Replication Group Life Cycle

Node States
New Replication Group Startup
Subsequent Startups
Replica Startup
Master Failover
Two Node Groups

This section describes how your replication group behaves over the course of the application's lifetime. Startup is described, both for new nodes as well as for existing nodes that are restarting. This section also describes Master failover.


Before continuing, it is necessary to define some terms used in this document as they relate to node membership in a replication group.

  • Add/Remove

    When we say that a node has been persistently added to a replication group, this means that it has become a persistent member of the group. Regardless of whether the node is running or otherwise reachable by the group, once it has been added to the group it remains a member of the group. If the added node is an electable node, the group size used during elections, or transaction commit acknowledgements, is increased by one. Note that secondary nodes are not persistent members of the replication group, so they are not considered to be persistently added or removed.

    A node that has been persistently added to a replication group remains a member of that group until it is explicitly removed from the group. Once a node has been removed from the group, it is no longer a member of the group. If the node that was removed was an electable node, the group size used during elections, or transaction commit acknowledgements, is decreased by one.

  • Join/Leave

    We say that a member has joined the replication group when it starts up and begins operating in the group as an active node. Electable and secondary nodes join a replication group by successfully opening a ReplicatedEnvironment handle. Monitor nodes are not considered to join a replication group because they do not actively participate in replication or elections.

    A member, then, leaves a replication group by shutting down, or losing the network contact that allows it to operate as an active member of the group. When operating normally, member nodes leave a replication group by closing their last ReplicatedEnvironment handle.

    Joining or leaving a group does not change the electable group size, and so the number of nodes required to hold an election, as well as the number of nodes required to acknowledge transaction commits, does not change.

Node States

Member nodes can be in the following states:

  • Master

    When in the Master state, a member node can service read and write requests. At any given time, there can be only one node in the Master state in the replication group.

  • Replica

    Member nodes in the Replica state can only service read requests. All of the electable nodes other than the Master, and all of the secondary nodes, should be in the Replica state.

  • Unknown

    The member node is not aware of a Master and is actively trying to discover or elect a Master. A node in this state is constantly striving to transition to the more productive Master or Replica state.

    A node in the Unknown state can still process read transactions if the node can satisfy its transaction consistency requirements.

  • Detached

    The member node has been shutdown (that is, it has left the group, but it has not been removed from the group — see the previous section). It is still a member of the replication group, but is not active in elections or replicating data. Note that secondary nodes do not remain members when they are in the detached state; when they lose contact with the Master, they are no longer considered members of the group.

Note that from time to time this documentation uses the term active node. An active node is a member node that is in the Master, Replica or Unknown state. More to the point, an active node is a node that is available to participate in elections — if it is an electable node — and in data replication. Monitor nodes are not considered active and do not report their state.

New Replication Group Startup

The first time you start up a replication group using an electable node, the group exists (for at least a small time) as a group of size one. At this time, the single node belonging to the group becomes the Master. So long as there is only one electable node in the replication group, that one node behaves as if it is a non-replicated application. There are some differences in the format of the log file that the application maintains, but it otherwise behaves identically to a non-replicated transactional application.

Subsequently, upon startup a new node must be given the contact information for at least one currently active node in the replication group in order for it to be added to the group. The new node contacts this active node who will identify the Master for the new node.


As is the case with elections, an electable node cannot be added to the replication group unless a simple majority of electable nodes are active at the time that it starts up. If too many nodes are down or otherwise unavailable, you cannot add a new electable node to the group.

The new node then contacts the Master, and provides all necessary identification information about itself to the Master. This includes host and port information, the node's unique name, and the replication group name. For electable nodes, the Master stores this identifying information about the node persistently, meaning the effective number of electable members of the replication group has just grown by one. For secondary nodes, the information about the node is only maintained while the secondary node is active; the number of electable members does not change.


Note that the new electable node is now a permanent member of the replication group until you manually remove it. This is true even if you shutdown the node for a long time. See Adding and Removing Nodes from the Group for details.

Once the new node is an established member of the group, the Master provides the Replica with the logical logs needed to replicate the environment. The sequence of logical log records sent from the Master to the Replica constitutes the Replication Stream. At this time, the node is said to have joined the group. Once a replication stream is established, it is maintained until either the Replica or the Master goes down.

Subsequent Startups

Each node stores information about other persistent replication group members in its replicated environment so that this information is available to it upon restart.

When a node that is already an established member of a replication group is restarted, the node uses its knowledge of other members of the replication group to locate the Master. It does this by by querying the members of the group to locate the current Master. If it finds a Master, the node joins the group and proceeds to operate in the group as a Replica.

If a Master is not available and the restarting node is an electable node, the node initiates an election so as to establish a Master. If a simple majority of electable nodes are available for the election, a Master is elected. If the restarting node is elected Master, it then waits for Replicas to connect to it so that it can supply them a replication stream. If the restarting node is a secondary node, then it continues to try to find the Master, waiting for the electable nodes to elect a Master as needed.

Under ordinary circumstances, if a Master cannot be determined for some reason, the restarting node will fail to open. However, you can permit the node to instead open in the UNKOWN state. While in this state, the node is persistently attempting to find a Master, but it is also available for read-only requests.

To configure a node in this way, use the ReplicationConfig.setConfigParam() method to set the ReplicationConfig.ENV_UNKNOWN_STATE_TIMEOUT parameter. This parameter requires you to define a Master election timeout period. If this election timeout expires while the node is attempting to restart, then the node opens in the UNKNOWN state instead of failing its open operation entirely.

Replica Startup

Regardless of how it happens, when a node joins a replication group, it contacts the Master and then goes through the following three steps:

  1. Handshake

    The Replica sends the Master its configuration information, along with the unique name associated with the Replica's environment. This name is a pseudo-randomly generated Universal Unique Identifier (UUID).

    This handshake establishes the node as a valid member of the group. It is used both by new nodes joining the group for the first time, and by existing nodes that are simply restarting.

    In addition, during this handshake process, the Master and Replica nodes will compare their clocks. If the clocks are too far off from one another, the handshake will fail and the Replica node will fail to start up. See Time Synchronization for more information.

  2. Replication Stream Sync-Up

    The Replica sends the Master its current position in the replication stream sequence. The Master and Replica then negotiate a point in the replication stream that the Master can use as a starting point to resume the flow of logical records to the Replica.

    Note that normally this sync-up process will be transparent to your application. However, in rare cases the sync-up may require that committed transactions be undone.

    Also, if the Replica has been offline for a long time, it is possible that the Master can no longer supply the Replica with the required contiguous interval of the replication stream. (This can happen due to log cleaning on the Master.) In this case, the log files must be copied to the restarting node from some other up-to-date node in the replication group. See Restoring Log Files for details.

  3. Steady state replication stream flow

    Once the Replica has successfully started up and joined the group, the Master maintains a flow of log records to the Replica. Beyond that, the Master will request acknowledgements from electable Replicas whenever the Master needs to meet transaction commit durability requirements.

Master Failover

A Master failing or shutting down causes all of the replication streams between the Master and its various Replicas to terminate. In reaction, the Replicas transition to the Unknown state and the electable nodes initiate an election.

An election can be held if at least a simple majority of the replication group's electable nodes are active. The electable node that wins the election transitions to the Master state, and all other active nodes transition to the Replica state.

Upon transitioning to the Replica state, nodes connect to the new Master and proceed through the handshake, sync-up, replication replay process described in the previous section.

If no Master can be elected (because a majority of electable nodes are not available to participate in the election), then the nodes remain in the Unknown state until such a time as a Master can be elected. In this state, the nodes might be able to service read-only requests, but the replication group is incapable of servicing write requests. Read requests can be serviced so long as the transaction's consistency requirements can be met (see Managing Consistency).

Note that the JE Replication application needs to make provisions for the following state transitions after failover:

  • A node that transitions from the Replica state to the Master state as a result of a failover needs to start accepting update requests. There are several ways to determine whether a node can handle update requests. See Managing Write Requests at a Replica for more information.

  • If a node remains in the Replica state after a failover, the failover should be transparent to the application. However, an application may need to take corrective action in the rare situation where the sync-up process has to roll back committed transactions.

    See Managing Transaction Rollbacks for an example of how handle a transaction commit roll back.

Two Node Groups

Replication groups comprised of just two electable nodes represents a unique corner case for JE replication. In order to elect a master, usually a simple majority of electable nodes must be available to participate in an election. However, for replication groups of size two, if even one electable node is unavailable for the election then by default it is impossible to hold an election.

However, for some classes of application, it is desirable for the application to proceed with operations using just one electable node. That is, the application trades off the durability guarantees offered by using two electable nodes for the higher availability permissible by allowing the application to run with just one of the nodes.

JE allows you to do this by designating one of the nodes in a two electable node group as a primary node. When the non-primary node of the pair is not available, the number of nodes required for a simple majority is reduced from two to one by the primary node. Consequently, the primary node is able to elect itself as the Master. It can then commit transactions that require a simple majority to acknowledge commits. When the non-primary node becomes available again, the number of nodes required for a simple majority at the primary once again reverts to two.

At any given time, there must be either zero or one electable nodes designated as the primary node, but it is up to your application to make sure both nodes are not erroneously designated as the primary. Your application must be very careful not to mistakenly designate two nodes as the primary. If this happened, and the two nodes could not communicate with one another (due to a network malfunction of some kind, for example), they could both then consider themselves to be Masters and start accepting write requests. This violates a fundamental requirement that at any given instant in time, there should be exactly one node that is permitted to perform writes on the replicated environment.

Note that the non-primary electable node always needs two electable nodes for a simple majority, so it can never become the Master in the absence of the primary node. If the primary node fails, you can make provisions to swap the primary and non-primary designations so that the surviving node is now the primary. This swap must be performed carefully so as to ensure that both nodes are not concurrently designated the primary. The most important thing is that the failed node comes up as the non-primary after it has been repaired.

For more information on using two-node groups, see Configuring Two-Node Groups.