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Setting up replication in MySQL

Setting up replication in MySQL
19.06.2024
Reading time: 19 min
Hostman Team
Technical writer

When working with databases, having multiple copies of your data can be beneficial. This provides redundancy in case one of the servers fails, as well as improves availability, scalability, and overall performance of the database. The practice of synchronizing data across multiple separate databases is called replication.

MySQL is a relational database management system and the most popular open-source relational database today. It has several built-in replication features that allow you to maintain multiple copies of your data.

In this guide, we will set up two servers with MySQL: the original database, the "source", and its "replica". We will also look at how MySQL performs replication.

Note: Historically, this type of replication was called "master-slave". In a post published in July 2020, the MySQL team acknowledged the negative connotation of this term and announced plans to update the program and accompanying documentation to use more inclusive language.

However, this process is not fully complete. While the documentation and most commands in MySQL version 8 have been updated to refer to servers as "source" and its "replicas", there are still places with the old terminology. By default, this guide will use the more modern terms and commands, but in some cases, it is unavoidable to refer to the concepts of master and slave.

Prerequisites

  • Two cloud servers running Ubuntu 20.04. Both should have a non-root user with sudo privileges and a firewall configured using the UFW utility.

  • MySQL installed on each server. In this guide, we will use the 8.0.25 version.

On Hostman, you can install MySQL on your cloud server with one click.

The process described here involves designating MySQL on one server as the original database, the "source", and then setting up MySQL on another server as its copy, the "replica".

This guide also describes transferring existing data from the source to the replica. This process involves creating a snapshot of the source database and transferring the resulting file to the replica. For this, we recommend setting up SSH keys on the source server and then ensuring that the source's public key is copied to the replica.

How Replication Works in MySQL

In MySQL, replication involves the source database recording every data change in one or more databases into a special file known as the binary log. Once the replica starts, two parallel threads are created. The first, called the IO thread, connects to the source MySQL instance and reads events from the binary log line by line, then copies them to a local file on the replica server called the relay log. The second thread, called the SQL thread, reads events from the relay log and applies them to the replica as quickly as possible.

Recent versions of MySQL support two methods of data replication. The difference between them lies in how the replicas track which database events from the source they have already processed.

The traditional replication method is called position-based binary log file replication. If you set up a MySQL replica using this method, you must provide it with a set of coordinates from the binary log. These consist of the name of the log file on the source that the replica should read from and a specific position in that log. This position represents the first event in the source database that the replica should copy.

Since replicas receive a copy of the entire binary log from the source database, without the correct coordinates, they will start copying every recorded database event. This can cause issues if you want to replicate data only from a certain point in time or duplicate only a subset of the source data.

Position-based binary log file replication is suitable for many cases but can become cumbersome in more complex systems. This led to the development of a new MySQL replication method, sometimes called transaction-based replication. This method involves creating a Global Transaction Identifier (GTID) for each transaction, or isolated piece of work, that the source MySQL instance performs.

The mechanism of this replication is similar to position-based binary log file replication: each time a transaction occurs in the source, MySQL assigns and records a GTID for it in the binary log along with the transaction itself. The GTID and transaction are then sent to the replicas for processing.

Transaction-based replication has several advantages over the traditional method. For example, both the source and its replicas maintain the GTID, so if the source or a replica detects a transaction with an already processed GTID, they skip it. This helps ensure consistency between the source and its replicas. Additionally, with transaction-based replication, replicas do not need to know the binary log coordinates of the next database event. Starting new replicas or changing the order of replicas in the replication chain becomes much simpler.

Keep in mind that this is just an overview of how MySQL handles replication; MySQL provides many settings that you can adapt to your needs. In this guide, we set up position-based binary log file replication. If you want to set up a different replication environment, check the official MySQL documentation.

Step 1 — Configuring the Source Server's Firewall for MySQL Replication

Your firewalls on both servers should be configured using UFW. This will help protect both your servers; however, now the source's firewall will block any connection attempts from the MySQL replica.

To change this, you need to enable a new rule in UFW that will allow connections from the replica through the source's firewall. You can do this by running the following command on the source server. This command allows any connections originating from the replica's IP address (in this example, replica_server_ip) to the default MySQL port, 3306:

sudo ufw allow from replica_server_ip to any port 3306

Be sure to replace replica_server_ip with the actual IP address of your replica server.

After this, you don't need to change anything in the replica's firewall since this server will not receive any incoming connections, and UFW does not block outgoing connections to the source MySQL server. Now, let's move on to configuring the source.

Step 2 — Configuring the Source Database for MySQL Replication

To get your source MySQL database to start synchronizing data, you need to make a few changes to its configuration.

In Ubuntu 20.04, the default MySQL server configuration file is named mysqld.cnf and is located in the /etc/mysql/mysql.conf.d/ directory. Open this file on the source server in any text editor. Here, we will use nano:

sudo nano /etc/mysql/mysql.conf.d/mysqld.cnf

Find the bind-address directive in the file. By default, it looks like this:

/etc/mysql/mysql.conf.d/mysqld.cnf
...
bind-address        = 127.0.0.1
...

127.0.0.1 is the IPv4 address representing localhost. If you specify this value for the bind-address directive, MySQL will listen for connections only on the localhost address. In other words, this MySQL instance will only accept connections originating from the server it is installed on.

Remember that you are turning another MySQL instance into a replica of this one, so the replica needs to be able to read all new data written to the source. Therefore, you need to configure the source MySQL server to listen for connections on an address accessible to the replica, such as the source's public IP address.

Replace 127.0.0.1 with the source server's IP address. After this, the bind-address directive will look like this, but with your server's IP address instead of source_server_ip:

...
bind-address        = source_server_ip
...

Then, find the server-id directive, which defines the identifier by which MySQL distinguishes servers within the replication system. Each server in the system, including the source and all its replicas, must have its unique server-id value. By default, this directive is commented out and looks like this:

/etc/mysql/mysql.conf.d/mysqld.cnf
...
# server-id         = 1

Uncomment this line by removing the # sign. You can choose any number as the value for this directive, but remember that the number must be unique and cannot match other server-id values in your replication group. For simplicity, in the following example, this value remains the default (1):

/etc/mysql/mysql.conf.d/mysqld.cnf
...
server-id         = 1
...

Find the log_bin directive under the server-id line. It specifies the name and location of the MySQL binary log.

By default, this directive is commented out, so binary logging is disabled. To know when and how to start replication, your replica server needs to read the source's binary log, so uncomment this line to enable logging on the source. After this, it will look like this:

/etc/mysql/mysql.conf.d/mysqld.cnf
...
log_bin                   = /var/log/mysql/mysql-bin.log
...

Finally, scroll down to the end of the file to find the commented binlog_do_db directive:

/etc/mysql/mysql.conf.d/mysqld.cnf
...
# binlog_do_db      = include_database_name

Remove the # sign to uncomment this line, and replace include_database_name with the name of the database you want to replicate. In this example, the binlog_do_db directive points to a database named db. If you already have an existing database on the source that you want to replicate, use its name instead of db:

/etc/mysql/mysql.conf.d/mysqld.cnf
...
binlog_do_db      = db

Note: If you are replicating more than one database, you can add another binlog_do_db directive for each database you need to add to the group. In this guide, we will continue with replicating just one database, but if you have several, it will look something like this:

/etc/mysql/mysql.conf.d/mysqld.cnf
...
binlog_do_db      = db
binlog_do_db      = db_1
binlog_do_db      = db_2

Alternatively, you can specify which MySQL databases should not be duplicated by adding a binlog_ignore_db directive for each of them:

/etc/mysql/mysql.conf.d/mysqld.cnf
...
binlog_ignore_db      = db_to_ignore
...

After making these changes, save and close the file. If you used nano, press CTRL + X, Y, and then ENTER.

Restart MySQL by running the following command:

sudo systemctl restart mysql

Now this MySQL instance is ready to act as the source database, which your MySQL server will replicate. However, before configuring the replica, we need to perform a few more steps on the source to ensure that replication works correctly. To begin with, we need to create a special MySQL user account that will perform all the replication-related actions.

Step 3 — Creating a User Account for MySQL Replication

Each replica in a MySQL environment connects to the source database using a username and password. Replicas can connect using any MySQL user that exists in the source database and has the appropriate privileges, but in this guide, we will create a special user account for this purpose.

Start by opening the MySQL shell:

sudo mysql

Note: If you have set up a password-authenticated user account, you can connect to MySQL using the following command:

mysql -u username -p

Replace username with your user name and enter the password when prompted.

Keep in mind that some operations in this guide, including those performed on the replica server, require elevated privileges. For this reason, connecting with administrator privileges may be more convenient. If you still want to use a MySQL user with limited rights, they must at least be granted the CREATE USER, RELOAD, REPLICATION CLIENT, REPLICATION SLAVE, and REPLICATION_SLAVE_ADMIN privileges.

Create a new MySQL user. In this example, a user named replica_user is created, but you can use any name you prefer. Be sure to replace replica_server_ip with the public IP address of your replica server and set a more secure password instead of the default password:

CREATE USER 'replica_user'@'replica_server_ip' IDENTIFIED WITH mysql_native_password BY 'password';

Note that this command specifies that replica_user will use the mysql_native_password plugin for authentication. You can instead use the default mechanism in MySQL, caching_sha2_password, but this will require setting up an encrypted connection between the source and the replica. This type may be suitable for production environments, but setting up encrypted connections is beyond the scope of this guide. If you wish, you can find instructions for setting up a replication environment with encrypted connections in the MySQL documentation.

After creating the new user, grant them the appropriate privileges. At a minimum, such a user should have the REPLICATION SLAVE permissions:

GRANT REPLICATION SLAVE ON *.* TO 'replica_user'@'replica_server_ip';

Next, it is recommended to run the FLUSH PRIVILEGES command. This will clear all cached memory on the server for the previous CREATE USER and GRANT statements:

FLUSH PRIVILEGES;

With this, we have finished setting up the replication user in the source MySQL. However, do not exit the MySQL shell yet. You will need it in the next step to obtain important information about the binary log of the source database, so leave it open for now.

Step 4 — Obtaining Binary Log Coordinates from the Source Database

As mentioned in the "How Replication Works in MySQL" section, MySQL performs replication by line-by-line copying of database events from the source's binary log and executing each event on the replica. When using position-based binary log file replication, you must provide the replica with a set of coordinates detailing the name of the source binary log and the specific position within that file. The replica then uses these coordinates to determine the point in the log file from which it should start copying database events and track which events it has already processed.

In this step, we will see how to obtain the current coordinates of the source database's binary log to start copying data on the replicas from the last line in the log. To avoid issues related to other users changing the data while obtaining the coordinates, you will need to lock the database so that no one can read or write information. This will not take long but will pause your database's operation.

Execute the following command in the open MySQL shell on the source server. It will close all open tables in each database in the source instance and lock them:

FLUSH TABLES WITH READ LOCK;

Then execute the following command to output information about the current state of the source's (master's) binary log:

SHOW MASTER STATUS;

This position is where the replica will start copying database events. Record (remember or write down) the File and Position values; you will need them later when you start the replication.

Your next steps depend on whether there are any existing data in the source database that you want to transfer to your replicas. Proceed to the appropriate subsection.

If Your Source Has No Data to Transfer

If you have just installed this MySQL or there is no existing data that you want to transfer to the replica, you can unlock the tables at this point:

UNLOCK TABLES;

You can create a database for master-slave replication while you still have the MySQL shell open. As in the example from Step 2, the following command will create a database named db:

CREATE DATABASE db;

After that, close the MySQL shell:

exit

Now you can proceed to the next step.

If Your Source Has Data to Transfer

You can transfer existing data from the source database to the replica by creating a snapshot (copy) of the database using the mysqldump utility. However, your database is still locked. If you make any new changes in the same window or close it, it will automatically unlock, which could lead to problems. Unlocking the tables means that data in the database may change. This could potentially lead to discrepancies between your snapshot and the binary log coordinates you just obtained.

Therefore, you should open a new terminal window or tab on your local computer. This will allow you to create a database snapshot without unlocking MySQL.

In the new window or tab, open another SSH session to the server hosting the source MySQL instance:

ssh username@source_server_ip

Then, in the new tab or window, export your database using mysqldump. In this example, a dump file named db.sql is created from the database named db. Make sure to use the name of your database. Also, remember to run this command in the bash shell, not in the MySQL shell:

sudo mysqldump -u root db > db.sql

Now you can close this window or tab and return to the original window where the MySQL shell should still be open. In the MySQL command line, unlock the databases to make them writable again:

UNLOCK TABLES;

Exit the MySQL shell:

exit

You can now send the snapshot to your replica server. Assuming you have already set up SSH keys on the source server and added the source's public key to the authorized_keys file of your replica, you can securely send the snapshot using the scp command:

scp db.sql username@replica_server_ip:/tmp/

Remember to replace username with the name of the Ubuntu administrative user created on the replica server and change replica_server_ip to the IP address of your replica server. Also, note that this command places the snapshot in the replica server's /tmp directory.

After sending the snapshot to the replica server, connect to it via SSH:

ssh username@replica_server_ip

Open the MySQL shell:

sudo mysql

Create the database that you will copy from the source:

CREATE DATABASE db;

You do not need to create tables or load any sample data into this database. Everything will be filled in automatically when you import the database using the snapshot you just created. Instead, exit the MySQL shell:

exit

Import the snapshot:

sudo mysql db < /tmp/db.sql

Now your master-slave replica contains all the existing data from the source database. Let's move on to the final step to configure the replica server to start replication.

Step 5 — Configuring the Replica

Now we need to change the configuration of the replica, similar to how you changed the source database. Open the MySQL configuration file, mysqld.cnf, on the replica server:

sudo nano /etc/mysql/mysql.conf.d/mysqld.cnf

As mentioned earlier, each MySQL instance in the environment must have a unique server-id value. Find the server-id directive on the replica, uncomment it, and change its value to any positive integer different from the source database:

/etc/mysql/mysql.conf.d/mysqld.cnf
server-id           = 2

Next, update the log_bin and binlog_do_db values to match the values you set in the source server's configuration file:

/etc/mysql/mysql.conf.d/mysqld.cnf
...
log_bin             = /var/log/mysql/mysql-bin.log
...
binlog_do_db        = db
...

Finally, add the relay-log directive, defining the location of the replica's relay log file. Include this line at the end of the configuration file:

/etc/mysql/mysql.conf.d/mysqld.cnf
...
relay-log           = /var/log/mysql/mysql-relay-bin.log

After making these changes, save and close the file. Then restart MySQL on the replica to apply the new settings:

sudo systemctl restart mysql

After restarting the MySQL service, the replication is ready to start.

Step 6 — Starting and Testing Replication

By this point, both of your MySQL instances are fully configured to begin master-slave replication. To start it, open the MySQL shell on the replica server:

sudo mysql

In the command line, execute the command below; it sets several MySQL replication parameters simultaneously. After running this command and starting replication, the server will attempt to connect to the IP address in SOURCE_HOST using the login and password (SOURCE_USER and SOURCE_PASSWORD, respectively). It will also look for the binary log named SOURCE_LOG_FILE and begin reading it from position SOURCE_LOG_POS.

Make sure to replace source_server_ip with the IP address of the source server. Similarly, replica_user and password should match the replication user you created in Step 3; mysql-bin.000001 and 899 should reflect the binary log coordinates obtained in Step 4.

You can enter this command in a text editor before running it on the server to make it easier to replace all the necessary information:

CHANGE REPLICATION SOURCE TO 
SOURCE_HOST='source_server_ip', 
SOURCE_USER='replica_user', 
SOURCE_PASSWORD='password', 
SOURCE_LOG_FILE='mysql-bin.000001', 
SOURCE_LOG_POS=899;

Now activate the replica server:

START REPLICA;

If you entered all the information correctly, this instance will start replicating all changes made to the db database on the source.

You can get all the details about the current status of the replica with the following command. The \G modifier restructures the text, making it more readable:

SHOW REPLICA STATUS\G;

This command outputs a lot of useful information that can be used during debugging and troubleshooting.

Note: If the replica has connection issues or replication unexpectedly stops, an event in the source's binary log might be blocking replication. In such cases, try running the SET GLOBAL SQL_SLAVE_SKIP_COUNTER command to skip a certain number of events following the binary log position specified in the previous command. For example, to skip only the first event:

SET GLOBAL SQL_SLAVE_SKIP_COUNTER = 1;

Then you will need to restart the replica:

START REPLICA;

If you ever need to stop replication, run this command on the replica server:

STOP REPLICA;

Your replica now copies data from the source. All changes made to the source database will be reflected in the MySQL replica instance. To test, let's create a test table and verify the successful execution of replication.

Open the MySQL shell on the source server:

sudo mysql

Select the database for replication:

USE db;

Create a table in it. In this example, we have a table named example_table with one column example_column:

CREATE TABLE example_table (
example_column varchar(30)
);

If desired, you can add some data:

INSERT INTO example_table VALUES 
('First row'), 
('Second row'), 
('Third row');

After this, return to the MySQL shell on your replica server and select the copied database:

USE db;

Then run the SHOW TABLES statement to display a list of all tables in the selected database:

SHOW TABLES;

If MySQL replication is working correctly, you will see the newly created table in the list.

Additionally, if you added data to the table on the source, you can check it by running a similar query:

SELECT * FROM example_table;

In SQL, the asterisk (*) means "all columns". Essentially, this query tells MySQL to display every column from example_table. If MySQL replication is working correctly, this operation will show this data.

If none of these operations output the table or data from the source, there might be an error somewhere in the configuration. To find the problem, you can try running the SHOW REPLICA STATUS\G operation. Additionally, you can refer to the MySQL documentation for troubleshooting replication.

Conclusion

With this guide, we have set up a position-based binary log replication environment in MySQL with one source and one replica. But remember, this is just one way to set up replication in MySQL. MySQL offers several different master-slave synchronization options that you can choose and configure according to your needs. There are also several third-party tools, such as Galera Cluster, which can be used to extend the built-in MySQL replication features.


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