Configuring PuppetDB for High Availability

In Puppet Enterprise 2016.5 and later, PuppetDB may be configured for high availability in order to withstand network partitions or system failure.

PuppetDB is automatically configured for high availability as part of an HA deployment of Puppet Enterprise. For more information about high availability in Puppet Enterprise, see High availability overview.

HA Overview

PuppetDB HA has two parts: first, Puppet Server is configured to send commands and queries to multiple PuppetDB servers. Second, those servers are configured to periodically reconcile their differences, transferring any records which they are missing. This process is pull-based and runs on a configurable interval.

PuppetDB replication is in principle a multi-leader system. You can issue commands to any server, and they can be reconciled with any other server without conflicts. But, in order to minimize confusion when using exported resources, we recommend that only one node be conventionally treated as primary. See below for further discussion.

PuppetDB HA is available in Puppet Enterprise 2016.5 and later.

Manual Installation and Configuration

  1. Provision two PuppetDB nodes. Designate one of these as your primary PuppetDB, and the other as the replica. Be sure that each PuppetDB is using its own PostgreSQL cluster, because HA doesn't buy you anything if you have single database. In this guide, we will give them the hostnames and

  2. Configure each PuppetDB to pull from the other. This guide will use HOCON-style configuration. See the PE Configuration Documentation for further details.

a. Configure primary-puppetdb to pull from replica-puppetdb by placing this in its config file:

     server_urls =
     intervals = 2m

b. Configure replica-puppetdb to pull from primary-puppetdb:

     server_urls =
     intervals = 2m
  1. Configure the Puppet Server to point to both of your PuppetDB instances. In your puppetdb.conf, use this as your server configuration (in the 'main' section):

     server_urls =,
     sticky_read_failover = true
     command_broadcast = true

    It is important that your primary PuppetDB appear first in this list, so it will always be tried first when submitting new data from the Puppet Server.

  2. Restart your PuppetDBs and your Puppet Server.

Deployment tips

  • Each PuppetDB server should be configured to use a separate PostgreSQL instance.

  • If you are using multiple compile Server, be sure that their clocks are in sync (using NTP, for example). PuppetDB relies on timestamps for discerning which data is newer for any given node, so the clocks on your compile servers need to be within runinterval of each other.

  • The timeout for HTTP connections made by Puppet Server, including those to PuppetDB, can be configured using the http-client.connect-timeout-milliseconds key. This defaults to 120 seconds, which is a good value for communications with single services. But for PuppetDB HA to work well, you should use a considerably smaller timeout. The exact value will depend on your infrastructure, but 10 seconds is a good place to start. A catalog compilation can require as many as 4 timeouts, so be sure that you choose a value that is less that 25% of the timeout configured on any upstream load balancers. See the Puppet Server configuration documentation for details.


Q: Why not just use PostgreSQL streaming replication?

A: The principal goal of PuppetDB's HA solution is to ensure that Puppet runs can succeed despite server outages and intermittent network connections. The replica must be writable for this, and PostgreSQL streaming replication only provides a read-only replica. If you need such a replica for performance reasons, then streaming replication works very well.

There are other replication solutions available for PostgreSQL that do provide write availability. Some of these use a leader election system to choose which database is writable. This can work, but it tends to be difficult to deploy and operate.

Others accept writes to all databases, recording conflicts for later resolution by the application. For PuppetDB, handling such conflicts at the database level would be very complex. Conversely, at the application level we can treat the entities as they are treated through the rest of the Puppet stack (e.g. a whole catalog vs. the many database rows required to store its resources). This facilitates simple, deterministic conflict resolution.

Q: What's the deal with exported resources?

A: Exported resources are a great feature, but you need to be careful when using them. In particular: because PuppetDB is eventually consistent, changes to exported resources will eventually be visible on other nodes (not immediately). This is true in any PuppetDB installation, but there is an added subtlety which you should be aware of when using an HA configuration:

In failover scenarios, exported resources may appear to go back in time. This can happen if commands have been written to your primary PuppetDB but haven't yet been copied to the replica. If the primary PuppetDB becomes unreachable in this state, exported resource queries will be redirected to the replica, which does not yet have the latest data.

This problem is significantly mitigated by using the command_broadcast flag in puppetdb.conf, as recommended above. By pushing all data to the replica PuppetDB when doing the initial write, the replica should nearly always be up to date, but some failure cases still exist (for instance, intermittent connectivity to a replica followed by immediately losing the primary). Because of this, we don't recommend using PuppetDB HA in conjunction with exported resources for sensitive applications where the data is changing often. For typical applications, such as adding newly provisioned nodes to a load balancer's pool or registering them with a monitoring system, small state regressions will have very low impact.

Q: What durability guarantees does PuppetDB HA offer?

A: In the recommended configuration described above, there are corner cases which allow data loss. If you want to be absolutely certain that all data is stored on at least 2 (or more) PuppetDB servers, you can put this in your puppetdb.conf:

    min_successful_submissions = 2

With this configuration, a Puppet run will fail if any data cannot be written to at least two PuppetDB servers. This may be useful if you have three PuppetDB servers, for example.


PuppetDB provides several facilities to help you monitor the state of replication:

Structured Logging

HA-related events are written to a log named ":sync". You can configure the handling of these events to fit your requirements.

If you have configured structured logging as described in the Logging Configuration Guide, you will see additional attributes on each JSON log message.

Common fields

  • phase: The sync is divided into nested phases: "sync", "entity", "record", and "deactivate". These are described in more detail below.

  • event: All sync log messages have an event field, indicating its position within the phase. This is one of "start", "finished", or "error".

  • ok:

    • finished messages have the JSON boolean value true.

    • error messages have the JSON boolean value false.

  • elapsed: finished and error messages have an elapsed field whose value is the time span since the corresponding start event in milliseconds (formatted as a JSON number).

Sync phase

sync events have the following fields:

  • remote: The URL on the remote system from which data is being pulled.

Entity phase

entity events surround the syncing for each type of record, i.e. catalogs, facts, or reports.

  • entity: The entity being processed. One of "catalogs", "facts", "reports", or "nodes". Nodes is used only to sync node deactivation status.

  • remote: As above

  • transferred: For the finished message, the number of records that were transferred (pulled) and enqueued for processing.

  • failed: For the finished message, the number of records that could not be transferred.

Record phase

record events surround the transfer of each record, for the catalogs, facts, and reports entities. They are logged at debug level, unless there is a problem.

  • query: The query issued to the remote PuppetDB server to retrieve this record

  • certname: The certname of the node with which this record is associated

  • hash (reports only): The hash of the report being transferred

  • entity: As above

  • remote: As above

Deactivate phase

deactivate events surround the process of issuing a local deactivate node command for a particular node.

  • certname: The certname of the node being deactivated


Some additional metrics are provided to help monitor the state of your HA setup. For basic information on metrics in PuppetDB, see the main metrics documentation.

These metrics are all available via the metrics HTTP endpoint. For example, you can fetch the data using cURL like this:

curl http://localhost:8080/metrics/v1/mbeans/puppetlabs.puppetdb.ha:name\=sync-has-worked-once

The following metrics are all located in the puppetlabs.puppetdb.ha namespace.

  • last-sync-succeeded (boolean): Did the last sync succeed?

  • sync-has-worked-once(boolean): Has the sync worked at all since starting this process?

  • sync-has-failed-after-working(boolean): Has the sync stopped working after working previously? This may be useful for ignoring errors that occur when many machines in the same cluster are starting at the same time.

  • last-successful-sync-time (timestamp): The wall-clock time, on the PuppetDB server, of when the last successful sync finished.

  • last-failed-sync-time (timestamp): The wall-clock time, on the PuppetDB server, of when the last failed sync finished.

  • seconds-since-last-successful-sync (integer): The amount of time that elapsed since the last time a sync succeeded.

  • seconds-since-last-failed-sync (integer): The amount of time that elapsed since the last time a sync failed.

  • failed-request-counter (integer): The number of sync-related http requests that have failed. Even if syncs are not failing, this may increase when individual requests fail and are retried. Unexpected increases in this counter should be investigated.

The following metrics expose timing statistics for various phases of the sync. See the Structured Logging section for a detailed explanation of each phase.

  • sync-duration

  • catalogs-sync-duration

  • reports-sync-duration

  • factsets-sync-duration

  • nodes-sync-duration

  • record-transfer-duration