Kubernetes Multi-Cluster Deployments

PostgreSQL Operator High-Availability Overview

Advanced high-availability and disaster recovery strategies involve spreading your database clusters across multiple data centers to help maximize uptime. In Kubernetes, this technique is known as “federation”. Federated Kubernetes clusters are able to communicate with each other, coordinate changes, and provide resiliency for applications that have high uptime requirements.

As of this writing, federation in Kubernetes is still in ongoing development and is something we monitor with intense interest. As Kubernetes federation continues to mature, we wanted to provide a way to deploy PostgreSQL clusters managed by the PostgreSQL Operator that can span multiple Kubernetes clusters. This can be accomplished with a few environmental setups:

  • Two Kubernetes clusters
  • An external storage system, using one of the following:
    • S3, or an external storage system that uses the S3 protocol OR
    • GCS

At a high-level, the PostgreSQL Operator follows the “active-standby” data center deployment model for managing the PostgreSQL clusters across Kuberntetes clusters. In one Kubernetes cluster, the PostgreSQL Operator deploy PostgreSQL as an “active” PostgreSQL cluster, which means it has one primary and one-or-more replicas. In another Kubernetes cluster, the PostgreSQL cluster is deployed as a “standby” cluster: every PostgreSQL instance is a replica.

A side-effect of this is that in each of the Kubernetes clusters, the PostgreSQL Operator can be used to deploy both active and standby PostgreSQL clusters, allowing you to mix and match! While the mixing and matching may not ideal for how you deploy your PostgreSQL clusters, it does allow you to perform online moves of your PostgreSQL data to different Kubernetes clusters as well as manual online upgrades.

Lastly, while this feature does extend high-availability, promoting a standby cluster to an active cluster is not automatic. While the PostgreSQL clusters within a Kubernetes cluster do support self-managed high-availability, a cross-cluster deployment requires someone to specifically promote the cluster from standby to active.

Standby Cluster Overview

Standby PostgreSQL clusters are managed just like any other PostgreSQL cluster that is managed by the PostgreSQL Operator. For example, adding replicas to a standby cluster is identical to before: you can use pgo scale.

As the architecture diagram above shows, the main difference is that there is no primary instance: one PostgreSQL instance is reading in the database changes from the S3 or GCS repository, while the other replicas are replicas of that instance. This is known as cascading replication. replicas are cascading replicas, i.e. replicas replicating from a database server that itself is replicating from another database server.

Because standby clusters are effectively read-only, certain functionality that involves making changes to a database, e.g. PostgreSQL user changes, is blocked while a cluster is in standby mode. Additionally, backups and restores are blocked as well. While pgBackRest does support backups from standbys, this requires direct access to the primary database, which cannot be done until the PostgreSQL Operator supports Kubernetes federation. If a blocked function is called on a standby cluster via the pgo client or a direct call to the API server, the call will return an error.

Key Commands

pgo create cluster

This first step to creating a standby PostgreSQL cluster is…to create a PostgreSQL standby cluster. We will cover how to set this up in the example below, but wanted to provide some of the standby-specific flags that need to be used when creating a standby cluster. These include:

  • --standby: Creates a cluster as a PostgreSQL standby cluster
  • --password-superuser: The password for the postgres superuser account, which performs a variety of administrative actions.
  • --password-replication: The password for the replication account (primaryuser), used to maintain high-availability.
  • --password: The password for the standard user account created during PostgreSQL cluster initialization.
  • --pgbackrest-repo-path: The specific pgBackRest repository path that should be utilized by the standby cluster. Allows a standby cluster to specify a path that matches that of the active cluster it is replicating.
  • --pgbackrest-storage-type: Must be set to either s3 or gcs

If you are using S3 or an S3-compatible storage system, you will need to set the following flags:

  • --pgbackrest-s3-key: The S3 key to use
  • --pgbackrest-s3-key-secret: The S3 key secret to use
  • --pgbackrest-s3-bucket: The S3 bucket to use
  • --pgbackrest-s3-endpoint: The S3 endpoint to use
  • --pgbackrest-s3-region: The S3 region to use

If you are using GCS, you will need to set the following flags:

  • --pgbackrest-gcs-bucket: The GCS bucket to use
  • --pgbackrest-gcs-key: A reference to a file on your local system that contains the GCS key information

If you do not want to set the user credentials, you can retrieve them at a later time by using the pgo show user command with the --show-system-accounts flag, e.g.

pgo show user --show-system-accounts hippo

With respect to the credentials, it should be noted that when the standby cluster is being created within the same Kubernetes cluster AND it has access to the Kubernetes Secret created for the active cluster, one can use the --secret-from flag to set up the credentials.

pgo update cluster

pgo update cluster is responsible for the promotion and disabling of a standby cluster, and contains several flags to help with this process:

  • --enable-standby: Enables standby mode in a cluster for a cluster. This will bootstrap a PostgreSQL cluster to become aligned with the current active cluster and begin to follow its changes.
  • --promote-standby: Enables standby mode in a cluster. This is a destructive action that results in the deletion of all PVCs for the cluster (data will be retained according Storage Class and/or Persistent Volume reclaim policies). In order to allow the proper deletion of PVCs, the cluster must also be shutdown.
  • --shutdown: Scales all deployments for the cluster to 0, resulting in a full shutdown of the PG cluster. This includes the primary, any replicas, as well as any supporting services (pgBackRest and pgBouncer if enabled).
  • --startup: Scales all deployments for the cluster to 1, effectively starting a PG cluster that was previously shutdown. This includes the primary, any replicas, as well as any supporting services (pgBackRest and pgBouncer if enabled). The primary is brought online first in order to maintain a consistent primary/replica architecture across startups and shutdowns.

Creating a Standby PostgreSQL Cluster

Let’s create a PostgreSQL deployment that has both an active and standby cluster! You can try this example either within a single Kubernetes cluster, or across multuple Kubernetes clusters.

First, deploy a new active PostgreSQL cluster that is configured to use S3 or GCS with pgBackRest.

An example that uses S3:

pgo create cluster hippo --pgbouncer --replica-count=2 \
  --pgbackrest-storage-type=posix,s3 \
  --pgbackrest-s3-key=<redacted> \
  --pgbackrest-s3-key-secret=<redacted> \
  --pgbackrest-s3-bucket=watering-hole \
  --pgbackrest-s3-endpoint=s3.amazonaws.com \
  --pgbackrest-s3-region=us-east-1 \
  --password-superuser=supersecrethippo \
  --password-replication=somewhatsecrethippo \

An example that uses GCS:

pgo create cluster hippo --pgbouncer --replica-count=2 \
  --pgbackrest-storage-type=posix,gcs \
  --pgbackrest-gcs-bucket=watering-hole \
  --pgbackrest-gcs-key=/path/to/your/gcs/credentials.json \
  --password-superuser=supersecrethippo \
  --password-replication=somewhatsecrethippo \

(Replace the placeholder values with your actual values. We are explicitly setting all of the passwords for the primary cluster to make it easier to run the example as is).

The above command creates an active PostgreSQL cluster with two replicas and a pgBouncer deployment. Wait a few moments for this cluster to become live before proceeding.

Once the cluster has been created, you can then create the standby cluster. This can either be in another Kubernetes cluster or within the same Kubernetes cluster. If using a separate Kubernetes cluster, you will need to provide the proper passwords for the superuser and replication accounts. You can also provide a password for the regular PostgreSQL database user created during cluster initialization to ensure the passwords and associated secrets across both clusters are consistent.

(If the standby cluster is being created using the same PostgreSQL Operator deployment (and therefore the same Kubernetes cluster), the --secret-from flag can also be used in lieu of these passwords. You would specify the name of the cluster [e.g. hippo] as the value of the --secret-from variable.)

With this in mind, create a standby cluster. Below are examples that allow you to create a standby cluster using S3 and GCS.

With S3:

pgo create cluster hippo-standby --standby --pgbouncer --replica-count=2 \
  --pgbackrest-storage-type=s3 \
  --pgbackrest-s3-key=<redacted> \
  --pgbackrest-s3-key-secret=<redacted> \
  --pgbackrest-s3-bucket=watering-hole \
  --pgbackrest-s3-endpoint=s3.amazonaws.com \
  --pgbackrest-s3-region=us-east-1 \
  --pgbackrest-repo-path=/backrestrepo/hippo-backrest-shared-repo \
  --password-superuser=supersecrethippo \
  --password-replication=somewhatsecrethippo \

With GCS:

pgo create cluster hippo-standby --standby --pgbouncer --replica-count=2 \
  --pgbackrest-storage-type=gcs \
  --pgbackrest-gcs-bucket=watering-hole \
  --pgbackrest-gcs-key=/path/to/your/gcs/credentials.json \
  --pgbackrest-repo-path=/backrestrepo/hippo-backrest-shared-repo \
  --password-superuser=supersecrethippo \
  --password-replication=somewhatsecrethippo \

(If you are unsure of your credentials, you can use pgo show user hippo --show-system-accounts to retrieve them).

Note the use of the --pgbackrest-repo-path flag as it points to the name of the pgBackRest repository that is used for the original hippo cluster.

At this point, the standby cluster will bootstrap as a standby along with two cascading replicas. pgBouncer will be deployed at this time as well, but will remain non-functional until hippo-standby is promoted. To see that the Pod is indeed a standby, you can check the logs.

kubectl logs hippo-standby-dcff544d6-s6d58
Thu Mar 19 18:16:54 UTC 2020 INFO: Node standby-dcff544d6-s6d58 fully initialized for cluster standby and is ready for use
2020-03-19 18:17:03,390 INFO: Lock owner: standby-dcff544d6-s6d58; I am standby-dcff544d6-s6d58
2020-03-19 18:17:03,454 INFO: Lock owner: standby-dcff544d6-s6d58; I am standby-dcff544d6-s6d58
2020-03-19 18:17:03,598 INFO: no action.  i am the standby leader with the lock
2020-03-19 18:17:13,389 INFO: Lock owner: standby-dcff544d6-s6d58; I am standby-dcff544d6-s6d58
2020-03-19 18:17:13,466 INFO: no action.  i am the standby leader with the lock

You can also see that this is a standby cluster from the pgo show cluster command.

pgo show cluster hippo

cluster : standby (crunchy-postgres-ha:ubi8-13.12-4.7.12)
       standby : true

Promoting a Standby Cluster

There comes a time where a standby cluster needs to be promoted to an active cluster. Promoting a standby cluster means that a PostgreSQL instance within it will become a primary and start accepting both reads and writes. This has the net effect of pushing WAL (transaction archives) to the pgBackRest repository, so we need to take a few steps first to ensure we don’t accidentally create a split-brain scenario.

First, if this is not a disaster scenario, you will want to “shutdown” the active PostgreSQL cluster. This can be done with the --shutdown flag:

pgo update cluster hippo --shutdown

The effect of this is that all the Kubernetes Deployments for this cluster are scaled to 0. You can verify this with the following command:

kubectl get deployments --selector pg-cluster=hippo

NAME                             READY   UP-TO-DATE   AVAILABLE   AGE
hippo                        0/0     0            0           32m
hippo-backrest-shared-repo   0/0     0            0           32m
hippo-kvfo                   0/0     0            0           27m
hippo-lkge                   0/0     0            0           27m
hippo-pgbouncer              0/0     0            0           31m

We can then promote the standby cluster using the --promote-standby flag:

pgo update cluster hippo-standby --promote-standby

This command essentially removes the standby configuration from the Kubernetes cluster’s DCS, which triggers the promotion of the current standby leader to a primary PostgreSQL instance. You can view this promotion in the PostgreSQL standby leader’s (soon to be active leader’s) logs:

kubectl logs hippo-standby-dcff544d6-s6d58
2020-03-19 18:28:11,919 INFO: Reloading PostgreSQL configuration.
server signaled
2020-03-19 18:28:16,792 INFO: Lock owner: standby-dcff544d6-s6d58; I am standby-dcff544d6-s6d58
2020-03-19 18:28:16,850 INFO: Reaped pid=5377, exit status=0
2020-03-19 18:28:17,024 INFO: no action.  i am the leader with the lock
2020-03-19 18:28:26,792 INFO: Lock owner: standby-dcff544d6-s6d58; I am standby-dcff544d6-s6d58
2020-03-19 18:28:26,924 INFO: no action.  i am the leader with the lock

As pgBouncer was enabled for the cluster, the pgbouncer user’s password is rotated, which will bring pgBouncer online with the newly promoted active cluster. If pgBouncer is still having trouble connecting, you can explicitly rotate the password with the following command:

pgo update pgbouncer --rotate-password hippo-standby

With the standby cluster now promoted, the cluster with the original active PostgreSQL cluster can now be turned into a standby PostgreSQL cluster. This is done by deleting and recreating all PVCs for the cluster and re-initializing it as a standby using the S3 or GCS repository. Being that this is a destructive action (i.e. data will only be retained if any Storage Classes and/or Persistent Volumes have the appropriate reclaim policy configured) a warning is shown when attempting to enable standby.

pgo update cluster hippo --enable-standby
Enabling standby mode will result in the deletion of all PVCs for this cluster!
Data will only be retained if the proper retention policy is configured for any associated storage classes and/or persistent volumes.
Please proceed with caution.
WARNING: Are you sure? (yes/no): yes
updated pgcluster hippo

To verify that standby has been enabled, you can check the DCS configuration for the cluster to verify that the proper standby settings are present.

kubectl get cm hippo-config -o yaml | grep standby
    %f \"%p\""},"use_pg_rewind":true,"use_slots":false},"standby_cluster":{"create_replica_methods":["pgbackrest_standby"],"restore_command":"source

Also, the PVCs for the cluster should now only be a few seconds old, since they were recreated.

kubectl get pvc --selector pg-cluster=hippo
NAME                  STATUS   VOLUME          CAPACITY AGE
hippo             Bound    crunchy-pv251   1Gi      33s
hippo-kvfo        Bound    crunchy-pv174   1Gi      29s
hippo-lkge        Bound    crunchy-pv228   1Gi      26s
hippo-pgbr-repo   Bound    crunchy-pv295   1Gi      22s

And finally, the cluster can be restarted:

pgo update cluster hippo --startup

At this point, the cluster will reinitialize from scratch as a standby, just like the original standby that was created above. Therefore any transactions written to the original standby, should now replicate back to this cluster.