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A replica set in MongoDB is a group of mongod processes that maintain the same data set. Replica sets provide redundancy and high availability, and are the basis for all production deployments. This section introduces replication in MongoDB as well as the components and architecture of replica sets. The section also provides tutorials for common tasks related to replica sets.

Redundancy and Data Availability

Replication provides redundancy and increases data availability. With multiple copies of data on different database servers, replication provides a level of fault tolerance against the loss of a single database server.

In some cases, replication can provide increased read capacity as clients can send read operations to different servers. Maintaining copies of data in different data centers can increase data locality and availability for distributed applications. You can also maintain additional copies for dedicated purposes, such as disaster recovery, reporting, or backup.

Replication in MongoDB

A replica set is a group of mongod instances that maintain the same data set. A replica set contains several data bearing nodes and optionally one arbiter node. Of the data bearing nodes, one and only one member is deemed the primary node, while the other nodes are deemed secondary nodes.

The primary node receives all write operations. A replica set can have only one primary capable of confirming writes with { w: "majority" } write concern; although in some circumstances, another mongod instance may transiently believe itself to also be primary. [1] The primary records all changes to its data sets in its operation log, i.e. oplog. For more information on primary node operation, see Replica Set Primary.

Diagram of default routing of reads and writes to the primary.

The secondaries replicate the primary’s oplog and apply the operations to their data sets such that the secondaries’ data sets reflect the primary’s data set. If the primary is unavailable, an eligible secondary will hold an election to elect itself the new primary. For more information on secondary members, see Replica Set Secondary Members.

Diagram of a 3 member replica set that consists of a primary and two secondaries.

In some circumstances (such as you have a primary and a secondary but cost constraints prohibit adding another secondary), you may choose to add a mongod instance to a replica set as an arbiter. An arbiter participates in elections but does not hold data (i.e. does not provide data redundancy). For more information on arbiters, see Replica Set Arbiter.

Diagram of a replica set that consists of a primary, a secondary, and an arbiter.

An arbiter will always be an arbiter whereas a primary may step down and become a secondary and a secondary may become the primary during an election.

Asynchronous Replication

Secondaries apply operations from the primary asynchronously. By applying operations after the primary, sets can continue to function despite the failure of one or more members. For more information on replication mechanics, see Replica Set Oplog and Replica Set Data Synchronization.

For MongoDB 3.6 deployments, starting in version 3.6.11, secondary members of a replica set now log oplog entries that take longer than the slow operation threshold to apply. These slow oplog messages are logged for the secondaries in the diagnostic log under the REPL component with the text applied op: <oplog entry> took <num>ms. These slow oplog entries depend only on the slow operation threshold. They do not depend on the log levels (either at the system or component level), or the profiling level, or the slow operation sample rate. The profiler does not capture slow oplog entries.

Automatic Failover

When a primary does not communicate with the other members of the set for more than the configured electionTimeoutMillis period (10 seconds by default), an eligible secondary calls for an election to nominate itself as the new primary. The cluster attempts to complete the election of a new primary and resume normal operations.

Diagram of an election of a new primary. In a three member replica set with two secondaries, the primary becomes unreachable. The loss of a primary triggers an election where one of the secondaries becomes the new primary

The replica set cannot process write operations until the election completes successfully. The replica set can continue to serve read queries if such queries are configured to run on secondaries while the primary is offline.

The median time before a cluster elects a new primary should not typically exceed 12 seconds, assuming default replica configuration settings. This includes time required to mark the primary as unavailable and call and complete an election. You can tune this time period by modifying the settings.electionTimeoutMillis replication configuration option. Factors such as network latency may extend the time required for replica set elections to complete, which in turn affects the amount of time your cluster may operate without a primary. These factors are dependent on your particular cluster architecture.

Lowering the electionTimeoutMillis replication configuration option from the default 10000 (10 seconds) can result in faster detection of primary failure. However, the cluster may call elections more frequently due to factors such as temporary network latency even if the primary is otherwise healthy. This can result in increased rollbacks for w : 1 write operations.

Your application connection logic should include tolerance for automatic failovers and the subsequent elections.

New in version 3.6: MongoDB 3.6+ drivers can detect the loss of the primary and automatically retry certain write operations a single time, providing additional built-in handling of automatic failovers and elections.

See Replica Set Elections for complete documentation on replica set elections.

To learn more about MongoDB’s failover process, see:

Read Operations

By default, clients read from the primary [1]; however, clients can specify a read preference to send read operations to secondaries. Asynchronous replication to secondaries means that reads from secondaries may return data that does not reflect the state of the data on the primary. For information on reading from replica sets, see Read Preference.

In MongoDB, clients can see the results of writes before the writes are durable:

For more information on read isolations, consistency and recency for MongoDB, see Read Isolation, Consistency, and Recency.

Additional Features

Replica sets provide a number of options to support application needs. For example, you may deploy a replica set with members in multiple data centers, or control the outcome of elections by adjusting the members[n].priority of some members. Replica sets also support dedicated members for reporting, disaster recovery, or backup functions.

See Priority 0 Replica Set Members, Hidden Replica Set Members and Delayed Replica Set Members for more information.

[1](1, 2) In some circumstances, two nodes in a replica set may transiently believe that they are the primary, but at most, one of them will be able to complete writes with { w: "majority" } write concern. The node that can complete { w: "majority" } writes is the current primary, and the other node is a former primary that has not yet recognized its demotion, typically due to a network partition. When this occurs, clients that connect to the former primary may observe stale data despite having requested read preference primary, and new writes to the former primary will eventually roll back.