File Storage

Overview

Most Citrix virtualization systems on GCP require at least basic access to a Windows compatible file share to persist user settings, user data, and application data. Windows file shares are also used to store Citrix user personalization layers. When these shares are not available, the user experience and application functionality suffer. It is important to ensure that whatever solution you choose to provide, Windows compatible file shares are highly available and data is regularly backed up.

For multi-site deployments, reliable and performant data replication may also be necessary to meet availability, RPO, and RTO needs. This is especially true for environments where users can connect to desktops/apps in 2 or more regions, and application data/user settings must be available in the region where the apps/desktops run. The following section describes some solutions to consider for providing file storage and data replication services on GCP.

While non-Windows solutions for providing Windows file shares exist, most of these solutions cannot deliver the indexing capabilities required for search functionality inside a Windows desktop or applications such as Microsoft Outlook running on Windows. As such, most customers turn to Windows-based file server solutions, at least for storing user profiles and persistent application data. Fortunately, both customer managed and cloud service options are available for use when Citrix virtualization systems are run on GCP.

Customer Managed: Windows File Servers on Google Compute Engine

The first solution many customers consider for providing Windows compatible file services on GCP is building their own Windows file servers on Compute Engine to serve each resource location on GCP. Since Windows file servers are needed by various different types of applications and workloads, many IT shops can gravitate towards building and managing their own since this is something they know how to do. At the most basic level, the customer creates one or more Windows instances, attaches more persistent disks, joins the instances to their Active Directory, and finishes configuring Windows File Services.

This option, as you might imagine, provides customers with the most control and flexibility. While this is very appealing to certain types of customers and certain verticals, it also comes at a cost: the responsibility to size, scale, build, manage, patch, secure, and maintain everything from the Windows OS up. Customers electing to go this route ought to also ensure these file servers are highly available. This is often accomplished using file servers in multiple zones, and using Windows DFS-N/DFS-R, Windows failover clusters, or storage spaces direct. It’s easy to end up in an unsupported configuration (per Microsoft) if you’re not careful.

Note:

Customers considering this option ought to review Microsoft’s support statement regarding using DFS-R and DFS-N for roaming profile shares and folder redirection shares.

Third Party

An alternative solution is using third party solutions such as NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP or the Cloud Volumes Services for GCP. Both solutions allow you to create compatible SMB shares that can be used for your storage needs. There are benefits to using third party storage solutions as opposed to managing your own Windows File Servers, such as less administrative overhead when managing storage. See File servers on Compute Engine for more information.

File Storage

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