Simple, conservative slave reads for ActiveRecord
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Slavery - Simple, conservative slave reads for ActiveRecord

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Slavery is a simple, easy to use gem for ActiveRecord that enables conservative slave reads, which means it doesn't automatically redirect all SELECTs to slaves.

Instead, you can do Slavery.on_slave { User.count } to send a particular query to a slave.

Background: Probably your app started off with one single database. As it grows, you would upgrade to a master-slave replication for redundancy. At this point, all queries still go to the master and slaves are just backups. With that configuration, it's tempting to run some long-running queries on the slave. And that's exactly what Slavery does.

  • Conservative - Safe by default. Installing Slavery won't change your app's current behavior.
  • Future proof - No dirty hacks. Simply works as a proxy for ActiveRecord::Base.connection.
  • Simple code - Intentionally small. You can read the entire source and completely stay in control.

Slavery works with ActiveRecord 3 or later.


Add this line to your application's Gemfile:

gem 'slavery'

And create slave configs for each environment.

  database: myapp_development

  database: myapp_development

By convention, config keys with [env]_slave are automatically used for slave reads.

Notice that we just copied the settings of development to development_slave. For development and test, it's actually recommended as probably you don't want to have replicating multiple databases on your machine. Two connections to the same identical database should be fine for testing purpose.

In case you prefer DRYer definition, YAML's aliasing and key merging might help.

common: &common
  adapter: mysql2
  username: root
  database: myapp_development

  <<: *common

  <<: *common

Optionally, you can use a database url for your connections:

development: postgres://root:@localhost:5432/myapp_development
development_slave: postgres://root:@localhost:5432/myapp_development_slave

At this point, Slavery does nothing. Run tests and confirm that nothing is broken.


To start using Slavery, you need to add Slavery.on_slave in your code. Queries in the Slavery.on_slave block run on the slave.

Slavery.on_slave { User.count }     # => runs on slave

You can nest on_slave and on_master interchangeably. The following code works as expected.

Slavery.on_slave do
  Slavery.on_master do

Alternatively, you may call on_slave directly on the scope, so that the query will be read from slave when it's executed.

User.on_slave.where(active: true).count

Caveat: pluck is not supported by the scope syntax, you still need Slavery.on_slave in this case.

Read-only user

For an extra safeguard, it is recommended to use a read-only user for slave access.

  <<: *common
  username: readonly

With MySQL, GRANT SELECT creates a read-only user.

GRANT SELECT ON *.* TO 'readonly'@'localhost';

With this user, writes on slave should raise an exception.

Slavery.on_slave { User.create }    # => ActiveRecord::StatementInvalid: Mysql2::Error: INSERT command denied...

With Postgres you can set the entire database to be readonly:

ALTER DATABASE myapp_development_slave SET default_transaction_read_only = true;

It is a good idea to confirm this behavior in your test code as well.

Disable temporarily

You can quickly disable slave reads by dropping the following line in config/initializers/slavery.rb.

Slavery.disabled = true

With this line, Slavery stops connection switching and all queries go to the master.

This may be useful when one of the master or the slave goes down. You would rewrite database.yml to make all queries go to the surviving database, until you restore or rebuild the failed one.

Transactional fixtures

When use_transactional_fixtures is set to true, it's NOT recommended to write to the database besides fixtures, since the slave connection is not aware of changes performed in the master connection due to transaction isolation.

In that case, you are suggested to disable Slavery in the test environment by putting the following in test/test_helper.rb (or spec/spec_helper.rb for RSpec users):

Slavery.disabled = true

Support for non-Rails apps

If you're using ActiveRecord in a non-Rails app (e.g. Sinatra), be sure to set RACK_ENV environment variable in the boot sequence, then:

require 'slavery'

ActiveRecord::Base.configurations = {
  'development' =>        { adapter: 'mysql2', ... },
  'development_slave' =>  { adapter: 'mysql2', ... }

Custom slave key in database.yml

This is useful for deploying on EngineYard where the configuration key in database.yml is simple "slave". Put the following line in config/initializers/slavery.rb.

Slavery.spec_key = "slave" #instead of production_slave


  • v2.1.0: Debug log support / Database URL support / Rails 3.2 & 4.0 compatibility (Thanks to @citrus)
  • v2.0.0: Rails 5 support