12. High Availability (HA)

Digital Rebar v4.6+ supports fully integrated High Availability (HA) in dr-provision via automated failover using consensus (aka Raft) and liveness checking. This capability is fully integrated to the standard Digital Rebar service so an in-place upgrade from Stand Alone mode is possible in v4.6+: a HA enabled license is required.

Manual failover via synchronous replication has been supported since v4.3 and will continue to remain available for the foreseeable future to support live backups, multi-site manager and other distributed operations. This can also be used for HA configuration but is not recommended.

Training Video: https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/w4PBZsYr3zE

12.1. Prerequisites

There are a few conditions that need to be met in order to set up an HA cluster of dr-provision nodes:

  1. A fast network between the nodes you want to run dr-provision on. Data replication between HA nodes uses synchronous log replay and file transfer, so a fast network (at least gigabit Ethernet) is required to not induce too much lag into the system as a whole.

  2. Enough storage space on each node to store a complete copy of all replicated data. dr-provision will wind up replicating all file, ISO, job log, content bundle, plugin, and writable data to all nodes participating in the HA cluster. The underlying storage should be fast enough that write speeds do not become a bottleneck – we recommend backing the data with a fast SSD or NVME device.

  3. A high-availability entitlement in your license. High-availability is a licensed enterprise feature. If you are not sure if your license includes high-availability support, contact support@rackn.com.

  4. All endpoints and the cluster ID must be registered in your license. High-availability is a licensed enterprise feature. If you are not sure if your license includes high-availability support, contact support@rackn.com.

  5. A virtual IP address that client and external traffic can be directed to. If using dr-provision’s internal IL address management (i.e not using the –load-balanced command line option), dr-provision will handle adding and removing the virtual IP from a specified interface and sending out gratuitous ARP packets on failover events, and the nodes forming the HA cluster must be on the same layer 2 network. If using an external load balancer, then the virtual IP must point to the load balancer, and that address will be used by everything outside of the cluster to communicate with whichever cluster node is the active one.

12.2. Consensus HA

Consensus is the feature used to implement high availability with automated failover. This mode requires that you have at least 3 servers in a cluster. More servers in a cluster are also permitted, but there must be an odd number to prevent the cluster from deadlocking in the case of communication failures that isolate half of the cluster from the other half. Consensus also requires a stable IP address:port that can be used for the replication protocol.

12.3. Synchronous Replication (mainly for management and backups)

Synchronous Replication is the feature used to implement high availability with manual failover along with streaming realtime backups from Digital Rebar v4.3.0 thru v4.6.0. It will continue to be present going forward as the realtime backup and protocol, but consensus with automated failover is the supported path for high availability.

This mode may be prefered for non-HA use cases such as creating off-line or off-site backups of a running Digital Rebar system.

12.4. Contraindications

The high-availability support code in dr-provision assumes a model where either:

  • There is a single IP available for the HA cluster. This requires one of the following two items:

    • The machines are in the same layer 2 broadcast domain to allow for moving the HA IP address via gratuitous AR

    • An external load balancer is responsible for holding the virtual IP address and directing all traffic to the current active node.

  • The writable storage that dr-provision uses is not shared (via NFS, iSCSI, drbd, or whatever) between servers running dr-provision.

  • If running in automated failover, there must be at least 3 servers in the cluster, and there must be an odd number of servers in the cluster.

If none of the above are true, then you cannot use dr-provision in high-availability mode.

  • If you are running on separate broadcast domains, you will need to either ensure that there is an alternate mechanism for ensuring that packets destined for the HA IP address get routed correctly, or accept that provisioning operations will fail from the old network until the clients are informed of the new IP address.

  • If you are using a shared storage mechanism (NFS, DRBD, iSCSI, or some form of distributed filesystem), then you should not use our integrated HA support, as it will lead to data corruption. You should also make sure you never run more than one instance of dr-provision on the same backing data at the same time, or the data will be corrupted.

It is possible to use shared storage that replicates extended attributes for the tftproot space. This will reduce transfer times for replication, but only some distributed filesystems or shared devices support extended attribute sharing.

12.5. Configuration

Aside from DRPID and settings listed later in this section, configuration flags and startup options for the dr-provision services participating in an HA cluster should be identical. It is not required that the servers participating in the HA cluster have identical versions, but they must be running on the same OS and system architecture types. If you try to add a server version to a cluster that is incompatible, it will fail with an error telling you what to do to resolve the issue.

12.5.1. Required Licensing

Before installing, ensure that the High Availability flag is set on your RackN license. You must install the license on your first endpoint.

While installed licenses are not required to join other endpoints, each endpoint and the HA ID must be listed in the installed license. Consult Non-UX Update an Existing License for help adding endpoints to a RackN license.

12.5.2. Minimum Cluster Site

Consensus clusters require at least three endpoints. To ensure elections work correctly, there should always be an odd number of endpoints.

12.5.3. Initial State

When building a high availability system, you will start from regularly install Digital Rebar v4.6+ endpoint. A regular installation leaves the endpoint running in “stand alone” mode with High Availability disabled. No specialized configuration flags are required of the endpoints for the cluster.

For the first endpoint enrolled into the cluster, all data and configuration will be preserved. This process will set the HA ID and and virtual IP or Load Balancer configuraiton.

For the subsequent endpoints enrolled into the cluster, all data and configuration will be over written during the enrollment process. For this reason, only a minimal configuration is recommended for the added endpoints.

Reminder: each endpoint in a cluster and the cluster itself must have a unique ID.

12.6. Bootstrapping Consensus via Raft (v4.6.0 and later)

In 4.6 and later, you can bootstrap, add nodes to, and remove nodes from a consensus cluster using drpcli without needing to stop nodes for manual reconfiguration or mess with systemd config files. This is the preferred method of high availability.

12.6.1. Self-enroll the initial active node

To start the initial active node, you can use the drpcli system ha enroll command to have it enroll itself. The form of the command to run is as follows:

drpcli system ha enroll $RS_ENDPOINT username password \
    ConsensusAddr address:port \
    Observer true/false \
    VirtInterface interface \
    VirtInterfaceScript /path/to/script \
    HaID ha-identifier \
    LoadBalanced true/false \
    VirtAddr virtualaddr

The last 3 of those settings can only be specified during self-enroll, and even then they can only be specified if the system you are self-enrolling is not already in a synchronous replication cluster.

You also can only specify VirtInterface and VirtInterfaceScript if LoadBalanced is false.

If any errors are returned during that call, they should be addressed and the command retried. Once the command finished without error, the chosen system will be in a single node Raft cluster that is ready to have other nodes added to the cluster.

12.6.2. Adding additional nodes

To add additional nodes to an existing cluster, you also use drpcli system ha enroll against the current active node in that cluster:

drpcli system ha enroll https://ApiURL_of_target target_username target_password \
    ConsensusAddr address:port \
    Observer true/false \
    VirtInterface interface \
    VirtInterfaceScript /path/to/script

This will get the global HA settings from the active node in the cluster, merge those settings with the per-node settings from the target node and the rest of the settings passed in on the command line, and direct the target node to join the cluster using the merged configuration.

NOTE The current data on the target node will be backed up, and once the target node has joined the cluster it will mirror all data from the existing cluster. All backed up data will be inaccessible from that point.

12.6.3. Other consensus commands

drpcli system ha has several other commands that you can use to examine the state of consensus on a node.

  • drpcli system ha active will get the Consensus ID of the node that is currently responsible for all client communication in a consensus cluster. It is possible for this value to be unset if the active node has failed and the cluster is deciding on a new active node.

  • drpcli system ha dump will dump the user-visible parts of the backing finite state machine that is responsible for keeping track of the state of the cluster.

  • drpcli system ha failOverSafe will return true if there is at least one node in the cluster that is completly up-to-date with the active node, and it will return false otherwise. You can pass a time to wait (up to 5 seconds) for the cluster to be fail over safe as an optional argument.

  • drpcli system ha id returns the Consensus ID of the node you are takling to.

  • drpcli system ha leader returns the Consensus ID of the current leader of the Raft cluster. This can be different than the active ID if the cluster is in the middle of determining which cluster member is best suited to handling external cluster traffic.

  • drpcli system ha peers returns a list of all known cluster members.

  • drpcli system ha state returns the current HA state of an individual node.

  • drpcli system ha remove will remove a node from the cluster using it’s consensus ID (not DRP ID!)

12.7. Troubleshooting

12.7.1. Log Verification

It is normal to see Error during replication: read tcp [passive IP]:45786->[cluster IP]:8092: i/o timeout on the passive endpoints logs when the active endpoint is killed or switches to passive mode. This is an indication that the active endpoint has stopped sending updates.

12.7.2. Transfer Start-up Time

It may take up to a minute for a passive endpoint to come online after it has received -USR1 signals.

12.7.3. Network Interface Locked

It is possible for the HA interface to become locked if you have to stop and restart the service during configuration testing. To clear the interface, use `ip addr del [ha ip] dev [ha interface]`

This happens because Digital Rebar is attaching to (and detaching from) the cluster IP. If this process is interrupted, then the association may not be correctly removed.

12.7.4. WAL File Checksums

When operating correctly, all the WAL files should match on all endpoints. You can check the signature of the wal files using hexdump -C

For example:

cd /var/lib/dr-provision/wal
hexdump -C base.0 |less

12.7.5. Active Endpoint File ha-state is Passive:true


This only applies for Synchronous Replication, and not Consensus.

Digital Rebar uses the ha-state.json file in it’s root directory (typically /var/lib/dr-provision) to track transitions from active to passive state.


removing this file incorrectly can cause very serious problems! This is a last resort solution.

The ha-state.json file has a single item JSON schema that changes from true to false depending on the endpoint HA state. This file can be updated or change to force a reset. The dr-provision server must be restarted afterwards.


When making this changes, stop ALL dr-provision servers in the HA cluster. Fix the state files for all servers. Start the selected Active endpoint first. After it is running, start the passive endpoints.

12.8. Tracking HA State: ha-state.json


This is a system managed file, do not edit it manually!

As of version 4.6.0, the ha-state.json file will be the proxy Source of Truth for all high availability settings. Settings in ha-state.json take precedence over any from the commandline or environment, and they will be automatically updated as conditions change as a result of HA-related API requests and general cluster status changes.

This section decribes the meaning of the components of this state file.

A sample ha-state.json looks like this:

  "ActiveUri": "",
  "ApiUrl": "",
  "ConsensusAddr": "",
  "ConsensusEnabled": false,
  "ConsensusID": "ab0f7bec-5c48-45c3-8970-b3543ec2e9d4",
  "ConsensusJoin": "",
  "Enabled": false,
  "HaID": "",
  "LoadBalanced": false,
  "Observer": false,
  "Passive": false,
  "Roots": [],
  "Token": "",
  "Valid": true,
  "VirtAddr": "",
  "VirtInterface": "",
  "VirtInterfaceScript": ""

12.8.1. ActiveUrl

ActiveUrl is the URL that external services and clients should use to talk to the dr-provision cluster. It is automatically populated when a cluster is created wither via API or by booting with the appropriate command-line options and a missing or invalid ha-state.json. This setting must be the same across all members participating in a cluster, and in a consensus cluster that is enforced by the consensus protocol.

12.8.2. ApiUrl

ApiUrl is the URL used to contact the current node. It is automatically populated on every start of the current node. It is specific to an individual node.

12.8.3. ConsensusAddr

ConsensusAddr is the address:port that all consensus traffic will go over on this node. It is initially populated by the –ha-consensus-addr commandline flag. It is specific to an individual node.

12.8.4. ConsensusEnabled

ConsensusEnabled indicates whether this node can participate in a consensus cluster. It is automatically set to true when ConsensusAddr is not empty. It must be true on all nodes of a consensus cluster, but can be different when using synchronous replication.

12.8.5. ConsensusID

ConsensusID is set when loading an invalid ha-state.json for the first time, and must not be changed afterwards. It is what the node uses to uniquely identify itself to other cluster nodes, and it must be unique.

12.8.6. ConsensusJoin

ConsensusJoin is the URL for the current consensus cluster leader, if any. It is automatically updated by the consensus replication protocol, and should not be manually edited.

12.8.7. Enabled

Enabled is set when either form of high availability is enabled on this node. It corresponds to the –ha-enabled command line option.

12.8.8. HaID

HaID is the shared high-availability ID of the cluster. This setting must be the same across all members participating in a cluster, and in a consensus cluster that is enforced by the consensus protocol. It corresponds to the –ha-id commandline option.

12.8.9. LoadBalanced

LoadBalanced indicates that the HA address is managed by an external load balancer instead of by dr-provision. This setting must be the same across all members participating in a cluster, and in a consensus cluster that is enforced by the consensus protocol. It coresponds to the –ha-load-balanced command line option.

12.8.10. Observer

Observer indicates that this node can participate in a consensus cluster, but cannot become the active dr-provision node. It is intended to be set when you are setting up a server to act as a consensus tiebreaker, realtime backup, repoting endpoint, or similar use.

12.8.11. Passive

Passive indicates that this node is not the active node in the cluster. All nodes but the current active node must be Passive, and in a consensus cluster that is enforced by the consensus replication protocol. It corresponds to the –ha-passive commandline option.

12.8.12. Roots

Roots is the list of current trust roots for the consensus protocol. All consensus traffic is secured via TLS 1.3 mutual authentication, and the self-signed certificates in this list are uses as the trust roots for that mutual auth process. Individual trust roots are valid for 3 months, and are rotated every month.

12.8.13. Token

Token is the authentication token that can be used for nodes participating in the same cluster to talk to each other’s APIs. In both cluster types, Token will be rotated on a regular basis.

12.8.14. Valid

Valid indicates that the state stored in ha-state.json is valid. If state is not valid, it is populated with matching parameters from the command line options, otherwise it takes precedence over command line options.

12.8.15. VirtAddr

VirtAddr is the address that all external traffix to the cluster should sue to communicate to the cluster. If LoadBalanced is true, it should be a raw IP address, otherwise it should be a CIDR address in address/prefix form. It must be the same on all nodes in a cluster, and corresponds to the –ha-address command line option.

12.8.16. VirtInterface

If LoadBalanced is false, VirtInterface is the name of the network interface that VirtAddr will be added or removed from. It is specific to each node, and corresponds to the –ha-interface commandline option.

12.8.17. VirtInterfaceScript

If present, this is the name of the script that will be run whenever we need to add or remove VirtAddr to VirtInterface.It is specific to each node, and corresponds to the –ha-interface-script commandline option.

12.9. Bootstrapping Synchronous Replication (pre-v4.6.0 style)


Provided for legacy support only, upgrade to v4.6 for all HA functions.

This bootstrapping documentation will assume that you are working with dr-provision running as a native service managed by systemd on a Linux server.

12.9.1. The Initially Active Node

To start bootstrapping an HA cluster, start by installing what you want to be the default active dr-provision node. Once it is up and running, create a file named /etc/systemd/system/dr-provision.service.d/20-ha.conf with the following contents:


# RS_HA_ENABLED tells dr-provision to operate in high-availability mode.

# RS_HA_INTERFACE is the network interface that dr-provision will add/remove the
# virtual IP address to.  This interface should be one that machines being managed by
# dr-provision can access.

# RS_HA_ADDRESS is the IP address and netmask in CIDR format that all communication to
# and from dr-provision will use.

# RS_HA_ID is the cluster ID.  This must be the same for all members participating in the cluster.

# RS_HA_TOKEN is a long-lived access token that the cluster nodes will use to authenticate with each other.
# You can generate a usable token with:
#    $ drpcli users token rocketskates ttl 3y |jq -r '.Token'

# RS_HA_PASSIVE is an intial flag (not used after synchronization) to identify the active endpoint.

Once that file is created, reload the config and restart dr-provision:

$ systemctl daemon-reload
$ systemctl restart dr-provision

When dr-provision comes back up, it will be running on the IP address you set aside as the HA IP address.

12.9.2. The Initially Passive Nodes

WARNING: Do not start a passive endpoint(s) in “normal mode.” When installing a passive endpoint, the active endpoint _must_ be available when the endpoint is started.

Perform the same installation steps you used for the initially active node, but change the RS_HA_PASSIVE line to false in the /etc/systemd/system/dr-provision.service.d/20-ha.conf file


which will cause the node to come up as a passive node when you start it up. The first time you start up the node, it will replicate all of the runtime data from the active mode, which (depending on your network bandwidth and how busy the active node is) may take awhile. You can monitor the progress of the replication by watching the output of `journalctl -fu dr-provision` — when it says “Stream switch to realtime streaming” the passive node is fully caught up to the active node.

12.9.3. Switching from Active to Passive

To switch a dr-provision instance between states, an API call will need to be done. drpcli can be used to send that API call. Issuing a POST request with empty JSON object to /api/v3/system/active and /api/v3/system/passive will cause the system to transition to active or passive, respectively.

As of right now, there are no other mechanisms (automated or manual) for changing HA state on a node.


When doing a practice failover, the active endpoint should be stopped first.

To stop the active endpoint (becomes passive):

// deactivate endpoint (goes into passive mode)
drpcli system passive

To promote a passive endpoint to active

// activate endpoint (goes into active mode)
drpcli system active


Prior to v4.5.0, Signals were used to shift state. SIGUSR2 was used to go from active to passive and SIGUSR1 was used to go from passive to active.

Pre v4.6 High Availability Startup Options ———————————~~~~~~~~~


These settings are NOT needed for consensus based HA.

–static-ip (or the environment variable RS_STATIC_IP)

Not specifically a high-availability startup option, if it is configured it must be different on each server.

–drp-id (or the environment variable RS_DRP_ID)

Also not specifically a high-availability startup option, this must be different on each server.

–ha-id (or the environment variable RS_HA_ID)

Must be the same on all nodes participating in an HA cluster.

–ha-enabled (or the environment variable RS_HA_ENABLED)

Must be included on all nodes participating in an HA cluster.

–ha-address (or the environment variable RS_HA_ADDRESS)

This is the IP address and netmask of the virtual IP that the active cluster member will use for communication. It must be in CIDR format (aa.bb.cc.dd/xx) when not using an external load balancer, and a raw IP address when using an external load balancer.

–ha-interface (or the environment variable RS_HA_INTERFACE)

This is the Ethernet interface that the ha address should be added to and removed from when dr-provision transitions between active and passive. Only applicable when not using an external load balancer.

–ha-passive (or the environment variable RS_HA_PASSIVE)

This must be true on the nodes that should start as passive nodes by default. In practice, this means every node after the initial node.

–ha-join (or the environment variable RS_HA_JOIN)

The URL of the active node that should be contacted when starting replication as a passive node in a synchronous replication cluster. If not present, this defaults to https://$RS_HA_ADDRESS:$RS_API_PORT/

–ha-token (or the environment variable RS_HA_TOKEN)

This is the authentication token that HA nodes use to authenticate and communicate with each other. It should be identical across the nodes, and it should be a superuser auth token with a long lifetime. With the default usernames, you can generate such a token with:

drpcli users token rocketskates ttl 3y

and then extracting the Token field from the resulting JSON.

–ha-interface-script (or the environment variable RS_HA_INTERFACE_SCRIPT)

This is the full path to the script that should be run whenever dr-provision needs to add or remove the ha address to the ha interface. If not set, dr-provision defaults to using ip addr add and ip addr del internally on Linux, and ifconfig on Darwin. You can use the following example as a starting point:

#/usr/bin/env bash
# $1 is the action to perform.  "add" and "remove" are the only ones supported for now.
# $2 is the network interface to operate on.  It will be set to the value of --ha-interface.
# $3 is the address to add or remove.  It will be set to the value of --ha-address.
case $1 in
   add)    sudo ip addr add "$3" dev "$2";;
   remove) sudo ip addr del "$3" dev "$2";;
   *) echo "Unknown action $1"; exit 1;;

Customize to taste to suit your preferred method of getting authority to add and remove addresses to interfaces.

–ha-consensus-addr (or the environment variable RS_HA_CONSENSUS_ADDR)

This is the address:port that this node will use for all consensus traffic. It must be accessible by all the nodes that will participate in the cluster, and it will both originate TCP connections and listen for incoming traffic on this address:port combination.