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Excerpts from this Manual Group Replication

Group Replication is a technique that can be used to implement fault-tolerant systems. The replication group is a set of servers that interact with each other through message passing. The communication layer provides a set of guarantees such as atomic message and total order message delivery. These are very powerful properties that translate into very useful abstractions that one can resort to build more advanced database replication solutions.

MySQL Group Replication builds on top of such properties and abstractions and implements a multi-master update everywhere replication protocol. In essence, a replication group is formed by multiple servers and each server in the group may execute transactions independently. But all read-write (RW) transactions commit only after they have been approved by the group. Read-only (RO) transactions need no coordination within the group and thus commit immediately. In other words, for any RW transaction the group needs to decide whether it commits or not, thus the commit operation is not a unilateral decision from the originating server. To be precise, when a transaction is ready to commit at the originating server, the server atomically broadcasts the write values (rows changed) and the correspondent write set (unique identifiers of the rows that were updated). Then a global total order is established for that transaction. Ultimately, this means that all servers receive the same set of transactions in the same order. As a consequence, all servers apply the same set of changes in the same order, therefore they remain consistent within the group.

However, there may be conflicts between transactions that execute concurrently on different servers. Such conflicts are detected by inspecting the write sets of two different and concurrent transactions, in a process called certification. If two concurrent transactions, that executed on different servers, update the same row, then there is a conflict. The resolution procedure states that the transaction that was ordered first commits on all servers, whereas the transaction ordered second aborts, and thus is rolled back on the originating server and dropped by the other servers in the group. This is in fact a distributed first commit wins rule.

Figure 17.3 MySQL Group Replication Protocol

A transaction received by Master 1 is executed. Master 1 then sends a message to the replication group, consisting of itself, Master 2, and Master 3. When all three members have reached consensus, they certify the transaction. Master 1 then writes the transaction to its binary log, commits it, and sends a response to the client application. Masters 2 and 3 write the transaction to their relay logs, then apply it, write it to the binary log, and commit it.

Finally, Group Replication is a shared-nothing replication scheme where each server has its own entire copy of the data.

The figure above depicts the MySQL Group Replication protocol and by comparing it to MySQL Replication (or even MySQL semisynchronous replication) you can see some differences. Note that some underlying consensus and Paxos related messages are missing from this picture for the sake of clarity.