Because each replica in Object Storage functions independently and clients generally require only a simple majority of nodes to respond to consider an operation successful, transient failures like network partitions can quickly cause replicas to diverge. These differences are eventually reconciled by asynchronous, peer-to-peer replicator processes. The replicator processes traverse their local file systems and concurrently perform operations in a manner that balances load across physical disks.

Replication uses a push model, with records and files generally only being copied from local to remote replicas. This is important because data on the node might not belong there (as in the case of hand offs and ring changes), and a replicator cannot know which data it should pull in from elsewhere in the cluster. Any node that contains data must ensure that data gets to where it belongs. The ring handles replica placement.

To replicate deletions in addition to creations, every deleted record or file in the system is marked by a tombstone. The replication process cleans up tombstones after a time period known as the consistency window. This window defines the duration of the replication and how long transient failure can remove a node from the cluster. Tombstone cleanup must be tied to replication to reach replica convergence.

If a replicator detects that a remote drive has failed, the replicator uses the get_more_nodes interface for the ring to choose an alternate node with which to synchronize. The replicator can maintain desired levels of replication during disk failures, though some replicas might not be in an immediately usable location.


The replicator does not maintain desired levels of replication when failures such as entire node failures occur; most failures are transient.

The main replication types are:

  • Database replication

    Replicates containers and objects.

  • Object replication

    Replicates object data.

Database replication

Database replication completes a low-cost hash comparison to determine whether two replicas already match. Normally, this check can quickly verify that most databases in the system are already synchronized. If the hashes differ, the replicator synchronizes the databases by sharing records added since the last synchronization point.

This synchronization point is a high water mark that notes the last record at which two databases were known to be synchronized, and is stored in each database as a tuple of the remote database ID and record ID. Database IDs are unique across all replicas of the database, and record IDs are monotonically increasing integers. After all new records are pushed to the remote database, the entire synchronization table of the local database is pushed, so the remote database can guarantee that it is synchronized with everything with which the local database was previously synchronized.

If a replica is missing, the whole local database file is transmitted to the peer by using rsync(1) and is assigned a new unique ID.

In practice, database replication can process hundreds of databases per concurrency setting per second (up to the number of available CPUs or disks) and is bound by the number of database transactions that must be performed.

Object replication

The initial implementation of object replication performed an rsync to push data from a local partition to all remote servers where it was expected to reside. While this worked at small scale, replication times skyrocketed once directory structures could no longer be held in RAM. This scheme was modified to save a hash of the contents for each suffix directory to a per-partition hashes file. The hash for a suffix directory is no longer valid when the contents of that suffix directory is modified.

The object replication process reads in hash files and calculates any invalidated hashes. Then, it transmits the hashes to each remote server that should hold the partition, and only suffix directories with differing hashes on the remote server are rsynced. After pushing files to the remote server, the replication process notifies it to recalculate hashes for the rsynced suffix directories.

The number of uncached directories that object replication must traverse, usually as a result of invalidated suffix directory hashes, impedes performance. To provide acceptable replication speeds, object replication is designed to invalidate around 2 percent of the hash space on a normal node each day.