» Outage Recovery

Don't panic! This is a critical first step.

Depending on your deployment configuration, it may take only a single server failure for cluster unavailability. Recovery requires an operator to intervene, but the process is straightforward.

» Failure of a Single Server Cluster

If you had only a single server and it has failed, simply restart it. A single server configuration requires the -bootstrap or -bootstrap-expect=1 flag. If the server cannot be recovered, you need to bring up a new server. See the bootstrapping guide for more detail.

In the case of an unrecoverable server failure in a single server cluster, data loss is inevitable since data was not replicated to any other servers. This is why a single server deploy is never recommended.

Any services registered with agents will be re-populated when the new server comes online as agents perform anti-entropy.

» Failure of a Server in a Multi-Server Cluster

If you think the failed server is recoverable, the easiest option is to bring it back online and have it rejoin the cluster with the same IP address, returning the cluster to a fully healthy state. Similarly, even if you need to rebuild a new Consul server to replace the failed node, you may wish to do that immediately. Keep in mind that the rebuilt server needs to have the same IP address as the failed server. Again, once this server is online and has rejoined, the cluster will return to a fully healthy state.

Both of these strategies involve a potentially lengthy time to reboot or rebuild a failed server. If this is impractical or if building a new server with the same IP isn't an option, you need to remove the failed server. Usually, you can issue a consul force-leave command to remove the failed server if it's still a member of the cluster.

If consul force-leave isn't able to remove the server, you have two methods available to remove it, depending on your version of Consul:

  • In Consul 0.7 and later, you can use the consul operator command to remove the stale peer server on the fly with no downtime if the cluster has a leader.

  • In versions of Consul prior to 0.7, you can manually remove the stale peer server using the raft/peers.json recovery file on all remaining servers. See the section below for details on this procedure. This process requires a Consul downtime to complete.

In Consul 0.7 and later, you can use the consul operator command to inspect the Raft configuration:

$ consul operator raft list-peers
Node     ID              Address         State     Voter
alice   follower  true
bob   leader    true
carol   follower  true

» Failure of Multiple Servers in a Multi-Server Cluster

In the event that multiple servers are lost, causing a loss of quorum and a complete outage, partial recovery is possible using data on the remaining servers in the cluster. There may be data loss in this situation because multiple servers were lost, so information about what's committed could be incomplete. The recovery process implicitly commits all outstanding Raft log entries, so it's also possible to commit data that was uncommitted before the failure.

See the section below for details of the recovery procedure. You simply include just the remaining servers in the raft/peers.json recovery file. The cluster should be able to elect a leader once the remaining servers are all restarted with an identical raft/peers.json configuration.

Any new servers you introduce later can be fresh with totally clean data directories and joined using Consul's join command.

In extreme cases, it should be possible to recover with just a single remaining server by starting that single server with itself as the only peer in the raft/peers.json recovery file.

Prior to Consul 0.7 it wasn't always possible to recover from certain types of outages with raft/peers.json because this was ingested before any Raft log entries were played back. In Consul 0.7 and later, the raft/peers.json recovery file is final, and a snapshot is taken after it is ingested, so you are guaranteed to start with your recovered configuration. This does implicitly commit all Raft log entries, so should only be used to recover from an outage, but it should allow recovery from any situation where there's some cluster data available.

» Manual Recovery Using peers.json

To begin, stop all remaining servers. You can attempt a graceful leave, but it will not work in most cases. Do not worry if the leave exits with an error. The cluster is in an unhealthy state, so this is expected.

In Consul 0.7 and later, the peers.json file is no longer present by default and is only used when performing recovery. This file will be deleted after Consul starts and ingests this file. Consul 0.7 also uses a new, automatically- created raft/peers.info file to avoid ingesting the raft/peers.json file on the first start after upgrading. Be sure to leave raft/peers.info in place for proper operation.

Using raft/peers.json for recovery can cause uncommitted Raft log entries to be implicitly committed, so this should only be used after an outage where no other option is available to recover a lost server. Make sure you don't have any automated processes that will put the peers file in place on a periodic basis.

The next step is to go to the -data-dir of each Consul server. Inside that directory, there will be a raft/ sub-directory. We need to create a raft/peers.json file. The format of this file depends on what the server has configured for its Raft protocol version.

For Raft protocol version 2 and earlier, this should be formatted as a JSON array containing the address and port of each Consul server in the cluster, like this:


For Raft protocol version 3 and later, this should be formatted as a JSON array containing the node ID, address:port, and suffrage information of each Consul server in the cluster, like this:

    "id": "adf4238a-882b-9ddc-4a9d-5b6758e4159e",
    "address": "",
    "non_voter": false
    "id": "8b6dda82-3103-11e7-93ae-92361f002671",
    "address": "",
    "non_voter": false
    "id": "97e17742-3103-11e7-93ae-92361f002671",
    "address": "",
    "non_voter": false
  • id (string: <required>) - Specifies the node ID of the server. This can be found in the logs when the server starts up if it was auto-generated, and it can also be found inside the node-id file in the server's data directory.

  • address (string: <required>) - Specifies the IP and port of the server. The port is the server's RPC port used for cluster communications.

  • non_voter (bool: <false>) - This controls whether the server is a non-voter, which is used in some advanced Autopilot configurations. If omitted, it will default to false, which is typical for most clusters.

Simply create entries for all servers. You must confirm that servers you do not include here have indeed failed and will not later rejoin the cluster. Ensure that this file is the same across all remaining server nodes.

At this point, you can restart all the remaining servers. In Consul 0.7 and later you will see them ingest recovery file:

2016/08/16 14:39:20 [INFO] consul: found peers.json file, recovering Raft configuration...
2016/08/16 14:39:20 [INFO] consul.fsm: snapshot created in 12.484┬Ás
2016/08/16 14:39:20 [INFO] snapshot: Creating new snapshot at /tmp/peers/raft/snapshots/2-5-1471383560779.tmp
2016/08/16 14:39:20 [INFO] consul: deleted peers.json file after successful recovery
2016/08/16 14:39:20 [INFO] raft: Restored from snapshot 2-5-1471383560779
2016/08/16 14:39:20 [INFO] raft: Initial configuration (index=1): [{Suffrage:Voter ID: Address:}]

If any servers managed to perform a graceful leave, you may need to have them rejoin the cluster using the join command:

$ consul join <Node Address>
Successfully joined cluster by contacting 1 nodes.

It should be noted that any existing member can be used to rejoin the cluster as the gossip protocol will take care of discovering the server nodes.

At this point, the cluster should be in an operable state again. One of the nodes should claim leadership and emit a log like:

[INFO] consul: cluster leadership acquired

In Consul 0.7 and later, you can use the consul operator command to inspect the Raft configuration:

$ consul operator raft list-peers
Node     ID              Address         State     Voter  RaftProtocol
alice   follower  true   2
bob   leader    true   2
carol   follower  true   2