Using rsync for machine replication?
Yesterday I was at a client site where they explained they wanted to keep a stand-by server up to date and ready to take over in case of main system failure. Fine, lots of people do that, and currently they are doing it by restoring backups every morning. What they were asking about was using rsync or some other mechanism to keep the machines more current.
My first reaction was to question them about their app: it's apparently a mess of Basic programs that work on hundreds of different data files 24 x 7. I asked if they shut down the users for backup. They don't. I explained that the backup can't really be guaranteed consistent if users are writing data to files because obviously files are going to be backed up while they are being written to. As the files are related to each other (A/R header and detail files, indexes, etc.) you can have inconsistent versions on the backup media. . Somebody told them (obviously incorrectly) that rsync could prevent this. There are databases that will let you replicate data while you run, but that's application level, and this app has no such ability. Rsync can't do any better than a backup for that.
I talked about snapshots, and asked if they could shut down users for the very brief time it takes to do that. Nope. Can't ever stop the flow of data. I explained that rsync can't answer that problem any better than a tape backup can: files and indexes may be inconsistent with each other.
I also wonder if rsync's rolling checksum might even make things better or worse. On the one hand we get less data transferred as opposed to just a rcp or whatever, but open files that may be getting writes during the checksum make things even more confusing.
They can't change the app. They can't shut down users. Their bank says they have to have better disaster recovery. These things seem impossible to reconcile. My feeling is that if the banks demands have to be met, then the user community HAS to put up with periods where they can't use the app. If they use snapshots, that period can be brief, otherwise its going to be fairly long (13 GB of data to transfer).
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