VMware Postgres High Availabitity with pg_auto_failover

VMware Postgres includes pg_auto_failover, an open source extension for PostgreSQL. pg_auto_failover facilitates the creation of a High Availability (HA) configuration, monitors replication between Postgres instances, and manages automatic failover for a group of Postgres nodes.

pg_auto_failover was introduced in VMware Postgres 12.6.1, 11.11.1, and 10.16.1, and replaces Patroni for all future VMware Postgres releases.

This page describes:

Creating a High Availability cluster

pg_auto_failover Architecture

The pg_auto_failover architecture requires three key components as a minimum:

  • a pg_auto_failover monitor node that acts both as a witness and an orchestrator
  • a Postgres primary node
  • a Postgres secondary node, using by default a synchronous hot standby setup

This architecture guarantees availability of the Postgres service to users and applications, while automating maintenance operations.

For more details on the key architecture concepts of pg_auto_failover, see Architecture Basics in the pg_auto_failover documentation.

Installing pg_auto_failover

pg_auto_failover is included with the VMware Postgres release, and installed during the rpm package installation. For details see Installing the Postgres Server RPM.

Install the VMware Postgres release on all three nominated hosts, the monitor, primary, and secondary.

pg_auto_failover uses the pg_autoctl utility with subcommands to initialize, manage, and orchestrate the replicated environment. Login to each host, and confirm the pg_auto_failover installation by using:

$ pg_autoctl --version

For the pg_autoctl command reference see Main pg_autoctl commands.

Configuring pg_auto_failover

Prior to creating the HA architecture in your environment, review the important decision points discussed in Configuring pg_auto_failover.

pg_auto_failover relies on the creation of a monitor service that manages one or several HA formations. A formation can contain a group of two or more Postgres nodes.

In the following examples, replace the example hostnames MONITOR-HOST, HA-PRIMARY, and HA-SECONDARY with your network’s fully qualified hostnames.

  • Create the monitor service, similar to:

    $ export PGDATA=/monitor
    $ pg_autoctl create monitor --no-ssl --auth trust --run

    where PGDATA=/monitor is set here for example clarity. Alter the PGDATA environment variable to reflect the data location on your monitor host.

    IMPORTANT: This example creates a monitor in a test environment with no security restrictions (--auth trust), which is not a recommended practice for production environments.


    For further configuration details, including security options, refer to the example in the pg_auto_failover Run a Monitor tutorial or the pg_auto_failover Monitor page.

  • Add the new primary and secondary nodes to the formation.

    On the monitor node, obtain the monitor connection URI, which is used to add the primary and the secondary nodes to the formation.

    $ pg_autoctl show uri --monitor 

    Login to the primary node, and bring up a Postgres instance, adding it to the HA formation:

    $ pg_autoctl create postgres \
       --auth trust \
       --ssl-self-signed \
       --pgdata /primary_data \
       --monitor postgres://autoctl_node@MONITOR-HOST/pg_auto_failover?sslmode=prefer \

    Login to the secondary node, which does not contain any database files and is not initialized, and add it to the formation, similar to:

    $ pg_autoctl create postgres \
        --auth trust \
        --ssl-self-signed \
        --pgdata /secondary_data \
        --monitor postgres://autoctl_node@MONITOR-HOST/pg_auto_failover?sslmode=prefer \

    For further examples, refer to the pg_auto_failover documentation Bring up the nodes, or the pg_auto_failover documentaton command reference for pg_autoctl create postgres.

  • On the monitor, confirm the primary and secondary node architecture, similar to:

    $ pg_autoctl show state --pgdata monitor
    Name   |  Node |         Host:Port |       LSN | Reachable |     Current State |    Assigned State
    node_1 |     1 | HA-PRIMARY:5432   | 0/3000060 |       yes |           primary |           primary
    node_2 |     2 | HA-SECONDARY:5432 | 0/3000060 |       yes |         secondary |         secondary  

    For further details, refer to pg_autoctl show state.

  • Verify the default formation and the postgres uri used to connect to the pg_auto_failover nodes.

     $ pg_autoctl show uri
     Type    |  Name   | Connection String
     monitor | monitor | postgres://autoctl_node@MONITOR-HOST:5432/pg_auto_failover?sslmode=prefer
     formation | default | 

    For details see pg_autoctl show uri.

For examples of failover scenarios, refer to the pg_auto_failover documentation.

Migrating from Patroni High Availability to pg_auto_failover

This topic describes the migration process from an existing Tanzu Postgres Patroni High Availability (HA) solution, to pg_auto_failover HA.

pg_auto_failover is the only supported HA solution from VMware Postgres 13.2.1.

IMPORTANT: Moving from a Patroni HA configuration to pg_auto_failover requires system downtime.


  • Create new 13.2 nodes and move data from the old primary to the new.
  • Create the pg_auto_failover monitor and add the new primary and secondary to the formation.
  • Adjust the pg_auto_failvoer settings to match your old Patroni environment.


The documented migration process is based on a two node Patroni HA installation example, using VMware Postgres 12.6.1 instances. These prerequisites apply to the example scenario, so you must adjust the requirements to suit your environment. To upgrade a two-node VMware Postgres installation you require:

  • A pre-arranged maintenance window to perform the migration. During that period, stop any client access to the VMware Postgres Patroni cluster, to avoid any data modification.
  • Three newly provisioned hosts for the pg_auto_failover architecture: the monitor, the primary, and the secondary. The new hosts should have network access to the old hosts, and adequate data storage capacity to host the existing Postgres 12.6.1 databases.
  • Database superuser admin access to old and new hosts.
  • Familiarity with Postgres tools like pg_dumpall and psql restore.
  • Familiarity with the existing Patroni architecture and some familiarity with pg_auto_failover concepts and architecture.

Migration Procedure

Create new 13.2 nodes and move the old data

  1. (Optional) Take a backup of the Patroni cluster primary node, to ensure you can recover the initial state of the 12.6.1 database node.

  2. (Optional) Save your Patroni configuration files on your local client. These settings will be used as a reference to configure your new pg_auto_failover environment.

  3. Stop the Patroni cluster and the VMware Postgres 12.6.1 instances.

  4. Install the VMware Postgres 13.2.1 release on each of the new nodes: primary, secondary, and pg_auto_failover monitor. For details see Installing the Postgres Server RPM.

  5. Initialize and start the 13.2.1 VMware Postgres instance on the new primary node.

    $ initdb -D /new_primary_data

    where /new_primary_data is the new database file location. Replace with your own values.

    $ pg_ctl -D /new_primary_data start
  6. From the new primary node, take a copy of the 12.6.1 data files using pg_dumpall with a connection URI similar to:

    $ pg_dumpall --dbname=postgres://<user>@<IP-address-old-primary>:<port-old-primary>/postgres?sslmode=prefer  -f /home/postgres/primary_data.sql

    where the URI protocol notation is in the format of <user>@<host>:<port>/<dbname>?optionkey=optionvalue. For more details on the URI parameters, refer to Connection URIs in the PostgreSQL documentation.

    For more details on pg_dumpall, refer to the PostgreSQL pg_dumpall documentation.

  7. Using your preferred copy method (for example, scp), copy the /home/postgres/primary_data.sql file from the old primary node to the new primary. In this example, we used /tmp/new_primary_data.sql as the target location in the new primary.

  8. On the new primary node, use psql to restore the data files, similar to:

    $ psql postgres://<user>@<IP-of-new-primary>:<port of new primary>/postgres?sslmode=prefer -f /tmp/new_primary_data.sql 

    where /tmp/new_primary_data.sql is the source file for the restore.

  9. Inspect the data by running test queries.

  10. Bring down the new 13.2.1 instance.

Create the pg_auto_failover monitor and add the new nodes to the formation

The following examples do not use any strict security settings. Use them only as guidelines.

  1. On the new monitor host, create the pg_auto_failover monitor:

    $ pg_autoctl create monitor \
      --auth trust \
      --ssl-self-signed \
      --pgdata /monitor \
  2. Add the new primary node to the HA formation. Login to the new primary host, and execute pg_autoctl create postgres similar to:

    $ pg_autoctl create postgres \
        --auth trust \
        --ssl-self-signed \
        --monitor postgres://autoctl_node@MONITOR-HOST/pg_auto_failover?sslmode=prefer \

    where MONITOR-HOST is the monitor node example hostname, and 5000 is the example port the monitor instance is running on.

  3. Login to the secondary node, which does not contain any database files and is not initialized, and add it to the HA formation, similar to:

    $ pg_autoctl create postgres \
        --auth trust \
        --ssl-self-signed \
        --pgdata /new_secondary_data \
        --monitor postgres://autoctl_node@MONITOR-HOST/pg_auto_failover?sslmode=prefer \
  4. Verify the state of the configuration, using pg_autoctl show state.

  5. Create a test table on the new primary node and verify that it appears on the secondary node.

  6. Adjust the pg_auto_failvoer settings to match your old Patroni environment, where applicable. Patroni configuration parameters do not map one to one with pg_auto_failover setup parameters.

  7. Establish client connectivity to the new pg_auto_failover cluster and test your client applications.

  8. When all tests are complete, you may drop the old hosts and their data.