Backup and recovery v4

In this chapter we discuss the backup and restore of a EDB Postgres Distributed cluster.

BDR is designed to be a distributed, highly available system. If one or more nodes of a cluster are lost, the best way to replace them is to clone new nodes directly from the remaining nodes.

The role of backup and recovery in BDR is to provide for Disaster Recovery (DR), such as in the following situations:

  • Loss of all nodes in the cluster
  • Significant, uncorrectable data corruption across multiple nodes as a result of data corruption, application error or security breach



pg_dump, sometimes referred to as "logical backup", can be used normally with BDR.

Note that pg_dump dumps both local and global sequences as if they were local sequences. This is intentional, to allow a BDR schema to be dumped and ported to other PostgreSQL databases. This means that sequence kind metadata is lost at the time of dump, so a restore would effectively reset all sequence kinds to the value of bdr.default_sequence_kind at time of restore.

To create a post-restore script to reset the precise sequence kind for each sequence, you might want to use an SQL script like this:

SELECT 'SELECT bdr.alter_sequence_set_kind('''||
FROM bdr.sequences
WHERE seqkind != 'local';

Note that if pg_dump is run using bdr.crdt_raw_value = on then the dump can only be reloaded with bdr.crdt_raw_value = on.

Technical Support recommends the use of physical backup techniques for backup and recovery of BDR.

Physical Backup

Physical backups of a node in a EDB Postgres Distributed cluster can be taken using standard PostgreSQL software, such as Barman.

A physical backup of a BDR node can be performed with the same procedure that applies to any PostgreSQL node: a BDR node is just a PostgreSQL node running the BDR extension.

There are some specific points that must be considered when applying PostgreSQL backup techniques to BDR:

  • BDR operates at the level of a single database, while a physical backup includes all the databases in the instance; you should plan your databases to allow them to be easily backed-up and restored.

  • Backups will make a copy of just one node. In the simplest case, every node has a copy of all data, so you would need to backup only one node to capture all data. However, the goal of BDR will not be met if the site containing that single copy goes down, so the minimum should be at least one node backup per site (obviously with many copies etc.).

  • However, each node may have un-replicated local data, and/or the definition of replication sets may be complex so that all nodes do not subscribe to all replication sets. In these cases, backup planning must also include plans for how to backup any unreplicated local data and a backup of at least one node that subscribes to each replication set.

Eventual Consistency

The nodes in a EDB Postgres Distributed cluster are eventually consistent, but not entirely consistent; a physical backup of a given node will provide Point-In-Time Recovery capabilities limited to the states actually assumed by that node (see the [Example] below).

The following example shows how two nodes in the same EDB Postgres Distributed cluster might not (and usually do not) go through the same sequence of states.

Consider a cluster with two nodes N1 and N2, which is initially in state S. If transaction W1 is applied to node N1, and at the same time a non-conflicting transaction W2 is applied to node N2, then node N1 will go through the following states:

(N1)   S  -->  S + W1  -->  S + W1 + W2

...while node N2 will go through the following states:

(N2)   S  -->  S + W2  -->  S + W1 + W2

That is: node N1 will never assume state S + W2, and node N2 likewise will never assume state S + W1, but both nodes will end up in the same state S + W1 + W2. Considering this situation might affect how you decide upon your backup strategy.

Point-In-Time Recovery (PITR)

In the example above, the changes are also inconsistent in time, since W1 and W2 both occur at time T1, but the change W1 is not applied to N2 until T2.

PostgreSQL PITR is designed around the assumption of changes arriving from a single master in COMMIT order. Thus, PITR is possible by simply scanning through changes until one particular point-in-time (PIT) is reached. With this scheme, you can restore one node to a single point-in-time from its viewpoint, e.g. T1, but that state would not include other data from other nodes that had committed near that time but had not yet arrived on the node. As a result, the recovery might be considered to be partially inconsistent, or at least consistent for only one replication origin.

To request this, use the standard syntax:

recovery_target_time = T1

BDR allows for changes from multiple masters, all recorded within the WAL log for one node, separately identified using replication origin identifiers.

BDR allows PITR of all or some replication origins to a specific point in time, providing a fully consistent viewpoint across all subsets of nodes.

Thus for multi-origins, we view the WAL stream as containing multiple streams all mixed up into one larger stream. There is still just one PIT, but that will be reached as different points for each origin separately.

We read the WAL stream until requested origins have found their PIT. We apply all changes up until that point, except that we do not mark as committed any transaction records for an origin after the PIT on that origin has been reached.

We end up with one LSN "stopping point" in WAL, but we also have one single timestamp applied consistently, just as we do with "single origin PITR".

Once we have reached the defined PIT, a later one may also be set to allow the recovery to continue, as needed.

After the desired stopping point has been reached, if the recovered server will be promoted, shut it down first and move the LSN forwards using pg_resetwal to an LSN value higher than used on any timeline on this server. This ensures that there will be no duplicate LSNs produced by logical decoding.

In the specific example above, N1 would be restored to T1, but would also include changes from other nodes that have been committed by T1, even though they were not applied on N1 until later.

To request multi-origin PITR, use the standard syntax in the recovery.conf file:

recovery_target_time = T1

The list of replication origins which would be restored to T1 need either to be specified in a separate multi_recovery.conf file via the use of a new parameter recovery_target_origins:

recovery_target_origins = '*'

...or one can specify the origin subset as a list in recovery_target_origins.

recovery_target_origins = '1,3'

Note that the local WAL activity recovery to the specified recovery_target_time is always performed implicitly. For origins that are not specified in recovery_target_origins, recovery may stop at any point, depending on when the target for the list mentioned in recovery_target_origins is achieved.

In the absence of the multi_recovery.conf file, the recovery defaults to the original PostgreSQL PITR behaviour that is designed around the assumption of changes arriving from a single master in COMMIT order.


This is feature is only available on EDB Postgres Extended and Barman does not currently automatically create a multi_recovery.conf file.


While you can take a physical backup with the same procedure as a standard PostgreSQL node, what is slightly more complex is restoring the physical backup of a BDR node.

EDB Postgres Distributed Cluster Failure or Seeding a New Cluster from a Backup

The most common use case for restoring a physical backup involves the failure or replacement of all the BDR nodes in a cluster, for instance in the event of a datacentre failure.

You may also want to perform this procedure to clone the current contents of a EDB Postgres Distributed cluster to seed a QA or development instance.

In that case, BDR capabilities can be restored based on a physical backup of a single BDR node, optionally plus WAL archives:

  • If you still have some BDR nodes live and running, fence off the host you restored the BDR node to, so it cannot connect to any surviving BDR nodes. This ensures that the new node does not confuse the existing cluster.
  • Restore a single PostgreSQL node from a physical backup of one of the BDR nodes.
  • If you have WAL archives associated with the backup, create a suitable recovery.conf and start PostgreSQL in recovery to replay up to the latest state. You can specify a alternative recovery_target here if needed.
  • Start the restored node, or promote it to read/write if it was in standby recovery. Keep it fenced from any surviving nodes!
  • Clean up any leftover BDR metadata that was included in the physical backup, as described below.
  • Fully stop and restart the PostgreSQL instance.
  • Add further BDR nodes with the standard procedure based on the bdr.join_node_group() function call.

Cleanup BDR Metadata

The cleaning of leftover BDR metadata is achieved as follows:

  1. Drop the BDR node using bdr.drop_node
  2. Fully stop and re-start PostgreSQL (important!).

Cleanup of Replication Origins

Replication origins must be explicitly removed with a separate step because they are recorded persistently in a system catalog, and therefore included in the backup and in the restored instance. They are not removed automatically when dropping the BDR extension, because they are not explicitly recorded as its dependencies.

BDR creates one replication origin for each remote master node, to track progress of incoming replication in a crash-safe way. Therefore we need to run:

SELECT pg_replication_origin_drop('bdr_dbname_grpname_nodename');

...once for each node in the (previous) cluster. Replication origins can be listed as follows:

SELECT * FROM pg_replication_origin;

...and those created by BDR are easily recognized by their name, as in the example shown above.

Cleanup of Replication Slots

If a physical backup was created with pg_basebackup, replication slots will be omitted from the backup.

Some other backup methods may preserve replications slots, likely in outdated or invalid states. Once you restore the backup, just:

SELECT pg_drop_replication_slot(slot_name)
FROM pg_replication_slots; drop all replication slots. If you have a reason to preserve some, you can add a WHERE slot_name LIKE 'bdr%' clause, but this is rarely useful.


Never run this on a live BDR node.