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17.3.8 Semisynchronous Replication

In addition to the built-in asynchronous replication, MySQL 5.5 supports an interface to semisynchronous replication that is implemented by plugins. This section discusses what semisynchronous replication is and how it works. The following sections cover the administrative interface to semisynchronous replication and how to install, configure, and monitor it.

MySQL replication by default is asynchronous. The master writes events to its binary log but does not know whether or when a slave has retrieved and processed them. With asynchronous replication, if the master crashes, transactions that it has committed might not have been transmitted to any slave. Consequently, failover from master to slave in this case may result in failover to a server that is missing transactions relative to the master.

Semisynchronous replication can be used as an alternative to asynchronous replication:

  • A slave indicates whether it is semisynchronous-capable when it connects to the master.

  • If semisynchronous replication is enabled on the master side and there is at least one semisynchronous slave, a thread that performs a transaction commit on the master blocks after the commit is done and waits until at least one semisynchronous slave acknowledges that it has received all events for the transaction, or until a timeout occurs.

  • The slave acknowledges receipt of a transaction's events only after the events have been written to its relay log and flushed to disk.

  • If a timeout occurs without any slave having acknowledged the transaction, the master reverts to asynchronous replication. When at least one semisynchronous slave catches up, the master returns to semisynchronous replication.

  • Semisynchronous replication must be enabled on both the master and slave sides. If semisynchronous replication is disabled on the master, or enabled on the master but on no slaves, the master uses asynchronous replication.

While the master is blocking (waiting for acknowledgment from a slave after having performed a commit), it does not return to the session that performed the transaction. When the block ends, the master returns to the session, which then can proceed to execute other statements. At this point, the transaction has committed on the master side, and receipt of its events has been acknowledged by at least one slave.

Blocking also occurs after rollbacks that are written to the binary log, which occurs when a transaction that modifies nontransactional tables is rolled back. The rolled-back transaction is logged even though it has no effect for transactional tables because the modifications to the nontransactional tables cannot be rolled back and must be sent to slaves.

For statements that do not occur in transactional context (that is, when no transaction has been started with START TRANSACTION or SET autocommit = 0), autocommit is enabled and each statement commits implicitly. With semisynchronous replication, the master blocks after committing each such statement, just as it does for explicit transaction commits.

To understand what the semi in semisynchronous replication means, compare it with asynchronous and fully synchronous replication:

  • With asynchronous replication, the master writes events to its binary log and slaves request them when they are ready. There is no guarantee that any event will ever reach any slave.

  • With fully synchronous replication, when a master commits a transaction, all slaves also will have committed the transaction before the master returns to the session that performed the transaction. The drawback of this is that there might be a lot of delay to complete a transaction.

  • Semisynchronous replication falls between asynchronous and fully synchronous replication. The master waits after commit only until at least one slave has received and logged the events. It does not wait for all slaves to acknowledge receipt, and it requires only receipt, not that the events have been fully executed and committed on the slave side.

Compared to asynchronous replication, semisynchronous replication provides improved data integrity. When a commit returns successfully, it is known that the data exists in at least two places (on the master and at least one slave). If the master commits but a crash occurs while the master is waiting for acknowledgment from a slave, it is possible that the transaction may not have reached any slave.

Semisynchronous replication also places a rate limit on busy sessions by constraining the speed at which binary log events can be sent from master to slave. When one user is too busy, this will slow it down, which is useful in some deployment situations.

Semisynchronous replication does have some performance impact because commits are slower due to the need to wait for slaves. This is the tradeoff for increased data integrity. The amount of slowdown is at least the TCP/IP roundtrip time to send the commit to the slave and wait for the acknowledgment of receipt by the slave. This means that semisynchronous replication works best for close servers communicating over fast networks, and worst for distant servers communicating over slow networks.

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User Comments
  Posted by Naftali Zakharov on April 30, 2013
There is a useful best practices overview in Ronald Bradford's recent "Replication Techniques in Depth," of which a sample is available here:

This is the place to share an important point he makes in that chapter:

While installing the semisynchronous plugin (in MySQL 5.5 and higher), it is important to monitor the rpl_semi_sync_master_status status variable to disable semisynchronous replication in case of a timeout. The value is OFF if the plugin is not enabled or the master has fallen back to asynchronous replication due to commit acknowledgment timeout.

In the event, the MySQL error log will report the situation, but as a warning, and not an error.

For example:

120617 18:53:09 [Warning] Timeout waiting for reply of binlog (file: alpha-bin.000004, pos: 357), semi-sync up to file , position 0. 120617 18:53:09 [Note] Semi-sync replication switched OFF.
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