Running ghostferry-copydb in production

Assuming you have gone through Tutorial for ghostferry-copydb, you probably want to run ghostferry-copydb in production. The general workflow is relatively similar, with some differences. You should keep the tutorial as a starting point for your own playbook as most steps will largely be the same.


Before you start, you need to know if you can even use Ghostferry. Some points to consider about this are:

  • Ghostferry on its own does not enable zero downtime moves. The downtime for the app will be minimal compared to other methods but still non-zero.
    • Figure out how much downtime you are willing to tolerate. Using Ghostferry, one can realistically achieve downtime in the order of seconds.
  • The source database must be running with FULL image ROW based replication.
    • Without this, it is not possible to run Ghostferry safely and Ghostferry will error out if it detects binlog_row_image is not set to FULL.
  • Tables to be copied have integer primary keys.
  • There are no foreign key constraints in your tables.
    • You should remove these constraints before running Ghostferry.
  • ghostferry-copydb can only copy a whole table at a time.
    • If you need to copy a subset, use ghostferry as a library to build your own application.
  • In cases of a multi-node replication setup, Ghostferry should only be run on the master database where writes occur. Otherwise there may be a race condition causing some binlog entries to be missed.
    • There may be a way to fix this in the future.

Testing Ghostferry with Production Data

You can run Ghostferry without running the cutover to test the entire flow without actually moving your database. This allows you to verify that the move will indeed work with your setup. Additionally, the target location where you performed this test move can be used by a staging version of your app to verify that the target MySQL will not cause trouble for your app, especially if the target MySQL has different version/configurations.

If you want to test the entire flow including the cutover, you can as well with some additional setup:

  1. Setup a slave of the source database. Use this slave as the source database.
  2. Use Ghostferry to copy the data from the slave to some target.
  3. Stop replication on the source slave. This is the equivalent to setting the database to read only.
  4. Perform the cutover as normal. Can even run verification with this.

To Verify Or Not To Verify

Ghostferry has two built-in verifiers. They are designed to give you certainty that the data of the source and the target are identical after a move and nothing was corrupted/missed. They are designed to be used during the cutover process, when writes to the source database have stopped and writes to the target have not yet started. During the run, both the source and target must be kept read only and thus incur downtime for your dataset. The two different verifiers have different downtime characteristics. See the Verifiers page for more details on what they are and how to choose a verifier. This means you have to decide if you want to verify or not.

In order to know how much downtime you will incur during the verification process, you can test it with the slave based staging move described in Testing Ghostferry with Production Data. During the cutover stages, run verification as normal and measure the time taken.

Since the ultimate objective of the verifier is to verify that Ghostferry did not make a mistake while copying the data and give you peace of mind, if you were able to successfully perform the staging verification, you would know that the system already works with your setup and data. At this point it may no longer be necessary to run a verification during the production move as the chance of a row that has changed between the staging run and the actual run causing an issue is slim.

It is also possible to run a verification after a move and possibly address any issues after the fact:

  1. Setup a slave of the source database.
  2. Setup a slave of the target database.
  3. Run ghostferry as normal between the master source and target database.
  4. During the cutover, also stop replication to the slaves setup in step 1 and 2.
  5. Manually compare the table on the slaves using something like CHECKSUM TABLE.

Dealing with Errors and Restarting Runs

It is possible for Ghostferry to encounter an unrecoverable error (such as a network partition with the database). In these scenarios, the target will be left alone as the Ghostferry process panics and quits. It may be possible to resume these runs using the experimental interrupt & resume feature. See Interrupt and resuming ghostferry-copydb.

If the resume doesn’t work, starting a brand new Ghostferry run is perfectly fine. For copydb specifically, you need to drop the databases created by copydb on the target as it will try to recreate it.

Configuration for ghostferry-copydb

The configuration for ghostferry-copydb is a JSON file. The schema it is based on the Config struct of ghostferry, with some differences:

  • You cannot specify TableFilter and CopyFilter.
  • If you are using the debian package, you don’t need to specify WebBasedir as it is compiled into the binary.

It also allows you specify some options according to fields defined by the Config struct of copydb. This allows you to filter the databases/tables to copy as well as specify the type of verifier.