[ClusterLabs] 2-Node Cluster Pointless?

Eric Robinson eric.robinson at psmnv.com
Sun Apr 16 16:04:10 EDT 2017

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Digimer [mailto:lists at alteeve.ca]
> Sent: Sunday, April 16, 2017 11:17 AM
> To: Cluster Labs - All topics related to open-source clustering welcomed
> <users at clusterlabs.org>; Eric Robinson <eric.robinson at psmnv.com>
> Subject: Re: [ClusterLabs] 2-Node Cluster Pointless?
> On 16/04/17 01:53 PM, Eric Robinson wrote:
> > I was reading in "Clusters from Scratch" where Beekhof states, "Some
> would argue that two-node clusters are always pointless, but that is an
> argument for another time." Is there a page or thread where this argument
> has been fleshed out? Most of my dozen clusters are 2 nodes. I hate to think
> they're pointless.
> >
> > --
> > Eric Robinson
> There is a belief that you can't build a reliable cluster without quorum. I am of
> the mind that you *can* build a very reliable 2-node cluster. In fact, every
> cluster our company has deployed, going back over five years, has been 2-
> node and have had exception uptimes.
> The confusion comes from the belief that quorum is required and stonith is
> option. The reality is the opposite. I'll come back to this in a minute.
> In a two-node cluster, you have two concerns;
> 1. If communication between the nodes fail, but both nodes are alive, how
> do you avoid a split brain?
> 2. If you have a two node cluster and enable cluster startup on boot, how do
> you avoid a fence loop?
> Many answer #1 by saying "you need a quorum node to break the tie". In
> some cases, this works, but only when all nodes are behaving in a predictable
> manner.
> Many answer #2 by saying "well, with three nodes, if a node boots and can't
> talk to either other node, it is inquorate and won't do anything".
> This is a valid mechanism, but it is not the only one.
> So let me answer these from a 2-node perspective;
> 1. You use stonith and the faster node lives, the slower node dies. From the
> moment of comms failure, the cluster blocks (needed with quorum,
> too) and doesn't restore operation until the (slower) peer is in a known
> state; Off. You can bias this by setting a fence delay against your preferred
> node. So say node 1 is the node that normally hosts your services, then you
> add 'delay="15"' to node 1's fence method. This tells node 2 to wait 15
> seconds before fencing node 1. If both nodes are alive, node 2 will be fenced
> before the timer expires.
> 2. In Corosync v2+, there is a 'wait_for_all' option that tells a node to not do
> anything until it is able to talk to the peer node. So in the case of a fence after
> a comms break, the node that reboots will come up, fail to reach the survivor
> node and do nothing more. Perfect.
> Now let me come back to quorum vs. stonith;
> Said simply; Quorum is a tool for when everything is working. Fencing is a tool
> for when things go wrong.
> Lets assume that your cluster is working find, then for whatever reason,
> node 1 hangs hard. At the time of the freeze, it was hosting a virtual IP and
> an NFS service. Node 2 declares node 1 lost after a period of time and
> decides it needs to take over;
> In the 3-node scenario, without stonith, node 2 reforms a cluster with node 3
> (quorum node), decides that it is quorate, starts its NFS server and takes
> over the virtual IP. So far, so good... Until node 1 comes out of its hang. At
> that moment, node 1 has no idea time has passed. It has no reason to think
> "am I still quorate? Are my locks still valid?" It just finishes whatever it was in
> the middle of doing and bam, split-brain. At the least, you have two nodes
> claiming the same IP at the same time. At worse, you had uncoordinated
> writes to shared storage and you've corrupted your data.
> In the 2-node scenario, with stonith, node 2 is always quorate, so after
> declaring node 1 lost, it moves to fence node 1. Once node 1 is fenced,
> *then* it starts NFS, takes over the virtual IP and restores services.
> In this case, no split-brain is possible because node 1 has rebooted and
> comes up with a fresh state (or it's on fire and never coming back anyway).
> This is why quorum is optional and stonith/fencing is not.
> Now, with this said, I won't say that 3+ node clusters are bad. They're fine if
> they suit your use-case, but even with 3+ nodes you still must use stonith.
> My *personal* arguments in favour of 2-node clusters over 3+ nodes is this;
> A cluster is not beautiful when there is nothing left to add. It is beautiful
> when there is nothing left to take away.
> In availability clustering, nothing should ever be more important than
> availability, and availability is a product of simplicity. So in my view, a 3-node
> cluster adds complexity that is avoidable, and so is sub-optimal.
> I'm happy to answer any questions you have on my comments/point of view
> on this.
> --
> Digimer

That is a very thoughtful response and it will take me some time to digest it. I appreciate the feedback very much and will get back to you later today.

Eric Robninson

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