Cluster: Databases
Phabricator User Documentation (Cluster Configuration)

Configuring Phabricator to use multiple database hosts.


You can deploy Phabricator with multiple database hosts, configured as a master and a set of replicas. The advantages of doing this are:

  • faster recovery from disasters by promoting a replica;
  • graceful degradation if the master fails; and
  • some tools to help monitor and manage replica health.

This configuration is complex, and many installs do not need to pursue it.

If you lose the master, Phabricator can degrade automatically into read-only mode and remain available, but can not fully recover without operational intervention unless the master recovers on its own.

Phabricator will not currently send read traffic to replicas unless the master has failed, so configuring a replica will not currently spread any load away from the master. Future versions of Phabricator are expected to be able to distribute some read traffic to replicas.

Phabricator can not currently be configured into a multi-master mode, nor can it be configured to automatically promote a replica to become the new master. There are no current plans to support multi-master mode or autonomous failover, although this may change in the future.

Phabricator applications can be partitioned across multiple database masters. This does not provide redundancy and generally does not increase resilience or resistance to data loss, but can help you scale and operate Phabricator. For details, see Cluster: Partitioning and Advanced Configuration.

Setting up MySQL Replication

To begin, set up a replica database server and configure MySQL replication.

If you aren't sure how to do this, refer to the MySQL manual for instructions. The MySQL documentation is comprehensive and walks through the steps and options in good detail. You should understand MySQL replication before deploying it in production: Phabricator layers on top of it, and does not attempt to abstract it away.

Some useful notes for configuring replication for Phabricator:

Binlog Format: Phabricator issues some queries which MySQL will detect as unsafe if you use the STATEMENT binlog format (the default). Instead, use MIXED (recommended) or ROW as the binlog_format.

Grant REPLICATION CLIENT Privilege: If you give the user that Phabricator will use to connect to the replica database server the REPLICATION CLIENT privilege, Phabricator's status console can give you more information about replica health and state.

Copying Data to Replicas: Phabricator currently uses a mixture of MyISAM and InnoDB tables, so it can be difficult to guarantee that a dump is wholly consistent and suitable for loading into a replica because MySQL uses different consistency mechanisms for the different storage engines.

An approach you may want to consider to limit downtime but still produce a consistent dump is to leave Phabricator running but configured in read-only mode while dumping:

  • Stop all the daemons.
  • Set to true and deploy the new configuration. The web UI should now show that Phabricator is in "Read Only" mode.
  • Dump the database. You can do this with bin/storage dump --for-replica to add the --master-data flag to the underlying command and include a CHANGE MASTER ... statement in the dump.
  • Once the dump finishes, turn off again to restore service. Continue loading the dump into the replica normally.

Log Expiration: You can configure MySQL to automatically clean up old binary logs on startup with the expire_logs_days option. If you do not configure this and do not explicitly purge old logs with PURGE BINARY LOGS, the binary logs on disk will grow unboundedly and relatively quickly.

Once you have a working replica, continue below to tell Phabricator about it.

Configuring Replicas

Once your replicas are in working order, tell Phabricator about them by configuring the cluster.databases option. This option must be configured from the command line or in configuration files because Phabricator needs to read it before it can connect to databases.

This option value will list all of the database hosts that you want Phabricator to interact with: your master and all your replicas. Each entry in the list should have these keys:

  • host: Required string. The database host name.
  • role: Required string. The cluster role of this host, one of master or replica.
  • port: Optional int. The port to connect to. If omitted, the default port from mysql.port will be used.
  • user: Optional string. The MySQL username to use to connect to this host. If omitted, the default from mysql.user will be used.
  • pass: Optional string. The password to use to connect to this host. If omitted, the default from mysql.pass will be used.
  • disabled: Optional bool. If set to true, Phabricator will not connect to this host. You can use this to temporarily take a host out of service.

When cluster.databases is configured the option is not used. The other MySQL connection configuration options (mysql.port, mysql.user, mysql.pass) are used only to provide defaults.

Once you've configured this option, restart Phabricator for the changes to take effect, then continue to "Monitoring Replicas" to verify the configuration.

Monitoring Replicas

You can monitor replicas in ConfigDatabase Servers. This interface shows you a quick overview of replicas and their health, and can detect some common issues with replication.

The table on this page shows each database and current status.

NOTE: This page runs its diagnostics from the web server that is serving the request. If you are recovering from a disaster, the view this page shows may be partial or misleading, and two requests served by different servers may see different views of the cluster.

Connection: Phabricator tries to connect to each configured database, then shows the result in this column. If it fails, a brief diagnostic message with details about the error is shown. If it succeeds, the column shows a rough measurement of latency from the current webserver to the database.

Replication: This is a summary of replication status on the database. If things are properly configured and stable, the replicas should be actively replicating and no more than a few seconds behind master, and the master should not be replicating from another database.

To report this status, the user Phabricator is connecting as must have the REPLICATION CLIENT privilege (or the SUPER privilege) so it can run the SHOW SLAVE STATUS command. The REPLICATION CLIENT privilege only enables the user to run diagnostic commands so it should be reasonable to grant it in most cases, but it is not required. If you choose not to grant it, this page can not show any useful diagnostic information about replication status but everything else will still work.

If a replica is more than a second behind master, this page will show the current replication delay. If the replication delay is more than 30 seconds, it will report "Slow Replication" with a warning icon.

If replication is delayed, data is at risk: if you lose the master and can not later recover it (for example, because a meteor has obliterated the datacenter housing the physical host), data which did not make it to the replica will be lost forever.

Beyond the risk of data loss, any read-only traffic sent to the replica will see an older view of the world which could be confusing for users: it may appear that their data has been lost, even if it is safe and just hasn't replicated yet.

Phabricator will attempt to prevent clients from seeing out-of-date views, but sometimes sending traffic to a delayed replica is the best available option (for example, if the master can not be reached).

Health: This column shows the result of recent health checks against the server. After several checks in a row fail, Phabricator will mark the server as unhealthy and stop sending traffic to it until several checks in a row later succeed.

Note that each web server tracks database health independently, so if you have several servers they may have different views of database health. This is normal and not problematic.

For more information on health checks, see "Unreachable Masters" below.

Messages: This column has additional details about any errors shown in the other columns. These messages can help you understand or resolve problems.

Testing Replicas

To test that your configuration can survive a disaster, turn off the master database. Do this with great ceremony, making a cool explosion sound as you run the mysqld stop command.

If things have been set up properly, Phabricator should degrade to a temporary read-only mode immediately. After a brief period of unresponsiveness, it will degrade further into a longer-term read-only mode. For details on how this works internally, see "Unreachable Masters" below.

Once satisfied, turn the master back on. After a brief delay, Phabricator should recognize that the master is healthy again and recover fully.

Throughout this process, the Database Servers console will show a current view of the world from the perspective of the web server handling the request. You can use it to monitor state.

You can perform a more narrow test by enabling in configuration. This will put Phabricator into read-only mode immediately without turning off any databases.

You can use this mode to understand which capabilities will and will not be available in read-only mode, and make sure any information you want to remain accessible in a disaster (like wiki pages or contact information) is really accessible.

See the next section, "Degradation to Read Only Mode", for more details about when, why, and how Phabricator degrades.

If you run custom code or extensions, they may not accommodate read-only mode properly. You should specifically test that they function correctly in read-only mode and do not prevent you from accessing important information.

Degradation to Read-Only Mode

Phabricator will degrade to read-only mode when any of these conditions occur:

  • you turn it on explicitly;
  • you configure cluster mode, but don't set up any masters;
  • the master can not be reached while handling a request; or
  • recent attempts to connect to the master have consistently failed.

When Phabricator is running in read-only mode, users can still read data and browse and clone repositories, but they can not edit, update, or push new changes. For example, users can still read disaster recovery information on the wiki or emergency contact information on user profiles.

You can enable this mode explicitly by configuring Some reasons you might want to do this include:

  • to test that the mode works like you expect it to;
  • to make sure that information you need will be available;
  • to prevent new writes while performing database maintenance; or
  • to permanently archive a Phabricator install.

You can also enable this mode implicitly by configuring cluster.databases but disabling the master, or by not specifying any host as a master. This may be more convenient than turning it on explicitly during the course of operations work.

If Phabricator is unable to reach the master database, it will degrade into read-only mode automatically. See "Unreachable Masters" below for details on how this process works.

If you end up in a situation where you have lost the master and can not get it back online (or can not restore it quickly) you can promote a replica to become the new master. See the next section, "Promoting a Replica", for details.

Promoting a Replica

If you lose access to the master database, Phabricator will degrade into read-only mode. This is described in greater detail below.

The easiest way to get out of read-only mode is to restore the master database. If the database recovers on its own or operations staff can revive it, Phabricator will return to full working order after a few moments.

If you can't restore the master or are unsure you will be able to restore the master quickly, you can promote a replica to become the new master instead.

Before doing this, you should first assess how far behind the master the replica was when the link died. Any data which was not replicated will either be lost or become very difficult to recover after you promote a replica.

For example, if some T1234 had been created on the master but had not yet replicated and you promote the replica, a new T1234 may be created on the replica after promotion. Even if you can recover the master later, merging the data will be difficult because each database may have conflicting changes which can not be merged easily.

If there was a significant replication delay at the time of the failure, you may wait to try harder or spend more time attempting to recover the master before choosing to promote.

If you have made a choice to promote, disable replication on the replica and mark it as the master in cluster.databases. Remove the original master and deploy the configuration change to all surviving hosts.

Once write service is restored, you should provision, deploy, and configure a new replica by following the steps you took the first time around. You are critically vulnerable to a second disruption until you have restored the redundancy.

Unreachable Masters

This section describes how Phabricator determines that a master has been lost, marks it unreachable, and degrades into read-only mode.

Phabricator degrades into read-only mode automatically in two ways: very briefly in response to a single connection failure, or more permanently in response to a series of connection failures.

In the first case, if a request needs to connect to the master but is not able to, Phabricator will temporarily degrade into read-only mode for the remainder of that request. The alternative is to fail abruptly, but Phabricator can sometimes degrade successfully and still respond to the user's request, so it makes an effort to finish serving the request from replicas.

If the request was a write (like posting a comment) it will fail anyway, but if it was a read that did not actually need to use the master it may succeed.

This temporary mode is intended to recover as gracefully as possible from brief interruptions in service (a few seconds), like a server being restarted, a network link becoming temporarily unavailable, or brief periods of load-related disruption. If the anomaly is temporary, Phabricator should recover immediately (on the next request once service is restored).

This mode can be slow for users (they need to wait on connection attempts to the master which fail) and does not reduce load on the master (requests still attempt to connect to it).

The second way Phabricator degrades is by running periodic health checks against databases, and marking them unhealthy if they fail over a longer period of time. This mechanism is very similar to the health checks that most HTTP load balancers perform against web servers.

If a database fails several health checks in a row, Phabricator will mark it as unhealthy and stop sending all traffic (except for more health checks) to it. This improves performance during a service interruption and reduces load on the master, which may help it recover from load problems.

You can monitor the status of health checks in the Database Servers console. The "Health" column shows how many checks have run recently and how many have succeeded.

Health checks run every 3 seconds, and 5 checks in a row must fail or succeed before Phabricator marks the database as healthy or unhealthy, so it will generally take about 15 seconds for a database to change state after it goes down or comes up.

If all of the recent checks fail, Phabricator will mark the database as unhealthy and stop sending traffic to it. If the master was the database that was marked as unhealthy, Phabricator will actively degrade into read-only mode until it recovers.

This mode only attempts to connect to the unhealthy database once every few seconds to see if it is recovering, so performance will be better on average (users rarely need to wait for bad connections to fail or time out) and the database will receive less load.

Once all of the recent checks succeed, Phabricator will mark the database as healthy again and continue sending traffic to it.

Health checks are tracked individually for each web server, so some web servers may see a host as healthy while others see it as unhealthy. This is normal, and can accurately reflect the state of the world: for example, the link between datacenters may have been lost, so hosts in one datacenter can no longer see the master, while hosts in the other datacenter still have a healthy link to it.


Even if you configure replication, you should still retain separate backup snapshots. Replicas protect you from data loss if you lose a host, but they do not let you recover from data mutation mistakes.

If something issues DELETE or UPDATE statements and destroys data on the master, the mutation will propagate to the replicas almost immediately and the data will be gone forever. Normally, the only way to recover this data is from backup snapshots.

Although you should still have a backup process, your backup process can safely pull dumps from a replica instead of the master. This operation can be slow, so offloading it to a replica can make the performance of the master more consistent.

To dump from a replica, you can use bin/storage dump --host <host> to control which host the command connects to. (You may still want to execute this command from that host, to avoid sending the whole dump over the network).

With the --for-replica flag, the bin/storage dump command creates dumps with --master-data, which includes a CHANGE MASTER statement in the output. This may be helpful when initially setting up new replicas, as it can make it easier to change the binlog coordinates to the correct position for the dump.

With recent versions of MySQL, it is also possible to configure a delayed replica which intentionally lags behind the master (say, by 12 hours). In the event of a bad mutation, this could give you a larger window of time to recognize the issue and recover the lost data from the delayed replica (which might be quick) without needing to restore backups (which might be very slow).

Delayed replication is outside the scope of this document, but may be worth considering as an additional data security step on top of backup snapshots depending on your resources and needs. If you configure a delayed replica, do not add it to the cluster.databases configuration: Phabricator should never send traffic to it, and does not need to know about it.

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