Ultra-high-availability (HA) encompasses a range of techniques and strategies designed to ensure uninterrupted access to databases for the longest feasible durations. Essentially, it's the system's capacity to maintain consistent operation, even when faced with the failure of one or more pivotal components. For applications deemed mission-critical, high availability is an indispensable requirement, rather than a mere luxury.

The core principle behind HA is the concept of redundancy. A robust system that supports HA is architected in such a way that if a component breaks down, its duties are instantaneously handed over to another component, preventing any operational disruption. This redundancy guarantees that databases remain responsive, even amidst potential system malfunctions.

Given PostgreSQL's reputation as a leading open-source relational database, it's frequently chosen for scenarios that involve processing vast amounts of vital data. The implications of downtime in this context can be severe, resulting in substantial economic setbacks, eroding user confidence, and risking data discrepancies. 

Here's a breakdown of why ultra-high availability is important:

  • Economic Stakes - Even brief periods of inactivity can result in considerable financial repercussions, especially in sectors that necessitate real-time data operations, like e-commerce sites, financial trading platforms, and digital banking services.

  • Data Consistency - Data consistency, especially within transaction-driven databases, is of utmost importance. A sudden system malfunction could compromise data integrity. However, HA practices ensure data remains coherent even amidst system disturbances.

  • Brand Confidence - For platforms interacting directly with consumers, prolonged downtimes can diminish user loyalty. Recurring operational hiccups can tarnish a brand's reputation, resulting in client attrition.

  • Business Fluidity - Data is a cornerstone for organizational decision-making processes. An interruption in data access can disrupt business operations, potentially causing a ripple effect across various business verticals.

  • Efficiency and Scalability -  HA's significance isn't confined to merely thwarting system failures. Features like load balancing, intrinsic to HA, allocate incoming database tasks across several servers. This ensures equitable distribution, preventing any single server from becoming overwhelmed. Consequently, the database's overall efficacy is enhanced, more so during high-traffic periods.

When it comes to PostgreSQL, the realization of high availability is augmented by an array of tools and methodologies. If a primary server becomes non-operational, a backup server can swiftly assume its role, maintaining uninterrupted service. Solutions such as Patroni, when integrated with distributed configuration systems like etcd, further amplify PostgreSQL's resilience by introducing automated recovery features.

Building a Fortress

Achieving ultra-high availability in PostgreSQL is akin to constructing a fortress with multiple layers of protection. This heightened level of availability layers fail-safe mechanisms to ensure the continuity and resilience of the database operations.

pgEdge Ultra-High Availability

  • Zonal Architecture -  A pgEdge cluster is structured across multiple zones. Each of these zones operates independently yet remains interconnected, forming an intricate web of data exchange and backup. The zonal architecture plays a pivotal role in distributing the load, thus adding another layer of fault tolerance. If one zone faces issues, the operations can be swiftly redirected to another functioning zone, minimizing the risk of service disruptions.

  • Multi-Master Replication with pgEdge’s Spock -  Zones are not isolated entities. They communicate and replicate data amongst themselves using multi-master replication, facilitated by pgEdge Spock. This ensures that every zone has up-to-date data and can take over as the 'master' if another zone fails. It's like having multiple leaders on standby, ready to take charge should one fall.

  • Intra-Zonal Redundancy with etcd and Patroni -  Within each zone, the edge nodes (primary contact points) have additional backup mechanisms. They maintain two synchronous replicas, orchestrated by etcd and managed by Patroni. This intra-zonal redundancy ensures that even if a pgEdge node encounters an issue, there's an immediate backup within the same zone ready to take over without missing a beat. It’s like a safety net within a safety net.

Spock, Patroni, and etcd

In essence, with help from pgEdge Spock, Patroni, and etcd, PostgreSQL doesn’t just aim for high availability; it reaches ultra-high availability.

Physical Replication
It’s an intricate dance of redundancy and replication, ensuring that your data remains accessible and intact, even when faced with multiple points of failure.

Why Use Patroni?

Patroni has emerged as a powerful, open-source solution to address failover management requirements for PostgreSQL databases. Built on top of the distributed configuration stores (like etcd, ZooKeeper or Consul), it's designed to manage PostgreSQL high availability.

Here are some reasons why Patroni shines:

  • Dynamic Configuration - Patroni allows on-the-fly configuration changes, reducing the need for restarts and ensuring constant availability.

  • Automated Failover - If the master node goes down, Patroni ensures that one of the replicas is promoted as the new master, ensuring continuity.

  • REST API for Management - Patroni comes with a built-in REST API, allowing for easy management and integration with other tools.

  • Flexible and Extensible - While it provides sensible defaults, Patroni can be customized for various setups and requirements.

Why Use etcd?

A distributed system requires a reliable way to store configuration data in a key-value format. This need has given birth to distributed key-value stores, and etcd stands out as a frontrunner for PostgreSQL in this domain. Originated from the Kubernetes ecosystem, etcd is a consistent and highly-available key-value store used for shared configuration and service discovery. In this blog, we'll delve into the steps to install and configure etcd for your projects. Before diving into the setup, it's crucial to understand why etcd is a preferred choice.

  • Strong Consistency -  Based on the raft consensus algorithm, etcd ensures that every read receives the latest write.

  • Reliability - It provides a multi-node setup ensuring high availability.

  • Simple API - Using HTTP/gRPC, it's straightforward to integrate with various applications.

  • Watch Mechanism - Applications can watch specific keys and get notified on changes, a boon for real-time configurations.

Using an Automated Failover Solution

PostgreSQL failover refers to the process of ensuring database availability when the primary database server becomes unavailable due to hardware or software failures. During failover, the once primary database server is replaced by a standby server; optionally, the primary database server may be returned to the cluster (as either a primary or as a standby) when it once again becomes available. Failover mechanisms are a key part of a well-architected system that maintains database uptime and minimizes data loss in the event of server failures.

During failover, your primary goal is to maintain database availability and data integrity. Even when the primary server experiences issues, your system must remain accessible to users. By replicating committed transactions to standby servers and quickly promoting a standby that is up-to-date, you minimize the risk of both down time and data loss. 

PostgreSQL failover can be automatic or manual. A robust automatic failover system (like those developed by pgEdge) typically includes a monitoring and detection mechanism that identifies when a server becomes unresponsive or unavailable and triggers the failover process. Load balancer software supports failover by distributing database traffic across multiple servers; in the event of a failover, a good load balancer can be configured to automatically redirect client connections to the new primary node. For businesses with customer-facing applications, having dependable software in place to support failover is crucial.

Manual failover, on the other hand, requires human monitoring and intervention to initiate the promotion of a standby node to become a primary node. To facilitate failover, one or more standby servers are kept in sync with the primary server using mechanisms like streaming replication or logical replication. This can ensure data redundancy and data consistency, and in a development environment, is often sufficient.

Whether your system uses automated or manual failover, pgEdge provides software that ensures data integrity and minimizes data loss. pgEdge failover mechanisms, when properly configured, provide a level of fault tolerance and high availability critical for mission-critical applications and services. These mechanisms help ensure that your database remains operational even in the presence of hardware failures, software crashes, or routine maintenance.


High Availability (HA) is a vital aspect of PostgreSQL database management, ensuring uninterrupted database services even in the face of server failure or maintenance activities. 

A well-designed HA system also integrates monitoring and detection tools that trigger failover procedures upon detecting primary server issues. Using read replicas and controlled switchover for planned maintenance contributes to improved query performance and data reliability. This architecture includes load balancing to redirect client connections seamlessly during a failover scenario. These practices guarantee data integrity, making PostgreSQL an ideal choice for mission-critical applications and distributed environments. 

pgEdge's HA solutions make use of redundant replication, where standby servers continuously synchronize with a well-monitored primary, ensuring data redundancy and near real-time data consistency. Automated monitoring software watches your cluster; if the primary server becomes unavailable, failover mechanisms kick in to promote a standby to take its place and reassign client connections to the new primary. 

Complements to pgEdge's HA measures include developing solid data archiving and backup strategies to further enhance data protection and recovery capabilities. pgEdge experts can provide assistance if needed.

To learn more, watch the webinar “How to Unleach Ultra-high Availability and Zero Downtime Maintenance with Distributed PostgreSQL.”