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Locating the Arbiter to Optimize Mirror Availability

Locating the Arbiter to Optimize Mirror Availability

Together, the failover members and arbiter provide the mirroring high availability solution (with the arbiter playing the least significant role). The arbiter is not a quorum mechanism, but rather supports each failover member in arbitrating automatic failover by providing context when it loses contact with the other failover member; as long as both failover members are in contact with the arbiter immediately prior to a primary outage of any kind and the backup remains in contact with the arbiter, automatic failover can occur. While failure of the arbiter does eliminate the possibility of automatic failover under some circumstances, it does not prevent the mirror from operating while a replacement is configured, or from providing automatic failover under many primary outage scenarios, for example scenarios 1 through 4 in Automatic Failover in Response to Primary Outage Scenarios.

For these reasons, the arbiter need not be any more highly available than either of the failover members are independently, but only located and configured so that the risk of unplanned simultaneous outage of the arbiter and a single failover member is minimized. (If both failover members fail, the mirror fails and the status of the arbiter does not matter, so risk of simultaneous outage of all three is not a consideration.)

Based on this requirement, InterSystems recommends that, in general, the arbiter be separated from the failover members to the same extent to which they are separated from each other. Specifically,

  • If the failover members are located in one data center, the arbiter can be placed in the same data center. Within that data center, the arbiter should have the same physical separation from the failover members as they have from each other; for example, if you have placed the failover members in separate server racks to avoid power or network problems in one rack affecting both members, you should locate the arbiter separately from those two racks.

    If the data center uses an internal network for communication within the mirror, the arbiter should be placed on the public side of the network so that failure of the internal network does not isolate the failover members from the arbiter in addition to each other.

  • If the failover members are located in separate data centers, the arbiter should be placed in a third location. This could be another data center, a location hosted by another party, a public or private cloud service, or even the system administrator's home (assuming she has reliable networking). Placing the arbiter in a location that is representative of the user community supports optimal mirror response to network outages.

A single system can be configured as arbiter for multiple mirrors, provided its location is appropriate for each; simply specify its host and port number, as described in Creating a Mirror , when creating or editing each mirror for which it will server as arbiter.

The arbiter need not be hosted on a newly deployed or dedicated system; in fact, an existing host of well-established reliability may be preferable. A reporting async mirror member (see Reporting Asyncs) can serve as a suitable host. Hosting on a DR async, however, should be avoided, as promotion of the DR async (see Promoting a DR Async Member to Failover Member) under a maintenance or failure scenario could lead to the arbiter being hosted on a failover mirror member, an incorrect configuration.


As noted in Installing the Arbiter, any system with a running ISCAgent can be configured as arbiter, including one that hosts one or more instance of InterSystems IRIS. However, a system hosting one or more failover or DR async members of a mirror should not be configured as arbiter for that mirror.

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