GitLab Geo database replication

Note: This is the documentation for the Omnibus GitLab packages. For installations from source, follow the database replication for installations from source guide.

Note: If your GitLab installation uses external PostgreSQL, the Omnibus roles will not be able to perform all necessary configuration steps. Refer to the section on External PostreSQL for additional instructions.

Note: The stages of the setup process must be completed in the documented order. Before attempting the steps in this stage, complete all prior stages.

This document describes the minimal steps you have to take in order to replicate your primary GitLab database to a secondary node's database. You may have to change some values according to your database setup, how big it is, etc.

You are encouraged to first read through all the steps before executing them in your testing/production environment.

PostgreSQL replication

The GitLab primary node where the write operations happen will connect to the primary database server, and the secondary nodes which are read-only will connect to the secondary database servers (which are also read-only).

Note: In database documentation you may see "primary" being referenced as "master" and "secondary" as either "slave" or "standby" server (read-only).

We recommend using PostgreSQL replication slots to ensure that the primary retains all the data necessary for the secondaries to recover. See below for more details.

The following guide assumes that:

  • You are using Omnibus and therefore you are using PostgreSQL 9.6 or later which includes the pg_basebackup tool and improved Foreign Data Wrapper support.
  • You have a primary node already set up (the GitLab server you are replicating from), running Omnibus' PostgreSQL (or equivalent version), and you have a new secondary server set up with the same versions of the OS, PostgreSQL, and GitLab on all nodes.
  • The IP of the primary server for our examples will be, whereas the secondary's IP will be Note that the primary and secondary servers must be able to communicate over these addresses. More on this in the guide below.

Step 1. Configure the primary server

  1. SSH into your GitLab primary server and login as root:

    sudo -i
  2. Execute the command below to define the node as primary Geo node:

    gitlab-ctl set-geo-primary-node

    This command will use your defined external_url in /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb.

  3. GitLab 10.4 and up only: Do the following to make sure the gitlab database user has a password defined

    Generate a MD5 hash of the desired password:

    gitlab-ctl pg-password-md5 gitlab
    # Enter password: mypassword
    # Confirm password: mypassword
    # fca0b89a972d69f00eb3ec98a5838484

    Edit /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb:

    # Fill with the hash generated by `gitlab-ctl pg-password-md5 gitlab`
    postgresql['sql_user_password'] = 'fca0b89a972d69f00eb3ec98a5838484'
    # If you have HA setup, this must be present in all nodes as well
    gitlab_rails['db_password'] = 'mypassword'
  4. Omnibus GitLab already has a replication user called gitlab_replicator. You must set the password for this user manually. You will be prompted to enter a password:

    gitlab-ctl set-replication-password

    This command will also read the postgresql['sql_replication_user'] Omnibus setting in case you have changed gitlab_replicator username to something else.

  5. Configure PostgreSQL to listen on network interfaces

    For security reasons, PostgreSQL does not listen on any network interfaces by default. However, GitLab Geo requires the secondary to be able to connect to the primary's database. For this reason, we need the address of each node. Note: For external PostgreSQL instances, see additional instructions.

    If you are using a cloud provider, you can lookup the addresses for each Geo node through your cloud provider's management console. A table of common terminology is provided below as it varies between vendors.

    GitLab Terminology Amazon Web Services Google Cloud Platform
    Private address Private address Internal address
    Public address Public address External address

    To lookup the address of a Geo node, SSH in to the Geo node and execute:

    ## Private address
    ip route get | awk '{print "Private address:", $NF; exit}'
    ## Public address
    echo "External address: $(curl"

    In most cases, the following addresses will be used to configure GitLab Geo:

    Configuration Address
    postgresql['listen_address'] Primary's private address
    postgresql['trust_auth_cidr_addresses'] Primary's private address
    postgresql['md5_auth_cidr_addresses'] Secondary's public addresses

    The listen_address option opens PostgreSQL up to network connections with the interface corresponding to the given address. See the PostgreSQL documentation for more details.

    Depending on your network configuration, the suggested addresses may not be correct. If your primary and secondary connect over a local area network, or a virtual network connecting availability zones like Amazon's VPC or Google's VPC you should use the secondary's private address for postgresql['md5_auth_cidr_addresses'].

    Edit /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb and add the following, replacing the IP addresses with addresses appropriate to your network configuration:

    geo_primary_role['enable'] = true
    ## Primary address
    ## - replace '' with the primary private address
    postgresql['listen_address'] = ''
    postgresql['trust_auth_cidr_addresses'] = ['','']
    # Secondary addresses
    # - replace '' with the secondary public address
    postgresql['md5_auth_cidr_addresses'] = ['']
    ## Replication settings
    ## - set this to be the number of Geo secondary nodes you have
    postgresql['max_replication_slots'] = 1
    # postgresql['max_wal_senders'] = 10
    # postgresql['wal_keep_segments'] = 10
    ## Disable automatic database migrations temporarily
    ## (until PostgreSQL is restarted and listening on the private address).
    gitlab_rails['auto_migrate'] = false
  6. Optional: If you want to add another secondary, the relevant setting would look like:

    postgresql['md5_auth_cidr_addresses'] = ['','']

    You may also want to edit the wal_keep_segments and max_wal_senders to match your database replication requirements. Consult the PostgreSQL - Replication documentation for more information.

  7. Save the file and reconfigure GitLab for the database listen changes and the replication slot changes to be applied.

    gitlab-ctl reconfigure

    Restart PostgreSQL for its changes to take effect:

    gitlab-ctl restart postgresql
  8. Re-enable migrations now that PostgreSQL is restarted and listening on the private address.

    Edit /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb and change the configuration to true:

    gitlab_rails['auto_migrate'] = true

    Save the file and reconfigure GitLab:

    gitlab-ctl reconfigure
  9. Now that the PostgreSQL server is set up to accept remote connections, run netstat -plnt to make sure that PostgreSQL is listening on port 5432 to the primary server's private address.

  10. A certificate was automatically generated when GitLab was reconfigured. This will be used automatically to protect your PostgreSQL traffic from eavesdroppers, but to protect against active ("man-in-the-middle") attackers, the secondary needs a copy of the certificate. Make a copy of the PostgreSQL server.crt file on the primary node by running this command:

    cat ~gitlab-psql/data/server.crt

    Copy the output into a file on your local computer called server.crt. You will need it when setting up the secondary! The certificate is not sensitive data.

Step 2. Add the secondary GitLab node

To prevent the secondary geo node from trying to act as the primary once the database is replicated, the secondary geo node must be added on the primary before the database is replicated.

  1. Visit the primary node's Admin Area ➔ Geo Nodes (/admin/geo_nodes) in your browser.
  2. Add the secondary node by providing its full URL. Do NOT check the box 'This is a primary node'.
  3. Optionally, choose which namespaces should be replicated by the secondary node. Leave blank to replicate all. Read more in selective replication.
  4. Click the Add node button.
  5. SSH into your GitLab primary server and login as root to verify the secondary is reachable:

    gitlab-rake gitlab:geo:check

The new secondary geo node will have the status Unhealthy. This is expected because we have not yet configured the secondary server. This is the next step.

Step 3. Configure the secondary server

  1. From your local machine, copy server.crt to the secondary:

    scp server.crt
  2. SSH into your GitLab secondary server and login as root:

    sudo -i
  3. Check TCP connectivity to the primary's PostgreSQL server:

    gitlab-rake gitlab:tcp_check[,5432]

    If this step fails, you may be using the wrong IP address, or a firewall may be preventing access to the server. Check the IP address, paying close attention to the difference between public and private addresses and ensure that, if a firewall is present, the secondary is permitted to connect to the primary on port 5432.

  4. Set up PostgreSQL TLS verification on the secondary

    Install the server.crt file:

    install -D -o gitlab-psql -g gitlab-psql -m 0400 -T server.crt ~gitlab-psql/.postgresql/root.crt

    PostgreSQL will now only recognize that exact certificate when verifying TLS connections. The certificate can only be replicated by someone with access to the private key, which is only present on the primary node.

  5. Configure PostreSQL to enable FDW support

    This step is similar to how we configured the primary instance. We need to enable this, to enable FDW support, even if using a single node.

    Edit /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb and add the following, replacing the IP addresses with addresses appropriate to your network configuration:

    # Secondary addresses
    # - replace '' with the secondary private address
    postgresql['listen_address'] = ''
    postgresql['trust_auth_cidr_addresses'] = ['','']
    # gitlab database user's password (defined previously)
    gitlab_rails['db_password'] = 'mypassword'
    # enable fdw for the geo tracking database
    geo_secondary['db_fdw'] = true
  6. Test that the gitlab-psql user can connect to the primary's database:

    sudo -u gitlab-psql /opt/gitlab/embedded/bin/psql --list -U gitlab_replicator -d "dbname=gitlabhq_production sslmode=verify-ca" -W -h

    When prompted enter the password you set in the first step for the gitlab_replicator user. If all worked correctly, you should see the database prompt.

    A failure to connect here indicates that the TLS configuration is incorrect. Ensure that the contents of ~gitlab-psql/data/server.crt on the primary match the contents of ~gitlab-psql/.postgresql/root.crt on the secondary.

  7. Edit /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb and add the following:

    geo_secondary_role['enable'] = true

    For external PostgreSQL instances, see additional instructions.

  8. Reconfigure GitLab for the changes to take effect:

    gitlab-ctl reconfigure

Step 4. Initiate the replication process

Below we provide a script that connects the database on the secondary node to the database on the primary node, replicates the database, and creates the needed files for streaming replication.

The directories used are the defaults that are set up in Omnibus. If you have changed any defaults or are using a source installation, configure it as you see fit replacing the directories and paths.

Warning: Make sure to run this on the secondary server as it removes all PostgreSQL's data before running pg_basebackup.

  1. SSH into your GitLab secondary server and login as root:

    sudo -i
  2. Choose a database-friendly name to use for your secondary to use as the replication slot name. For example, if your domain is, you may use secondary_example as the slot name as shown in the commands below.

  3. Execute the command below to start a backup/restore and begin the replication (various options that can be added to these commands are listed below):

    gitlab-ctl replicate-geo-database --slot-name=secondary_example --host=

    When prompted, enter the password you set up for the gitlab_replicator user in the first step.

    This command also takes a number of additional options. You can use --help to list them all, but here are a couple of tips:

    • If PostgreSQL is listening on a non-standard port, add --port= as well.
    • If your database is too large to be transferred in 30 minutes, you will need to increase the timeout, e.g., --backup-timeout=3600 if you expect the initial replication to take under an hour.
    • Pass --sslmode=disable to skip PostgreSQL TLS authentication altogether (e.g., you know the network path is secure, or you are using a site-to-site VPN). This is not safe over the public Internet!
    • You can read more details about each sslmode in the PostgreSQL documentation; the instructions above are carefully written to ensure protection against both passive eavesdroppers and active "man-in-the-middle" attackers.
    • Change the --slot-name to the name of the replication slot to be used on the primary database. The script will attempt to create the replication slot automatically if it does not exist.
    • If you're repurposing an old server into a Geo secondary, you'll need to add --force to the command line.
  4. Verify that the secondary is configured correctly and that the primary is reachable:

    gitlab-rake gitlab:geo:check

The replication process is now complete.

External PostgreSQL instances

For installations using external PostgreSQL instances, the geo_primary_role and geo_secondary_role includes configuration changes that must be applied manually.

The geo_primary_role makes configuration changes to pg_hba.conf and postgresql.conf on the primary:

## GitLab Geo Primary
## - pg_hba.conf
host    replication gitlab_replicator <trusted secondary IP>/32     md5
## Geo Primary Role
## - postgresql.conf
sql_replication_user = gitlab_replicator
wal_level = hot_standby
max_wal_senders = 10
wal_keep_segments = 50
max_replication_slots = 1 # number of secondary instances
hot_standby = on

Th geo_secondary_role makes configuration changes to postgresql.conf and enables the Geo Log Cursor (geo_logcursor) and secondary tracking database on the secondary. The PostgreSQL settings for this database it adds to the default settings:

## Geo Secondary Role
## - postgresql.conf
wal_level = hot_standby
max_wal_senders = 10
wal_keep_segments = 10
hot_standby = on

Geo secondary nodes use a tracking database to keep track of replication status and recover automatically from some replication issues. Follow the instructions for enabling tracking database on the secondary server.

MySQL replication

MySQL replication is not supported for GitLab Geo.


Read the troubleshooting document.