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…on. (#727)

When a primary fails, then a new primary is elected, and then the new
primary fails while the old primary is assigned the CATCHINGUP state, then
we need to make it possible for the old primary to join the new election as
a REPORT_LSN node.

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pg_auto_failover is an extension and service for PostgreSQL that monitors and manages automated failover for a Postgres cluster. It is optimized for simplicity and correctness and supports Postgres 10 and newer.

pg_auto_failover supports several Postgres architectures and implements a safe automated failover for your Postgres service. It is possible to get started with only two data nodes which will be given the roles of primary and secondary by the monitor.

pg_auto_failover Architecture with 2 nodes

The pg_auto_failover Monitor implements a state machine and relies on in-core PostgreSQL facilities to deliver HA. For example. when the secondary node is detected to be unavailable, or when its lag is too much, then the Monitor removes it from the synchronous_standby_names setting on the primary node. Until the secondary is back to being monitored healthy, failover and switchover operations are not allowed, preventing data loss.

pg_auto_failover consists of the following parts:

  • a PostgreSQL extension named pgautofailover
  • a PostgreSQL service to operate the pg_auto_failover monitor
  • a pg_auto_failover keeper to operate your PostgreSQL instances, see pg_autoctl run

Starting with pg_auto_failover version 1.4, it is possible to implement a production architecture with any number of Postgres nodes, for better data availability guarantees.

pg_auto_failover Architecture with 3 nodes

By default, pg_auto_failover uses synchronous replication and every node that reaches the secondary state is added to synchronous_standby_names on the primary. With pg_auto_failover 1.4 it is possible to remove a node from the replication quorum of Postgres.


At runtime, pg_auto_failover depends on only Postgres. Postgres versions 10, 11, 12, and 13 are currently supported.

At buildtime. pg_auto_failover depends on Postgres server development package like any other Postgres extensions (the server development package for Postgres 11 when using debian or Ubuntu is named postgresql-server-dev-11), and then libssl-dev and libkrb5-dev are needed to for the client side when building with all the libpq authentication options.


Please check out project documentation for how to guides and troubleshooting information.

Installing pg_auto_failover from packages

Ubuntu or Debian:

# Add the repository to your system
curl | sudo bash

# Install pg_auto_failover
sudo apt-get install postgresql-11-auto-failover

# Confirm installation
/usr/bin/pg_autoctl --version

Fedora, CentOS, or Red Hat:

# Add the repository to your system
curl | sudo bash

# Install pg_auto_failover
sudo yum install -y pg-auto-failover10_11

# Confirm installation
/usr/pgsql-11/bin/pg_autoctl --version

Building pg_auto_failover from source

To build the project, make sure you have installed the build-dependencies, then just type make. You can install the resulting binary using make install.

Build dependencies example on debian for Postgres 11:

$ sudo apt-get install postgresql-server-dev-11 libssl-dev libkrb5-dev

Then build pg_auto_failover from sources with the following instructions:

$ make
$ sudo make install

For this to work though, the PostgreSQL client (libpq) and server (postgresql-server-dev) libraries must be available in your standard include and link paths.

The make install step will deploy the pgautofailover PostgreSQL extension in the PostgreSQL directory for extensions as pointed by pg_config, and install the pg_autoctl binary command in the directory pointed to by pg_config --bindir, alongside other PostgreSQL tools such as pg_ctl and pg_controldata.

Trying pg_auto_failover on your local computer

Once the building and installation is done, follow those steps:

  1. Install and run a monitor

    $ export PGDATA=./monitor
    $ export PGPORT=5000
    $ pg_autoctl create monitor --ssl-self-signed --hostname localhost --auth trust --run
  2. Get the Postgres URI (connection string) for the monitor node:

    $ pg_autoctl show uri --monitor --pgdata ./monitor

    The following two steps are going to use the option --monitor which expects that connection string. So copy/paste your actual Postgres URI for the monitor in the next steps.

  3. Install and run a primary PostgreSQL instance:

    $ export PGDATA=./node_1
    $ export PGPORT=5001
    $ pg_autoctl create postgres \
        --hostname localhost \
        --auth trust \
        --ssl-self-signed \
        --monitor 'postgres://autoctl_node@localhost:5000/pg_auto_failover?sslmode=require' \
  4. Install and run a secondary PostgreSQL instance, using exactly the same command, but with a different PGDATA and PGPORT, because we're running everything on the same host:

    $ export PGDATA=./node_2
    $ export PGPORT=5002
    $ pg_autoctl create postgres \
        --hostname localhost \
        --auth trust \
        --ssl-self-signed \
        --monitor 'postgres://autoctl_node@localhost:5000/pg_auto_failover?sslmode=require' \
  5. See the state of the new system:

    $ pg_autoctl show state
      Name |  Node |      Host:Port |       LSN | Reachable |       Current State |      Assigned State
    node_1 |     1 | localhost:5001 | 0/30000D8 |       yes |             primary |             primary
    node_2 |     2 | localhost:5002 | 0/30000D8 |       yes |           secondary |           secondary

That's it! You now have a running pg_auto_failover setup with two PostgreSQL nodes using Streaming Replication to implement fault-tolerance.

Your first failover

Now that we have two nodes setup and running, we can initiate a manual failover, also named a switchover. It is possible to trigger such an operation without any node having to actually fail when using pg_auto_failover.

The command pg_autoctl perform switchover can be used to force pg_auto_failover to orchestrate a failover. Because all the nodes are actually running fine (meaning that pg_autoctl actively reports the local state of each node to the monitor), the failover process does not have to carefuly implement timeouts to make sure to avoid split-brain.

$ pg_autoctl perform switchover
19:06:41 63977 INFO  Listening monitor notifications about state changes in formation "default" and group 0
19:06:41 63977 INFO  Following table displays times when notifications are received
    Time |   Name |  Node |      Host:Port |       Current State |      Assigned State
19:06:43 | node_1 |     1 | localhost:5001 |             primary |            draining
19:06:43 | node_2 |     2 | localhost:5002 |           secondary |   prepare_promotion
19:06:43 | node_2 |     2 | localhost:5002 |   prepare_promotion |   prepare_promotion
19:06:43 | node_2 |     2 | localhost:5002 |   prepare_promotion |    stop_replication
19:06:43 | node_1 |     1 | localhost:5001 |             primary |      demote_timeout
19:06:43 | node_1 |     1 | localhost:5001 |            draining |      demote_timeout
19:06:43 | node_1 |     1 | localhost:5001 |      demote_timeout |      demote_timeout
19:06:44 | node_2 |     2 | localhost:5002 |    stop_replication |    stop_replication
19:06:44 | node_2 |     2 | localhost:5002 |    stop_replication |        wait_primary
19:06:44 | node_1 |     1 | localhost:5001 |      demote_timeout |             demoted
19:06:44 | node_1 |     1 | localhost:5001 |             demoted |             demoted
19:06:44 | node_2 |     2 | localhost:5002 |        wait_primary |        wait_primary
19:06:45 | node_1 |     1 | localhost:5001 |             demoted |          catchingup
19:06:46 | node_1 |     1 | localhost:5001 |          catchingup |          catchingup
19:06:47 | node_1 |     1 | localhost:5001 |          catchingup |           secondary
19:06:47 | node_2 |     2 | localhost:5002 |        wait_primary |             primary
19:06:47 | node_1 |     1 | localhost:5001 |           secondary |           secondary
19:06:48 | node_2 |     2 | localhost:5002 |             primary |             primary

The promotion of the secondary node is finished when the node reaches the goal state wait_primary. At this point, the application that connects to the secondary is allowed to proceed with write traffic.

Because this is a switchover and no nodes have failed, node_1 that used to be the primary completes its cycle and joins as a secondary within the same operation. The Postgres tool pg_rewind is used to implement that transition.

And there you have done a full failover from your node_1, former primary, to your node_2, new primary. We can have a look at the state now:

$ pg_autoctl show state
  Name |  Node |      Host:Port |       LSN | Reachable |       Current State |      Assigned State
node_1 |     1 | localhost:5001 | 0/3001648 |       yes |           secondary |           secondary
node_2 |     2 | localhost:5002 | 0/3001648 |       yes |             primary |             primary

Cleaning-up your local setup

You can use the commands pg_autoctl stop, pg_autoctl drop node --destroy, and pg_autoctl drop monitor --destroy if you want to get rid of everything set-up so far.

Formations and Groups

In the previous example, the options --formation and --group are not used. This means we've been using the default values: the default formation is named default and the default group id is zero (0).

It's possible to add other services to the same running monitor by using another formation.

Installing pg_auto_failover on-top of an existing Postgres setup

The pg_autoctl create postgres --pgdata ${PGDATA} step can be used with an existing Postgres installation running at ${PGDATA}, only with the primary node.

On a secondary node, it is possible to re-use an existing data directory when it has the same system_identifier as the other node(s) already registered in the same formation and group.

Application and Connection Strings

To retrieve the connection string to use at the application level, use the following command:

$ pg_autoctl show uri --formation default --pgdata ...

You can use that connection string from within your application, adjusting the username that is used to connect. By default, pg_auto_failover edits the Postgres HBA rules to allow the --username given at pg_autoctl create postgres time to connect to this URI from the database node itself.

To allow application servers to connect to the Postgres database, edit your pg_hba.conf file as documented in the pg_hba.conf file chapter of the PostgreSQL documentation.

Reporting Security Issues

Security issues and bugs should be reported privately, via email, to the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC) at You should receive a response within 24 hours. If for some reason you do not, please follow up via email to ensure we received your original message. Further information, including the MSRC PGP key, can be found in the Security TechCenter.



Copyright (c) Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

This project is licensed under the PostgreSQL License, see LICENSE file for details.

This project includes bundled third-party dependencies, see NOTICE file for details.