Can someone point me to the MS article or blog post that explains in details how AlwaysOn Availability Group secondary replica catches up with primary after secondary server long downtime?

I did below tests with AAG (async, manual failover, read-only configuration). A) Killed secondary instance during continuos insert into primary and started secondary instance few minutes after. AAG dashboard turned into a green almost immediately after secondary restart and started to catch up with primary until number of rows became the same in both instances. No transaction log backup was done. B) Same as A) but few transaction logs were done from primary during the test.

Questions are:

1) What is the size of log cache/messaging framework etc that are used to keep tran log blocks (which are sent to secondary replica)

2) Can above structure (log cache/send queue etc - whatever is used as transport for AAG replication) sizes be configured/increased (similar to encrease of tran log backup retention period in log shipping, for example)?

3) As I backed up (truncated) tran log in test B) and secondary replica was syncronised with primary automatically what was used to find row difference between primary and secondary (apparently not tran log as it was truncated) and then bring then in sync?

4) How does this automatic catch up process work and what are its limitations?

2 Answers 2


If the secondary is up and running, when the log block is flushed to disk (either because it is full or a commit), the record gets pushed to the log writer on the primary and to the log scanner (log reader) process on the primary simultaneously. Then the log scanner communicates with the secondary and the secondary then pulls the transaction from the log scanner on the primary to the secondary and processes the log record. The primary log writer doesn't push transactions across, it just communicates with the secondary, it only does that to see if it is up so that it knows it doesn't have to mark the replica as NOT SYNCRONIZED.

When the secondary is not up, then the log writer cant communicate with the secondary so it marks it as NOT SYNCHRONIZED and stores the records in the tran log on the primary. If you look at sys.databases.log_reuse_wait_desc column it should show AVAILABILITY_REPLICA which means the primary is hanging on to all the records.

Once the secondary is up, it will communicate with the primary to request a log scan, it then processes the transactions and communicates with the primary using progress messages to indicate the hardened LSN, presumably the primary is then adjusting its MinLSN, which in turn means the records prior to MinLSN will get deleted as checkpoints happen and hence VLFs will get truncated releasing space when you do a log backup.

But yes short answer is, if your secondary is down you need as big a log file as you need for as long as it is down. Once it is backup and synched at some time you may need to remove the db from the always on group to shrink the log if it is humungous and you dont want it that big.

  • 1
    Thank you Richard. "sys.databases.log_reuse_wait_desc column it should show AVAILABILITY_REPLICA" and msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh213319.aspx confirms it.
    – Eugene P
    Jan 23, 2015 at 1:00
  • PS. I do not have enough "reputaion" to mark your reply as answer :)
    – Eugene P
    Jan 23, 2015 at 1:01
  • If it is your question you dont need reputation to mark as an answer ? Jan 23, 2015 at 1:24

There is no 'cache'. Is just log. The primary log is the messaging framework. Primary writes into the log file, and secondaries receive a copy. When connected the secondaries receive the log immediately and the primary is free to reuse the log. When disconnected the primary is forbidden from truncating the log and must append to it. When reconnected the secondary receives the log it missed and primary is free to reuse again the log, no longer has to append (grow).

You taking log backups on the primary does not change anything. When the log is required to be kept for a disconnected secondary, backup does not truncate the log.

There is no 'message' to sent to the secondaries to keep it updated. The secondary is simply running recovery on the database, that's all it does, applying the log received from the primary. The Write Ahead Protocol guarantees that whatever the secondary is 'recovering' is going to be identical to whatever the primary has in the database.

There are some optimization (eg. when connected the primary usually sends the log from memory, not from disk) and there are a bunch of additional control messages sent outside of the log stream, but these are details that distract from the core issue: the secondary is simply running recovery applying the log received from the primary, and the primary has to keep said log until it was acknowledged by secondary.

Your confusion arise from the believe that backup has truncated the log on the primary, therefore there must be another mechanism to synchronize. This is incorrect, as backup did no in fact truncate the log.

  • Yes, you are right my confusion is based on the assumption that tran log backup behaviour is always the same regardless of fact that AAG is configured and also based on diagram and explanation from blogs.msdn.com/b/saponsqlserver/archive/2012/02/07/…
    – Eugene P
    Jan 21, 2015 at 2:10
  • But if you are right that means MS needs to publish warning somewhere that says something like this: "If you have secondary down for long time then your primary replica tran log will keep growing and to prevent it from hang/failure (when tran log disk space on primary is all used) you need to ... etc"
    – Eugene P
    Jan 21, 2015 at 2:18
  • @RemusRusanu If you read this MS blog it says there is indeed a cache as a fact blog says there is new log cache introduced for AG.
    – Shanky
    Jun 13, 2018 at 9:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.