Ghost Hunting in XenApp 7.x

The easily scared amongst you needn’t worry as what I am referring to here are disconnected XenApp sessions where the session that Citrix believes is still alive on a specific server have actually already ended, as in been logged off. “Does this cause problems though or is it just cosmetic?” I can hear you ask. Well, if a user tries to launch another application which is available on the same worker then it will cause a problem because XenApp will try and use session sharing, unless disabled, but there is no longer a session to share so the application launch fails. These show as “machine failures” in Director. Trying to log off the actually non-existent session, such as via Director, won’t fix it because there is no session to log off. Restarting the VDA on the effected machine also doesn’t cause the ghost session to be removed.

So how does one reduce the impact of these “ghost” sessions? In researching this, I came across this article from @jgspiers detailing the “hidden” flag which can be set for a session, albeit not via Studio or Director, such that session sharing is disabled for that one session.

I therefore set about writing a script that would query Citrix for disconnected sessions, via Get-BrokerSession, cross reference each of these to the XenApp server they were flagged as running on via running quser.exe and report those which didn’t actually have a session on that server. In addition, the script also tries to get the actual logoff time from the User Profile Service event log on that server and also checks to see if they have any other XenApp sessions, since that is a partial indication that they are not being hampered by the ghost session.

If the -hide flag is passed to the script then the “hidden” flag will be set for ghost sessions found.

The script can email a list of the ghost sessions if desired, by specifying the -recipients and -mailserver options (and -proxymailserver if the SMTP mail server does not allow relaying from where you run the script) and if a history file is specified, via the -historyFile option, then it will only email when there is a new ghost session discovered.

ghosted sessions example

I have noticed that the “UserName” field return by Get-BrokerSession is quite often blank for these ghost sessions and the user name is actually in the “UntrustedUserName” field about which the documentation states “This may be useful where the user is logged in to a non-domain account, however the name cannot be verified and must therefore be considered untrusted” but it doesn’t explain why the UserName field is blank since all logons are domain ones via StoreFront non-anonymous applications.

If running the script via a scheduled task, which I do at a frequency of every thirty minutes, with -hide, also specify the -forceIt flag otherwise the script will hang as it will prompt to confirm that you want to set any new ghost sessions to hidden.

The script is available on GitHub here and you use it at your own risk although I’ve been running it for one of my larger customers for months without issue; in fact we no longer have reports of users failing to launch applications which we previously had tracked down to the farm being haunted with these ghosts although it rarely affects more than 1% of disconnected sessions. This is on XenApp 7.13.

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Author: guyrleech

I wrote my first (Basic) program in 1980, was a Unix developer after graduation from Manchester University and then became a consultant, initially with Citrix WinFrame, in 1995 and later into Terminal Server/Services and more recently virtualisation, being awarded the VMware vExpert status in 2009 and 2010 and Citrix Technology Advocate (CTA) in 2019. I have also had various stints in Technical Pre-Sales, Support and R&D. I work as an independent consultant, scripter and trainer, live in West Yorkshire, England; have a wife, three children and three dogs and am a keen competitive runner when not injured.

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