OVSDB Replication Implementation

Given two Open vSwitch databases with the same schema, OVSDB replication keeps these databases in the same state, i.e. each of the databases have the same contents at any given time even if they are not running in the same host. This document elaborates on the implementation details to provide this functionality.


Source of truth database

database whose content will be replicated to another database.

Active server

ovsdb-server providing RPC interface to the source of truth database.

Standby server

ovsdb-server providing RPC interface to the database that is not the source of truth.


The overall design of replication consists of one ovsdb-server (active server) communicating the state of its databases to another ovsdb-server (standby server) so that the latter keep its own databases in that same state. To achieve this, the standby server acts as a client of the active server, in the sense that it sends a monitor request to keep up to date with the changes in the active server databases. When a notification from the active server arrives, the standby server executes the necessary set of operations so its databases reach the same state as the active server databases. Below is the design represented as a diagram.:

+--------------+    replication     +--------------+
|    Active    |<-------------------|   Standby    |
| OVSDB-server |                    | OVSDB-server |
+--------------+                    +--------------+
        |                                  |
        |                                  |
    +-------+                          +-------+
    |  SoT  |                          |       |
    | OVSDB |                          | OVSDB |
    +-------+                          +-------+

Setting Up The Replication

To initiate the replication process, the standby server must be executed indicating the location of the active server via the command line option --sync-from=server, where server can take any form described in the ovsdb-client manpage and it must specify an active connection type (tcp, unix, ssl). This option will cause the standby server to attempt to send a monitor request to the active server in every main loop iteration, until the active server responds.

When sending a monitor request the standby server is doing the following:

  1. Erase the content of the databases for which it is providing a RPC interface.

  2. Open the jsonrpc channel to communicate with the active server.

  3. Fetch all the databases located in the active server.

  4. For each database with the same schema in both the active and standby servers: construct and send a monitor request message specifying the tables that will be monitored (i.e all the tables on the database except the ones explicitly excluded [*]).

  5. Set the standby database to the current state of the active database.

Once the monitor request message is sent, the standby server will continuously receive notifications of changes occurring to the tables specified in the request. The process of handling this notifications is detailed in the next section.

[*] A set of tables that will be excluded from replication can be configured via the command line option --sync-exclude-tables=db:table[,db:table]..., where db corresponds to the database where the table resides.

Replication Process

The replication process consists on handling the update notifications received in the standby server caused by the monitor request that was previously sent to the active server. In every loop iteration, the standby server attempts to receive a message from the active server which can be an error, an echo message (used to keep the connection alive) or an update notification. In case the message is a fatal error, the standby server will disconnect from the active without dropping the replicated data. If it is an echo message, the standby server will reply with an echo message as well. If the message is an update notification, the following process occurs:

  1. Create a new transaction.

  2. Get the <table-updates> object from the params member of the notification.

  3. For each <table-update> in the <table-updates> object do:

    1. For each <row-update> in <table-update> check what kind of operation should be executed according to the following criteria about the presence of the object members:

      • If old member is not present, execute an insert operation using <row> from the new member.

      • If old member is present and new member is not present, execute a delete operation using <row> from the old member

      • If both old and new members are present, execute an update operation using <row> from the new member.

  4. Commit the transaction.

    If an error occurs during the replication process, all replication is restarted by resending a new monitor request as described in the section “Setting up the replication”.

Runtime Management Commands

Runtime management commands can be sent to a running standby server via ovs-appctl in order to configure the replication functionality. The available commands are the following.

ovsdb-server/set-remote-ovsdb-server {server}

sets the name of the active server


gets the name of the active server


causes the server to attempt to send a monitor request every main loop iteration


closes the jsonrpc channel between the active server and frees the memory used for the replication configuration.

ovsdb-server/set-sync-exclude-tables {db:table,...}

sets the tables list that will be excluded from being replicated


gets the tables list that is currently excluded from replication