can allow for more efficient use of product licenses.

After checking for availability and existing user sessions, StoreFront uses the ordering specified in your configuration to determine the deployment to which the user is connected. If multiple equivalent deployments are available to the user, you can specify that users are connected either to the first available deployment or randomly to any deployment in the list. Connecting users to the first available deployment enables you to minimize the number of deployments in use for the current number of users. Randomly connecting users provides a more even distribution of users across all the available deployments.

You can override the specified deployment ordering for individual XenDesktop and XenApp resources to define preferred deployments to which users are connected when they access a particular desktop or application. This enables you to, for example, specify that users are preferentially connected to a deployment specifically adapted to deliver a particular desktop or application, but use other deployments for other resources. To do this, append the string KEYWORDS:Primary to the description of the desktop or application on the preferred deployment and KEYWORDS:Secondary to the resource on other deployments. Where possible, users are connected to the deployment providing the primary resource, regardless of the deployment ordering specified in your configuration. Users are connected to deployments providing secondary resources when the preferred deployment is unavailable.

Map users to resources

By default, users accessing a store see an aggregate of all the resources available from all the deployments configured for that store. To provide different resources for different users, you can configure separate stores or even separate StoreFront deployments. However, when you set up highly available multi-site configurations, you can provide access to particular deployments on the basis of users’ membership of Microsoft Active Directory groups. This enables you to configure different experiences for different user groups through a single store.

For example, you can group common resources for all users on one deployment and finance applications for the Accounts department on another deployment. In such a configuration, a user who is not a member of the Accounts user group sees only the common resources when accessing the store. A member of the Accounts user group is presented with both the common resources and the finance applications.

Alternatively, you can create a deployment for power users that provides the same resources as your other deployments, but with faster and more powerful hardware. This enables you to provide an enhanced experience for business-critical users, such as your executive team. All users see the same desktops and applications when they log on to the store, but members of the Executives user group are preferentially connected to resources provided by the power user deployment.

Subscription synchronization

If you enable your users to access the same applications from similar stores in different StoreFront deployments, users’ application subscriptions must be synchronized between the server groups. Otherwise, users who subscribe to an application in a store on one StoreFront deployment might need to resubscribe to the application when they log on to a different server group. To provide a seamless experience for users moving between separate StoreFront deployments, you can configure periodic synchronization of users’ application subscriptions between stores in different server groups. Choose between regular synchronization at a specific interval or schedule synchronization to occur at particular times throughout the day. For more information, see Configure subscription synchronization.

Dedicated disaster recovery resources

You can configure specific disaster recovery deployments that are not used unless all other deployments are unavailable. Typically, disaster recovery deployments are not collocated with the main deployments, provide only a subset of the resources that are normally available, and might offer a degraded user experience. When you specify that a deployment is to be used for disaster recovery, the deployment will not be used for load balancing or failover. Users cannot access desktops and applications provided by disaster recovery deployments unless all the other deployments for which the disaster recovery deployments are configured become unavailable.

When access to any other deployment is re-established, users cannot start more disaster recovery resources, even if they are already using such a resource. Users running disaster recovery resources are not disconnected from those resources when access to other deployments is restored. However, they cannot start disaster recovery resources again once they have exited these resources. Similarly, StoreFront does not attempt to reuse existing sessions with disaster recovery deployments if any other deployments have subsequently become available.

Optimal NetScaler Gateway routing

If you have configured separate NetScaler Gateway appliances for your deployments, StoreFront enables you to define the optimal appliance for users to access each of the deployments providing resources for a store. For example, if you create a store that aggregates resources from two geographical locations, each with a NetScaler Gateway appliance, users connecting through an appliance in one location can start a desktop or application in the other location. However, by default, the connection to the resource is then routed through the appliance to which the user originally connected and must therefore traverse the corporate WAN.

To improve the user experience and reduce network traffic over the WAN, you can specify the optimal NetScaler Gateway appliance for each of your deployments. With this configuration, user connections to resources are automatically routed through the appliance local to the deployment providing the resources, regardless of the location of the appliance through which the user accesses the store.

Optimal NetScaler Gateway routing can also be used in the special case where local users on the internal network are required to log on to NetScaler Gateway for endpoint analysis. With this configuration, users connect to the store through the NetScaler Gateway appliance, but there is no need to route the connection to the resource through the appliance as the user is on the internal network. In this case, you enable optimal routing, but do not specify an appliance for the deployment, so user connections to desktops and applications are routed directly and not through NetScaler Gateway. Note that you must also configure a specific internal virtual server IP address for the NetScaler Gateway appliance. Additionally, specify an inaccessible internal beacon point so that Citrix Receiver is always prompted to connect to NetScaler Gateway, regardless of the user’s network location.

NetScaler Gateway global server load balancing

StoreFront supports NetScaler Gateway deployments configured for global server load balancing with multiple appliances configured with a single fully qualified domain name (FQDN). For user authentication and to route user connections through the appropriate appliance, StoreFront must be able to distinguish between the appliances. Because the appliance FQDN cannot be used as a unique identifier in a global server load balancing configuration, you must configure StoreFront with unique IP addresses for each of the appliances. Typically, this is the IP address of the NetScaler Gateway virtual server.

For information about load balancing, see Load balancing with NetScaler.

Important considerations

When you decide whether to set up highly available multi-site configurations for your stores, consider the following requirements and restrictions.

  • Desktops and applications must have the same name and path on each server to be aggregated. In addition, the properties of aggregated resources, such as names and icons, must be the same. If this is not the case, users could see the properties of their resources change when Citrix Receiver enumerates the available resources.
  • Assigned desktops, both pre-assigned and assigned-on-first-use, should not be aggregated. Ensure that Delivery Groups providing such desktops do not have the same name and path in sites that you configure for aggregation.
  • App Controller applications cannot be aggregated.
  • If you configure synchronization of users’ application subscriptions between stores on separate StoreFront deployments, the stores must have the same name in each server group. In addition, both server groups must reside within the Active Directory domain containing your users’ accounts or within a domain that has a trust relationship with the user accounts domain.
  • StoreFront only provides access to backup deployments for disaster recovery when all the primary sites in the equivalent deployment set are unavailable. If a backup deployment is shared between multiple equivalent deployment sets, all the primary sites in each of the sets must be unavailable before users can access the disaster recovery resources.
StoreFront high availability and multi-site configuration