Changing the Primary Zone in a Citrix Outage Scenario

With the more recent releases of XenApp/XenDesktop, Citrix reintroduced the concept of Zones.  Unlike Zones in XenApp 6.5, the 7.x version is more of a parent/child relationship.  You have a Primary zone which handles all of the communication to the database(s), and then secondary Zones which communicate to the Primary.  Zones are less flexible in this configuration but still very useful for scenarios like DR.  Think of it like this… you have your Primary DC which is where all your production infra lives.  You build your Citrix infra there.  You have a warm DR site as well.  In the past, you would have had to build an entirely new Site there with all the overhead required for it.  Now, using Zones, you simply build a couple Delivery Controllers and connect them to the hosting infra local to DR.  Use NetScaler as your GSLB to detect when the Primary zone is down and redirect your users to DR and voila, they can still connect!

But there’s a problem with that scenario.  When the Primary zone is down, you lose the ability to manage the Site through the Delivery Controller GUI.  Remember, database connectivity all runs through the Primary Zone.  Now one school of thought says “Well, your Primary Zone is down so you’ve likely lost your database anyway and the important point is your users can connect!”  In my experience that’s seldom true.  Most customers are doing some form of HA for SQL, whether it’s mirroring or AlwaysOn or even just restoring it in an outage.  So your SQL remains up but your Primary Zone Delivery Controllers are down… you still can’t manage the Site.  Thankfully there is a way to fix it!  And that answer is PoSh:

Set-ConfigSite -PrimaryZone <Zone>

That command, run from your Secondary Zone DDC, will switch the defined Primary Zone over and allow database communication to resume.  Huzzah!  It’s important to keep this one in your back pocket if you intend to use Zones AND you have HA SQL involved.  Otherwise you may have to scramble to restore your Primary Zone faster than intended.

Many thanks to the Citrix folks who pointed this out to me 🙂

XenDesktop Farm Migration Utility Update – Version 1.1

When I first coded the XenDesktop farm migration tool, I only included support for XenDesktop 7.x, believing that most people would have upgraded to it by this stage. I guess I was wrong. Having received a good number of requests from people to add support for XenDesktop 5.6, I dutifully complied. The tool now has a checkbox option beside both the source and target DDC text boxes that allow you to indicate that the farm is XenDesktop 5.6. When this is selected, the tool will then use the correct version of the XenDesktop PowerShell SDK for commands to that farm.  Continue reading »

Citrix License Server 7.11 Phones Home Until you Stop It

Late last night Citrix dropped the bits for XenDesktop 7.11.  There are a ton of great features in this release and I will discuss them over the next few weeks but there’s a gotcha you need to be aware of buried in the new 7.11 license server.  Let’s talk about the Citrix License Manager Service.  First, check out this article:

Here’s what Citrix says about this service:

Citrix License Management Service

The License Management Service enables better capacity planning and license management. This service also helps you avoid prohibited practices:

  • Duplication of licenses outside a Disaster Recovery (DR) environment
  • Use of legacy licenses for new product versions
  • Use of rescinded licenses

This service further alerts the administrator in Citrix Insight Services about duplicate licenses in a Disaster Recovery (DR) environment. For more information about Citrix Insight Services, see Citrix Insight Services.

The License Management Service uses product telemetry, built into the License Server, to send data to Citrix Insight Services. The first upload occurs one week after the License Server first starts and subsequent uploads occur every week thereafter. The schedule resets if you reinstall the License Server. If an upload fails, another attempt is made in 24 hours. This continues indefinitely until either the upload succeeds or you disable the License Management Service. Citrix may use uploads to help you understand and support your license environment. See Use the command line to disable or enable the License Management Service.”

So here’s the gotcha… many Citrix administrators with a large environment have a DR.  Citrix has never provided a decent DR for the license server, choosing instead to give you a grace period to reestablish one in the case of failure.  So what many of us tend to do is run a second license server at the DR site with the same license files.  Please note, this IS an allowed strategy as long as you aren’t using the same licenses for different users.  With this new service (on by default) you now phone home your license server data to Citrix Insight Service and it WILL start to warn you that you are running the same licenses on multiple license servers.  Does a warning matter?  Not yet.  And in many cases the license servers can’t reach the Internet anyway.  But I’m a paranoid old admin, and I see where that road could lead.  So with that said, Citrix does provide you a way to disable this service:

From a command line –


ctx_license_management_service.exe (-enable|-disable|-query)


-enable enables license management. The first upload to Citrix occurs seven days after you install the License Server.

-disable disables license management. We recommend you use the License Management Service to manage your licensing environment.

-query  Displays the current configuration.

I haven’t had a way to try this, but I suspect license server upgrades may re-enable this service.  So make sure when you go to say 7.12 you check for this.  And if you don’t care about this at all, then feel free to ignore this paranoid post 🙂

Citrix Acquires Norskale – Ups Their UEM Profile

This morning Citrix publicly announced the acquisition of Norskale.  If you have ever been to a Synergy you probably remember Norskale for the cute little foam ghosts they give out on the floor (my dogs love them!).  Helmed by fellow (now former!) CTP Pierre Marmignon Norskale has been enhacing the VDI space for years with top notch EUM solutions.  They also provide a very easy thin client transformation technology that gives Citrix an interesting play in the Physical Desktop space.  Once the transition is complete Norskale technologies will be available to all Enterprise and Platinum customers with a current Software Maintenance (NOT Subscription Advantage… it’s a combination of SA and Support basically).

This is big news for Citrix.  One of the perceived stack weaknesses against VMware was their EUM component.  Citrix Profile Management was an ok stop gap for many customers but Norskale brings a whole new level to their EUM space and one that customers should happily embrace.  What makes this an interesting play is going to be the reaction of their partners… RES, AppSense, Liquidware, etc; There is still absolutely room for all of those products in the ecosystem.  They bring a more complete, wholistic solution.  But for many mid-small size implementations this announcement will take some of those partners off the table.

Congrats to Pierre and the Norskale team!

Live recording of our #SYN326 Session

Citrix has released recordings of the Synergy sessions and our SYN326 is among them.  Truthfully I had no idea we were being recorded.  Whoops! 🙂  Anyway, enjoy!


XenDesktop Farm Migration Utility


The XenDesktop Farm Migration Utility allows you to seamlessly migration VM’s between different XenDesktop farms. This can be done on a per VM basis or in batches of up to 500. As well as providing migration functionality, it can also be used for Disaster Recovery, allowing you to back up and restore your VM’s on your farm.

Continue reading »

SYN326 – Seamlessly Migrating 20000 VDI Between XenDesktop Farms

Today Shane and I presented SYN326 – Seamlessly Migrating 20000 VDI Between XenDesktop Farms.  This was a lot of fun for us and if you missed seeing it here’s the latest iteration of the PowerPoint we used.  Yes, sorry Citrix, we made changes after the “Final Version” :).  Let us know if you have any questions and check out the awesome free tool we provided.

Our Amazing Presentation!

Boom… Citrix Mic Drops on VMware with Strategic Microsoft Alliance

Today at Citrix Synergy, Citrix announced what might be a game changer for VDI.  For the first time ever Microsoft is going to allow you to run Windows 10 VDI in a shared Cloud and Citrix is going to be the sole provider for it.  That’s right, the SPLA war is over (or will be soon)!  But of course there’s caveats :).  First, this is ONLY applicable to Azure.  So those of you who want to use VMware, Amazon, Google, etc; are out of luck.  Learn to love Azure.  Second, organizations need to bring their own licensing.  You must have Per User licensing with current SA and you must use Current Branch for Business.  But make no mistake, this is a HUGE step forward for VDI in the Cloud.  And this is far from the only area that Citrix and Microsoft are working closely on.  Think about the huge push Citrix is making to the Cloud, look at who the new Citrix CEO is and where he worked at, and think about the many overlapping areas Citrix and Microsoft have.  I think you will start to see a long term picture emerge.

I will leave you with this CTP photo from yesterday.  Some of you might recognize that bald guy towards the right (Brad Anderson, Vice President at Microsoft)


I’d like a slice of Citrix-Pi!

At Synergy 2016 Citrix announced a brand new thin client ecosystem, the HDX Readr Raspberry Pi!  OEM’d by Micro Center and Viewsonic, these ultra-cheap thin clients come ready out of the box with everything you need to get them up and running on your Citrix ecosystem.  Based on the Pi3 boards, these plucky little thin clients seriously kick some butt.  And they are so cheap that they become essentially disposable assets.  If it breaks, toss it!  This is a direction-setting decision by Citrix and for many organizations it will allow cheap WAH scenarios where support becomes far too expensive to make it cost effective.  So check out the new Pis and everything they can do!



Synergy 2016 Announcements Coming Tomorrow!

Lots of good stuff coming tomorrow so stay tuned… I will express some thoughts on several of the announcements soon 🙂  I think anyone who watches will agree this is definitely a different feel.