Zero Downtime PostgreSQL Upgrades: A Reliable Approach for High Availability


PostgreSQL is a popular and powerful open-source relational database management system. Like any software, it requires periodic updates to stay secure and take advantage of new features. However, for many businesses, downtime is not an option. Modern customers expect 100% availability, and maintaining a seamless user experience is crucial.

In this article, we explore the concept of zero downtime upgrades for PostgreSQL, diving into a reliable approach that minimizes disruption and ensures high availability for critical applications. We will focus on a technique called logical replication, which allows us to upgrade the database without taking it offline.

The Traditional Approach: Copying Tables

One common method of performing PostgreSQL upgrades is to fully copy the content of each table from the old database version to the new one. While this approach guarantees data consistency, it can be I/O heavy and impractical for very large tables. Additionally, it may not work for databases with strict availability requirements.

Enter Logical Replication

Instead of copying tables, we can leverage logical replication to achieve zero downtime upgrades. By creating a replication slot, taking a snapshot of the database, restoring the snapshot to a new instance, advancing the Logical Sequence Number (LSN), and then replicating from the new instance, we can create a logical replica with all the data. This method is described in an article by Instacart 1.

While this technique is powerful, it is important to proceed with caution. It is recommended to carefully follow the steps and validate the process to ensure data consistency and minimize any risks of corruption.

Ensuring Consistency: Important Considerations

There are some important considerations to keep in mind when using the logical replication approach. One of the key concerns is the timing of the logical replication and the upgrade itself. It is crucial to avoid any inconsistencies that might arise during the process.

To address this, the PostgreSQL community has discussed the need for careful management of the logical slot, LSN advancement, and the execution of the pg_upgrade utility, which upgrades the PostgreSQL instance. By creating the logical slot, advancing the new cluster to the slot’s LSN position, running pg_upgrade, and then enabling logical replication, we can ensure a reliable and consistent upgrade process 2.

Real-World Experiences

Many organizations, including Instacart and, have successfully used this logical replication approach to perform zero downtime upgrades on TB-sized instances 1 2. By carefully managing the process, performing data validation, and following best practices, these companies have demonstrated the effectiveness of this method in maintaining high availability and minimizing disruption.

Expectations and the Tradeoff between Availability and Consistency

When discussing zero downtime upgrades and availability, it is essential to address customer expectations. While some customers may expect 100% availability at all times, it is important to consider the tradeoff between availability and consistency.

Customers’ preferences and requirements may vary depending on their specific workloads. For some applications, ensuring consistency might be more important than continuous availability. Taking intentional downtime during maintenance windows can be a sensible approach to guarantee data integrity and make necessary upgrades or changes.

Additionally, aligning customer expectations and building trust through transparent communication about planned downtime can lead to more robust architectures and resilient systems. By involving customers in the conversation and setting realistic expectations, organizations can prioritize investments in building better products and infrastructure.


Performing PostgreSQL upgrades with zero downtime is an achievable goal with logical replication. By carefully following the steps outlined in the Instacart article and considering community recommendations, organizations can maintain high availability while keeping their database up-to-date and secure. It is important to understand the tradeoff between availability and consistency and work with customers to establish realistic expectations.

So the next time you plan a PostgreSQL upgrade, consider the logical replication approach to minimize disruption, ensure data integrity, and keep your applications running smoothly.

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