Just a Theory

By David E. Wheeler

Posts about Database Replication

Bootstrapping Bucardo Master/Master Replication

Let’s say you have a production database up and running and you want to set up a second database with Bucardo-powered replication between them. Getting a new master up and running without downtime for an existing master, and without losing any data, is a bit fiddly and under-documented. Having just figured out one way to do it with the forthcoming Bucardo 5 code base, I wanted to blog it as much for my own reference as for yours.

First, let’s set up some environment variables to simplify things a bit. I’m assuming that the database names and usernames are the same, and only the host names are different:

export PGDATABASE=widgets
export PGHOST=here.example.com
export PGHOST2=there.example.com
export PGSUPERUSER=postgres

And here are some environment variables we’ll use for Bucardo configuration stuff:

export BUCARDOUSER=bucardo
export BUCARDOPASS=*****
export HERE=here
export THERE=there

First, let’s create the new database as a schema-only copy of the existing database:

pg_dump -U $PGSUPERUSER -h $PGHOST --schema-only $PGDATABASE \

You might also have to copy over roles; use pg_dumpall --globals-only to do that.

Next, we configure Bucardo. Start by telling it about the databases:


Tell it about all the tables we want to replicate:

bucardo add table public.foo public.bar relgroup=myrels db=$HERE$PGDATABASE 

Create a multi-master database group for the two databases:

bucardo add dbgroup mydbs $HERE$PGDATABASE:source $THERE$PGDATABASE:source

And create the sync:

bucardo add sync mysync relgroup=myrels dbs=mydbs autokick=0

Note autokick=0. This ensures that, while deltas are logged, they will not be copied anywhere until we tell Bucardo to do so.

And now that we know that any changes from here on in will be queued for replication, we can go ahead and copy over the data. The only caveat is that we need to disable the Bucardo triggers on the target system, so that our copying does not try to queue up. We do that by setting the session_replication_role GUC to “replica” while doing the copy:

pg_dump -U $PGSUPERUSER -h $PGHOST --data-only -N bucardo $PGDATABASE \
  | PGOPTIONS='-c session_replication_role=replica' \

Great, now all the data is copied over, we can have Bucardo copy any changes that have been made in the interim, as well as any going forward:

bucardo update sync mysync autokick=1
bucardo reload config

Bucardo will fire up the necessary syncs and copy over any interim deltas. And any changes you make to either system in the future will be copied to the other.

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PostgreSQL Warm Standby Using Ruby

The new PostgreSQL Warm Standby support is pretty nice. Since my app doesn’t currently require read access to a slave database, I’ve dumped Slony-I (and all of the headache that went with it), and now have a warm failover server being updated a least once per minute. W00t!

I used Charles Duffy’s example, as well as the documentation, to build my warm standby configuration, but unfortunately, our server OS does not have the usleep utility, so rather than have 1 second sleeps, I ported Charles’s shell script to Ruby. Here it is for your enjoyment:

#!/usr/bin/env ruby

DELAY         = 0.01
FAILOVER_FILE = "/path/to/failover"

@@triggered = false

require 'ftools'

def move (from, to)
  # Do not overwrite! Throws an exception on failure, existing the script.
  File.copy( from, to ) unless @@triggered || File.exists?( to )

from, to = ARGV

# If PostgreSQL is asking for .history, just try to move it and exit.
if from =~ /\.history$/
  move from, to

# Sleep while waiting for the file.
while !File.exists?(from) && !@@triggered
  sleep DELAY
  @@triggered = true if File.exists?( FAILOVER_FILE )

# Move the file.
move from, to

Just change the DELAY value to the number of seconds you want to sleep, and the FAILOVER_FILE value to the location of a file that will trigger a failover.

This is all well and good, but I ultimately ended up using the pg_standby utility that’s a new contrib utility in PostgreSQL CVS (and will therefore ship with 8.3), as it has the nice feature of cleaning up old WAL log files. It also does not have subsecond precision, but hey, maybe we don’t really need it.

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