redis_failover is a ZooKeeper-based automatic master/slave failover solution for Ruby.
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Automatic Redis Failover

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redis_failover attempts to provides a full automatic master/slave failover solution for Ruby. Redis does not provide an automatic failover capability when configured for master/slave replication. When the master node dies, a new master must be manually brought online and assigned as the slave's new master. This manual switch-over is not desirable in high traffic sites where Redis is a critical part of the overall architecture. The existing standard Redis client for Ruby also only supports configuration for a single Redis server. When using master/slave replication, it is desirable to have all writes go to the master, and all reads go to one of the N configured slaves.

This gem (built using ZK) attempts to address these failover scenarios. A redis failover Node Manager daemon runs as a background process and monitors all of your configured master/slave nodes. When the daemon starts up, it automatically discovers the current master/slaves. Background watchers are setup for each of the redis nodes. As soon as a node is detected as being offline, it will be moved to an "unavailable" state. If the node that went offline was the master, then one of the slaves will be promoted as the new master. All existing slaves will be automatically reconfigured to point to the new master for replication. All nodes marked as unavailable will be periodically checked to see if they have been brought back online. If so, the newly available nodes will be configured as slaves and brought back into the list of available nodes. Note that detection of a node going down should be nearly instantaneous, since the mechanism used to keep tabs on a node is via a blocking Redis BLPOP call (no polling). This call fails nearly immediately when the node actually goes offline. To avoid false positives (i.e., intermittent flaky network interruption), the Node Manager will only mark a node as unavailable if it fails to communicate with it 3 times (this is configurable via --max-failures, see configuration options below). Note that you can deploy multiple Node Manager daemons for added redundancy.

This gem provides a RedisFailover::Client wrapper that is master/slave aware. The client is configured with a list of ZooKeeper servers. The client will automatically contact the ZooKeeper cluster to find out the current state of the world (i.e., who is the current master and who are the current slaves). The client also sets up a ZooKeeper watcher for the set of redis nodes controlled by the Node Manager daemon. When the daemon promotes a new master or detects a node as going down, ZooKeeper will notify the client near-instantaneously so that it can rebuild its set of Redis connections. The client also acts as a load balancer in that it will automatically dispatch Redis read operations to one of N slaves, and Redis write operations to the master. If it fails to communicate with any node, it will go back and fetch the current list of available servers, and then optionally retry the operation.

Architecture Diagram

redis_failover architecture diagram


redis_failover has an external dependency on ZooKeeper. You must have a running ZooKeeper cluster already available in order to use redis_failover. ZooKeeper provides redis_failover with its high availability and data consistency between Redis::Failover clients and the Node Manager daemon. Please see the requirements section below for more information on installing and setting up ZooKeeper if you don't have it running already.

Add this line to your application's Gemfile:

gem 'redis_failover'

And then execute:

$ bundle

Or install it yourself as:

$ gem install redis_failover

Node Manager Daemon Usage

The Node Manager is a simple process that should be run as a background daemon. The daemon supports the following options:

Usage: redis_node_manager [OPTIONS]

Specific options:
    -n, --nodes NODES                Comma-separated redis host:port pairs
    -z, --zkservers SERVERS          Comma-separated ZooKeeper host:port pairs
    -p, --password PASSWORD          Redis password
        --znode-path PATH            Znode path override for storing redis server list
        --max-failures COUNT         Max failures before manager marks node unavailable
    -C, --config PATH                Path to YAML configuration file
    -E, --environment ENV            Config environment to use
    -h, --help                       Display all options

To start the daemon for a simple master/slave configuration, use the following:

redis_node_manager -n localhost:6379,localhost:6380 -z localhost:2181,localhost:2182,localhost:2183

The configuration parameters can also be specified in a config.yml file. An example configuration would look like the following:

:max_failures: 2
  - localhost:6379
  - localhost:1111
  - localhost:2222
  - localhost:3333
  - localhost:2181
  - localhost:2182
  - localhost:2183
:password: foobar

You would then simpy start the Node Manager via the following:

redis_node_manager -C config.yml

You can also scope the configuration to a particular environment (e.g., staging/development). See the examples directory for configuration file samples.

The Node Manager will automatically discover the master/slaves upon startup. Note that it is a good idea to run more than one instance of the Node Manager daemon in your environment. At any moment, a single Node Manager process will be designated to monitor the redis servers. If this Node Manager process dies or becomes partitioned from the network, another Node Manager will be promoted as the primary monitor of redis servers. You can run as many Node Manager processes as you'd like for added redundancy.

Client Usage

The redis failover client must be used in conjunction with a running Node Manager daemon. The client supports various configuration options, however the only mandatory option is the list of ZooKeeper servers:

client = => 'localhost:2181,localhost:2182,localhost:2183')

The client actually employs the common redis and redis-namespace gems underneath, so this should be a drop-in replacement for your existing pure redis client usage.

The full set of options that can be passed to RedisFailover::Client are:

 :zkservers     - comma-separated ZooKeeper host:port pairs (required)
 :znode_path    - the Znode path override for redis server list (optional)
 :password      - password for redis nodes (optional)
 :db            - db to use for redis nodes (optional)
 :namespace     - namespace for redis nodes (optional)
 :logger        - logger override (optional)
 :retry_failure - indicate if failures should be retried (default true)
 :max_retries   - max retries for a failure (default 3)
 :safe_mode     - indicates if safe mode is used or not (default true)
 :master_only   - indicates if only redis master is used (default false)

The RedisFailover::Client also supports a custom callback that will be invoked whenever the list of redis clients changes. Example usage: => 'localhost:2181,localhost:2182,localhost:2183') do |client|
  client.on_node_change do |master, slaves|"Nodes changed! master: #{master}, slaves: #{slaves}")

Manual Failover

Manual failover can be initiated via RedisFailover::Client#manual_failover. This schedules a manual failover with the currently active Node Manager. Once the Node Manager receives the request, it will either failover to the specific server passed to #manual_failover, or it will pick a random slave to become the new master. Here's an example:

client = => 'localhost:2181,localhost:2182,localhost:2183')
client.manual_failover(:host => 'localhost', :port => 2222)


redis_failover uses YARD for its API documentation. Refer to the generated API documentation for full coverage.


  • redis_failover is actively tested against MRI 1.9.2/1.9.3 and JRuby 1.6.7 (1.9 mode only). Other rubies may work, although I don't actively test against them.
  • redis_failover requires a ZooKeeper service cluster to ensure reliability and data consistency. ZooKeeper is very simple and easy to get up and running. Please refer to this Quick ZooKeeper Guide to get up and running quickly if you don't already have ZooKeeper as a part of your environment.


  • Note that by default the Node Manager will mark slaves that are currently syncing with their master as "available" based on the configuration value set for "slave-serve-stale-data" in redis.conf. By default this value is set to "yes" in the configuration, which means that slaves still syncing with their master will be available for servicing read requests. If you don't want this behavior, just set "slave-serve-stale-data" to "no" in your redis.conf file.


  • Note that it's still possible for the RedisFailover::Client instances to see a stale list of servers for a very small window. In most cases this will not be the case due to how ZooKeeper handles distributed communication, but you should be aware that in the worst case the client could write to a "stale" master for a small period of time until the next watch event is received by the client via ZooKeeper.

  • Note that currently multiple Node Managers are currently used for redundancy purposes only. The Node Managers do not communicate with each other to perform any type of election or voting to determine if they all agree on promoting a new master. Right now Node Managers that are not "active" just sit and wait until they can grab the lock to become the single decision-maker for which Redis servers are available or not. This means that a scenario could present itself where a Node Manager thinks the Redis master is available, however the actual RedisFailover::Client instances think they can't reach the Redis master (either due to network partitions or the Node Manager flapping due to machine failure, etc). We are exploring ways to improve this situation.


  • Check out Steve Whittaker's redis-failover-test project which shows how to test redis_failover in a non-trivial configuration using Vagrant/Chef.
  • To learn more about Redis master/slave replication, see the Redis documentation.
  • To learn more about ZooKeeper, see the official ZooKeeper site.
  • See the Quick ZooKeeper Guide for a quick guide to getting ZooKeeper up and running with redis_failover.
  • To learn more about how ZooKeeper handles network partitions, see ZooKeeper Failure Scenarios
  • Feel free to join #zk-gem on the IRC freenode network. We're usually hanging out there talking about ZooKeeper and redis_failover.


Please see LICENSE for licensing details.


Ryan LeCompte



Special thanks to Eric Lindvall and Jonathan Simms for their invaluable ZooKeeper advice and guidance!


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