Database Replication - Database Systems Journal

Database Replication - Database Systems Journal
Database Systems Journal vol. I, no. 2/2010
Database Replication
Marius Cristian MAZILU
Academy of Economic Studies, Bucharest, Romania
[email protected], [email protected]
For someone who has worked in an environment in which the same database is used for data
entry and reporting, or perhaps managed a single database server that was utilized by too many
users, the advantages brought by data replication are clear. The main purpose of this paper is to
emphasize those advantages as well as presenting the different types of Database Replication
and the cases in which their use is recommended.
Keywords: Database Replication, Snapshot replication, Merge replication, Transactional
each user actually needs. A complete set of
Imagine a scenario in which you
data is still contained in the Design Master,
but each replica handles only a subset of that
have to develop an application that all the
company’s staff will use to perform different
The Design Master is the first member in
tasks. Each person has a laptop and will be
connected to the company’s network.
a replica set and it is used in the creation of
the first replica in a replica set. You can
This type of application can be
developed in two different ways.
make changes to the database structure only
with the Design Master.
One of those is the traditional approach
of separating the tables from the other
Replicas in the same replica set can take
objects in the database so that the data can
turns being the Design Master, but there can
reside in a back-end database on a network
be only one Design Master at a time in each
server, or on the Internet or an intranet,
replica set.[1]
while the queries, forms, reports, macros,
and modules reside in a separate front-end
2 The concept of Replication
database on the user's computer. The objects
To better understand the method behind
in the front-end database are based on tables
Database Replication we start with the term
that are linked to the back-end database.
“Replication” which represents the process
When users will retrieve or update
of sharing information to ensure consistency
information in the database, they use the
between redundant resources, such as
front-end database.
software or hardware components, to
The second way enables you to take a
improve reliability, fault-tolerance, or
new approach to building this solution by
accessibility. It could be data replication if
creating a single database that contains both
the same data is stored on multiple storage
the data and objects. Using Database
devices, or computation replication if the
replication, you can then make replicas of
same computing task is executed many
the database for each user and synchronize
each replica with the Design Master on a
The access to a replicated entity is
network server.
typically uniform with access to a single,
In this scenario, you can choose to
non-replicated entity. The replication itself
replicate only a portion of the data in the
should be transparent to an external user. In
Design Master, and you can replicate
addition, in a failure scenario, a failover of
different portions for different users by
replicas is hidden as much as possible.
creating partial replicas. By using partial
In systems that replicate data the
replicas, you can duplicate only the data that
replication itself is either active or passive.
We talk about an active replication when
the same request is processed at every
replicated instance and about passive
replication when each request is processed
on a single replica and then its state is
transferred to the other replicas.
If at any time one master replica is
designated to process all the requests, then
we are talking about the primary-backup
scheme (master-slave scheme) predominant
in high-availability clusters.
On the other side, if any replica
processes a request and then distributes a
new state, then this is a multi-primary
scheme (called multi-master in the database
field). [2]
Even thought the process of Data
Replication it’s used to create instances of
the same or parts of the same data, we must
not confuse it with the process of backup
since replicas are frequently updated and
quickly lose any historical state. Backup on
the other hand saves a copy of data
unchanged for a long period of time.
3 What is Database Replication
Database replication is the process of
creating and maintaining multiple instances
of the same database and the process of
sharing data or database design changes
between databases in different locations
without having to copy the entire database.
In most implementations of database
replication, one database server maintains
the master copy of the database and the
additional database servers maintain slave
copies of the database. The two or more
copies of a single database remain
synchronized. [3]
The original database is called a Design
Master and each copy of the database is
called a replica. Together, the Design
Master and the replicas make up a replica
set. There is only one Design Master in a
replica set.
Synchronization is the process of
ensuring that every copy of the database
contains the same objects and data. When
you synchronize the replicas in a replica set,
only the data that has changed is updated.
Database Replication
You can also synchronize changes made to
the design of the objects in the Design
Master. [1]
Database writes are sent to the master
database server and are then replicated by
the slave database servers.
Database reads are divided among all of
the database servers, which results in a large
performance advantage due to load sharing.
In addition, database replication can also
improve availability because the slave
database servers can be configured to take
over the master role if the master database
server becomes unavailable. [3]
4 When to chose Database Replication
replication might not be a simple
proposition. If you have numerous database
servers that need to be involved in various
types of replication, a simple task can
quickly become complex.
Implementing replication can also be
complicated by the application architecture.
However, there are numerous scenarios in
which replication can be utilized.[4]
Database replication is well suited to
business solutions that need to:
• Share
offices. You can use database replication to
create copies of a corporate database to send
to each satellite office across a wide area
network (WAN). Each location enters data
in its replica, and all remote replicas are
synchronized with the replica at corporate
headquarters. Individual replicas can
maintain local tables that contain
information not included in the other
replicas in the set.
• Share data among dispersed
users. New information that is entered in
the database while users are out of the office
can be synchronized any time the users
establish an electronic link with the
corporate network. As part of their workday
routine, users can dial in to the network,
synchronize the replica, and work on the
most current version of the database.
Because only the incremental changes are
transmitted during synchronization, the time
Database Systems Journal vol. I, no. 2/2010
and expense of keeping up-to-date
information are minimized. By using partial
replicas, you can synchronize only specified
parts of the data.
• Make
accessible. If your solution does not need
to have immediate updates to data, you can
use database replication to reduce the
network load on your primary server.
Introducing a second server with its own
copy of the database improves response
time. You determine the schedule for
synchronizing the replicas, and you can
adjust that schedule to meet the changing
needs of your users. Replication requires
less centralized administration of the
database while offering greater access to
centralized data.
• Distribute solution updates. When
automatically replicate not only the data in
your tables, but also your solution's objects.
If you make changes to the design of the
database, the changes are transmitted during
the next synchronization; you don't have to
distribute complete new versions of the
• Back up data. At first glance,
database replication might appear to be very
similar to copying a database. However,
while replication initially makes a complete
copy of the database, thereafter it simply
synchronizes that replica's objects with the
original objects at regular intervals. This
copy can be used to recover data if the
original database is destroyed. Furthermore,
users at any replica can continue to access
the database during the entire backup
• Provide Internet or intranet
replication. You can configure an Internet
or intranet server to be used as a hub for
propagating changes to participating
5 When Database Replication should
not be used
Although database replication has many
benefits and can solve many problems in
distributed-database processing, we should
recognize the fact that in some situations
replication is less then ideal. Database
Replication is not recommended if:
• There are frequent updates of
existing records at multiple replicas.
Solutions that have a large number of record
updates in different replicas are likely to
have more record conflicts than solutions
that simply insert new records in a database.
If changes are made to the same record by
different users and at the same time then
record conflicts will definitely appear. This
can be real time consuming because the
conflicts must be resolved manually.
• Data consistency is critical at all
times. Solutions that rely on information
being correct at all times, such as funds
transfers, airline reservations, and the
tracking of package shipments, usually use a
transaction method. Although transactions
can be processed within a replica, there is no
support for processing transactions across
replicas. The information exchanged
between replicas during synchronization is
the result of the transaction, not the
transaction itself.
6 Methods of performing Database
Database replication can be performed in
at least three different ways:
• Snapshot replication: Data on one
database server is plainly copied to another
database server, or to another database on
the same server.
• Merging replication: Data from two
or more databases is combined into a single
• Transactional replication: Users
obtain complete initial copies of the
database and then obtain periodic updates as
data changes.
6.1 Snapshot replication
This type of Database Replication is one
of the simplest method to set up, and
perhaps the easiest to understand.
The snapshot replication method
functions by periodically sending data in
bulk format. Usually it is used when the
subscribing servers can function in readonly environment, and also when the
subscribing server can function for some
time without updated data. Functioning
without updated data for a period of time is
referred to as latency.
For example, a retail store uses
replication as a means of maintaining an
accurate inventory throughout the district.
Since the inventory can be managed on a
weekly or even monthly basis, the retail
stores can function without updating the
central server for days at a time. This
scenario has a high degree of latency and is
a perfect candidate for snapshot replication.
Additional reasons to use this type of
replication include scenarios with lowbandwidth connections. Since the subscriber
can last for a while without an update, this
provides a solution that is lower in cost than
other methods while still handling the
Snapshot replication also has the added
benefit of being the only replication type in
which the replicated tables are not required
to have a primary key.
Snapshot replication works by reading
the published database and creating files in
the working folder on the distributor. These
files are called snapshot files and contain the
data from the published database as well as
some additional information that will help
create the initial copy on the subscription
Snapshot replication is often used when
needing to browse data such as price lists,
online catalogs, or data for decision support,
where the most current data is not essential
and the data is used as read-only.
Database Replication
Fig.1. Snapshot Replication
Snapshot replication is helpful when:
• Data is mostly static and does not
change often.
• It is acceptable to have copies of data
that are out of date for a period of time.
• Replicating small volumes of data in
which an entire refresh of the data is
6.2 Merging replication
Merge replication is the process of
distributing data from Publisher to
Subscribers, allowing the Publisher and
Subscribers to make updates while
connected or disconnected, and then
merging the updates between sites when
they are connected.
Merge replication allows various sites to
work autonomously and at a later time
merge updates into a single, uniform result.
The initial snapshot is applied to
Subscribers, and then changes are tracked to
published data at the Publisher and at the
Subscribers. The data is synchronized
between servers continuously, at a scheduled
time, or on demand. Because updates are
made at more than one server, the same data
may have been updated by the Publisher or
by more than one Subscriber. Therefore,
conflicts can occur when updates are
Merge replication includes default and
custom choices for conflict resolution that
you can define as you configure a merge
publication. When a conflict occurs, a
Database Systems Journal vol. I, no. 2/2010
resolver is invoked by the Merge Agent and
determines which data will be accepted and
propagated to other sites.
Merge Replication is helpful when:
• Multiple Subscribers need to update
data at various times and propagate those
changes to the Publisher and to other
• Subscribers need to receive data,
make changes offline, and later synchronize
changes with the Publisher and other
• You do not expect many conflicts
when data is updated at multiple sites
(because the data is filtered into partitions
and then published to different Subscribers
or because of the uses of your application).
However, if conflicts do occur, violations of
ACID properties are acceptable.[1]
6.3 Transactional replication
In what could be considered the opposite
of snapshot replication, transactional
replication works by sending changes to the
subscriber as they happen.
As an example, SQL Server processes
all actions within the database using
Transact-SQL statements. Each completed
statement is called a transaction.
In transactional replication, each
committed transaction is replicated to the
subscriber as it occurs. You can control the
replication process so that it will accumulate
transactions and send them at timed
intervals, or transmit all changes as they
occur. You use this type of replication in
environments having a lower degree of
latency and higher bandwidth connections.
continuous and reliable connection, because
the Transaction Log will grow quickly if the
server is unable to connect for replication
and might become unmanageable.
Transactional replication begins with a
snapshot that sets up the initial copy. That
copy is then later updated by the copied
transactions. You can choose how often to
update the snapshot, or choose not to update
the snapshot after the first copy.
Once the initial snapshot has been
copied, transactional replication uses the
Log Reader agent to read the Transaction
Log of the published database and stores
new transactions in the DISTRIBUTION
Database. The Distribution agent then
transfers the transactions from the publisher
to the subscriber.
Fig.2. How it works:
Transactional Replication [1]
Transactional replication with updating
An offshoot of standard transactional
replication, this method of replication
basically works the same way, but adds to
subscribers the ability to update data. When
a subscriber makes a change to data locally,
SQL Server uses the Microsoft Distributed
Transaction Coordinator (MSDTC), a
component included with SQL Server 2000,
to execute the same transaction on the
Database Replication
publisher. This process allows for
replication scenarios in which the published
data is considered read-only most of the
time, but can be changed at the subscriber
on occasion if needed. Transactional
replication with updating subscribers
requires a permanent and reliable connection
of medium to high bandwidth. [5]
Transactional replication is helpful
• You want incremental changes to be
propagated to Subscribers as they
• You need transactions to adhere to
ACID properties.
• Subscribers are reliably and/or
Clients at the site to which the data is
replicated experience improved performance
because those clients can access data locally
rather than connecting to a remote database
server over a network and clients at all sites
availability of
replicated data. If the local copy of the
replicated data is unavailable, clients can
still access the remote copy of the data.
In a few words replication improves with
availability and being highly distributed.
Consider companies where users are
disconnected during the day but need to
information automatically after normal
working hours. Database Replication
provides an easy solution when data must be
highly distributed.
7 Conclusions
It is obvious that Database Replication
it’s not a very simple process but if applied
in the right circumstances it can be an
extraordinary solution for developing better
applications, for improving performance and
for better experience for users.
These advantages do not come without a
cost. Data replication obviously requires
more storage, and updating replicated data
can take more processing time than updating
a single object.
In the same time, Database Replication
can turn out to be complicated when it
increases in size and magnitude but used
considerably your data infrastructure.
[2] WikiPedia -
[3] Community for sharing technology
information -
[4] IT information, Introduction to Database
[5] Mark A. Linsenbardt, Shane Stigler
“McGraw-Hill/Osborne Media book
SQL Server 2000 Administration” Chapter 10, 'Replication'
[6] Sql Server Library TechNet – Microsoft
Marius Cristian Mazilu graduated from the Faculty of Cybernetics,
Statistics and Economic Informatics of the Academy of Economic Studies in
2008. He got his Master Degree in the Database support for businesses
department of the Academy of Economic Studies in 2010. He is currently
attending the PhD program of the Academy of Economic Studies in the field
of Economic Informatics. His domains of work are: Development and
Management of Database Applications, Developing Web Applications for
Businesses and Web Marketing.
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