ShareFile doesn't (fully) work on XenApp? Now Citrix is making apps that "don't work on Citrix?"

Citrix Sharefile doesn't work on Citrix XenApp, at least not in the way most of us would like to see.

 

A few weeks ago I was in Phoenix having lunch with (non-tweeting) Hal Lange and Joe Shonk of Thin Client Computing, and over a meat loaf sandwich (which I assume is native Phoenix food), I listened to their stories from the trenches. One such story was about the fact that Citrix Sharefile doesn't work on Citrix XenApp, at least not in the way most of us would like to see. I asked Hal to contribute some information, and what follows is an amalgam of my thoughts, Hal's procedures, and Citrix's own documentation for getting it to work in a limited capacity.

Out of the box, ShareFile doesn't work at all with XenApp. While I can't find a reason for this, I assume it has to do with local sync and multiple simultaneous users, or perhaps the server OS itself. Whatever the case, local synchronization, among other things, is not possible. With some effort, though, ShareFile can be made to in an On-Demand Sync manner where files are shown in a folder then synchronized down to a client as needed. 

According to CTX136078, you'll need to download an ADM template be able to switch on On-Demand sync. Once you've imported the ADM template, you'll see that the group policy is where you configure the ShareFile account name, whether or not you log in with ShareFile credentials or AD SSO, and whether or not users are allowed to synchronize information at all. You'll also need to specify a local path for the files to live. This file can be a variable, like %username%\ShareFile, but it cannot be a UNC path or reside on a network drive. That means that even if it had full sync capabilities, it wouldn't make much difference because the files can only be stored locally, and who stores data locally on their XenApp servers?

It's worth noting that these can also be set via editing the registry, too, but the bottom line is that they have to be done before you install ShareFile. Also of note is that the ADM template is only for Server 2008 R2, although I suspect you can create your own or edit the registry manually for other versions of Windows. If you're curious, the registry keys used are (from the Citrix post):

 

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Citrix\ShareFile\EnterpriseSync

Required Values

  •  
    1. Use 0 for Single sign-on, this will use the current Windows’ user authentication.
    2. Use 1 to prompt for user credentials.
  • Account (REG_SZ): The ShareFile account name.
  • AuthenticationType (REG_DWORD):
  • On-demandPersonalFolder (REG_DWORD): Set this value to non-zero to setup user's Personal folder as On-demand sync.

-OR-

  • On-demandFolderIds (REG_MULTI_SZ): List of ShareFile Folder Ids that will be synchronized on demand. Administrators are expected to use the Main App to get the folder IDs of the shared folders.

Optional Values

  • LocalSyncFolder (REG_SZ or REG_EXPAND_SZ): Path to the fixed local drive. Removable media and network shares are not allowed. Environment variables are supported but must set the value type to REG_EXPAND_SZ.
  • SharedFolderIds (REG_MULTI_SZ): List of ShareFile Folder Ids. Administrators are expected to use the sharefile.com website to get the folder IDs of the shared folders.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Policies\Citrix\ShareFile\EnterpriseSync

Required Value

  • On-demandSyncDiskVolume (REG _SZ): This must match the LocalSyncFolder’s root drive letter in order to enable On-demandSyncDiskVolume (that is - "C:\")

 

After installing the software, you'll have to rebuild the user profiles on the machine. That's probably not that big of a deal in a XenApp environment if they're destroyed at logoff, but I mention it here so you don't expect it "just work." Frankly, we wouldn't need an article about this if it "just worked." :)

According to Hal, the last caveat is to make sure that ShareFile has the right permissions after installing the software. To do this, he offers up these steps:

  1. From an elevated command prompt, run:  “Sc qsidtype ctxSharefile”
  2. If that command doesn't output "SERVICE_SID_TYPE:  UNRESTRICTED" Run "Sc sidtype ctxSharefile unrestricted" to change the service SID type.
  3. When that's done, restart the ShareFile Sync Service

What I find hard to believe is that as robust a solution as ShareFile is, Citrix hasn't found a way to get it working in what remains their most popular desktop virtualization platform. Remember, this is only for on-demand sync! Perhaps this could all change in the coming weeks as Citrix gears up for Synergy. It could also be that Citrix is simply nudging people towards using ShareFile Storage Zones Connector for enterprise-wide mobile data and cloud sync.

I will admit that I don't know if other data mobility solutions out there suffer from the same problem of not being able to support file sync to a network drive from XenApp sessions, mainly because I never considered that it would be an issue. If you know of other solutions that are either fully-functional or don't work at all, let us know. Also, if you're a ShareFile shop, is this a big deal? Do you simply use the Storage Zones Connector instead?

Thanks again to Hal for pointing out the problem and passing along a solution. (If you can call it a solution, that is :)

 

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When I first set up my environment, I found out the same thing. In the end, I ended up with just the Outlook plugin and pushing a shortcut to the Sharefile homepage (via SSO).


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Hey Gabe, your article got emailed to me and when I saw the title I was excited because I would have an opportunity to talk to you about the "on-demand" sync mode for ShareFile sync.  Then I read the article and you already explained it.  So the title confused me.


May I suggest a change in the title of your article "ShareFile works with XenApp, and this article explains how.  But it definitely isn't as straightforward as I would like."


:-)


With this as the title, we happen to agree with the sentiment, and definitely want to improve upon the current situation.  You've alluded to ShareFile StorageZone Connectors in your article, and this is one aspect of improving the status quo.  If you are coming to Citrix Synergy in a few weeks, come find me or one of our team members and we can talk through this.


Bill Carovano


ShareFile Product Management


P.S. Here's some feedback on your product as well...the "recover password" feature on BrianMadden.com doesn't work for me.  I never received an email with instructions for the reset.  I had to create a new account to post this.


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@Bill_Carovano: With all due respect, when a product  takes that much customization to get only the basic features to work with a same-family product, I wouldn't call it "working". Mind you Citrix isn't the only one with products that do not inter-operate well with same-family products and in the end this is what makes customers look for solutions elsewhere...


P.S. The password recovery worked just fine for me...


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I can meet you half way - "ShareFile partially works with Citrix XenApp, but you still don't have full file sync"


Of course, my current title doesn't have any marketing spin in it, and it pokes fun at the fact that Citrix makes a product that doesn't fully function on XenApp, which is something we've been struggling with for 15 years and never expected from Citrix themselves.


I'll stop by for sure, but I'm not sure what there is to talk through. There are features of ShareFile that make it usable in XenApp, but straightforwardness is not the issue. It's the lack of a key feature. Perhaps Citrix doesn't see that as a critical feature, and maybe organizations don't either. That's why I wrote this, to educate and to see if it's actually a needed feature.


Regarding the password, I'll look into it, but I suggest you look into Citrix SSO to store passwords so you don't forget them in the future :)


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FYI, Meatloaf is a Joe and Hal thing, not a Phoenix thing :)


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@Gabe, regarding your comment "ShareFile partially works with Citrix XenApp, but you still don't have full file sync"


Why would you *want* full file sync on a XenApp server?  Would you want everyone's files filling up the hard disk of the XenApp server (or virtual disk of the XenApp VM, if you are virtualized)?  


This is the point of the on-demand mode for ShareFile sync.


-Bill


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That's what I'm trying to find out, and I'm only writing about a problem that other people have shared with me. Also, I specifically said that I wouldn't put data on the XenApp server...it would have to be on a file share (something that's not supported even in the current situation).


It appears that the best way to use ShareFile with XenApp is to have the ShareFile SZ Connector so that users can access data the same way the always have while being able to use ShareFile components outside the XenApp world.


If that is Citrix's stance on the matter, then I'm fine with that, but whether or not the community knows that or wants that (or more) is still a worthwhile conversation to have.


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SZ Connectors can be a good way.  It does depend a bit on the situation you're in with your XenApp infrastructure.


Lots of XenApp servers are already deployed with XenApp home directories on (CIFS) file shares.  If that is the case, and you want users to have access to those same files on an iPad (for example) then ShareFile SZ Connectors is a good way to do that.


On the other hand if you are starting from scratch and you can instead put your XenApp user home directories in ShareFile, this is the point of the on-demand mode of the ShareFile sync tool--because you would never want "full sync" on a XenApp server.  This will also provide the opportunity to "fully sync" those same files to regular Windows or Mac machine (a feature not currently available with the SZ Connectors approach).


-Bill


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Good call...just put let the file server do ShareFile and put the user dirs in there. Seems plausible if you want that kind of functionality. (That's why we have these conversations in comments!)


What's the technical reason as to why ShareFile doesn't work on network drives or XenApp?


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Correct me if I am wrong, but I think you might be asking a more specific question: "What's the technical reason as to why the ShareFile Desktop Sync tool doesn't work on network drives or XenApp."


If that's the question, the answer is:


- Network Drives.  We simply haven't engineered this into the product yet.  Right now StorageZone Connectors enables mobile access to existing file stores.  We do want to enable sync to work with StorageZone Connectors one day, so that we could tell customers "we can 'Sharefile-enable' files on existing network shares, SharePoint, etc so you don't need to move any data."


- XenApp.  ShareFile Desktop Sync does work on XenApp, and this is why we engineered the "on-demand" mode specifically for the unique requirements of the XenApp/RDS environment.


-Bill


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Hey Gabe - I just posted a more detailed blog on this topic here:


blogs.citrix.com/.../how-we-confused-gabe-knuth-about-sharefile-and-xenapp


I hope to see you at Synergy in a few weeks.


-Bill


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I know it's a while since this article was posted, but this situation hasn't changed and it's frustrating.


Keeping user data on a CIFS folder is a long-standing part of our design approach and I don't believe we're alone.


Integrating file sync services like Sharefile into the hosted desktop should be a simple improvement over the top of that approach, especially from Citrix.


Having to create a completely new user data storage paradigm which allows for an unknown quantity of user data to be stored/staged temporarily on more than one XenApp server, developing a process for clearing that data at logoff, all because it sits outside of the users normal working practice is ridiculous.


The Sync tool should support network drives. This isn't Dropbox, it's an Enterprise tool. Who buys a product that doesn't support network drives (that's rhetorical, apparently I do).


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