Promoting or demoting a replica changes its role in the replication topology. In a very large topology that contains dedicated consumers and hubs, online promotion and demotion of replicas can form part of a high availability strategy. Imagine, for example, a multi-master replication scenario, with two hubs configured for additional load balancing and failover. If one master goes offline, you can promote one of the hubs to a master to maintain optimal read-write availability. When the master replica comes back online, a simple demotion back to a hub replica returns you to the original topology.
For more information, see Promoting or Demoting Replicas in Sun Directory Server Enterprise Edition 7.0 Administration Guide.