High Availability Support for NGINX Plus in On-Premises Deployments

Enable high availability of NGINX Plus instances in on-premises deployments, configuring an active-passive pair in a solution based on keepalived and VRRP.

This article explains how to configure high availability of NGINX Plus instances in on‑premises deployment with a solution based on keepalived.

Note: This solution is designed to work in environments where IP addresses can be controlled through standard operating system calls, and often does not work in cloud environments where IP addresses are controlled through interfacing with the cloud infrastructure. For information about making NGINX Plus highly available in cloud environments, see the Deployment Guides.

High Availability Support Based on keepalived

NGINX Plus R6 and later supports a solution for fast and easy configuration of NGINX Plus in an active‑passive high‑availability (HA) setup, based on keepalived.

The keepalived open source project includes three components:

  • The keepalived daemon for Linux servers.

  • An implementation of the Virtual Router Redundancy Protocol (VRRP) to manage virtual routers (virtual IP addresses, or VIPs).

    VRRP ensures that there is a primary node at all times. The backup node listens for VRRP advertisement packets from the primary node. If it does not receive an advertisement packet for a period longer than three times the configured advertisement interval, the backup node takes over as primary and assigns the configured VIPs to itself.

  • A health‑check facility to determine whether a service (for example, a web server, PHP backend, or database server) is up and operational.

    If a service on the primary node fails the configured number of health checks, keepalived reassigns the virtual IP address from the primary node to the backup (passive) node.

Configuring High Availability

Run the nginx-ha-setup script on both nodes as the root user (the script is distributed in the nginx-ha-keepalived package, which must be installed in addition to the base NGINX Plus package). The script configures a highly available NGINX Plus environment with an active‑passive pair of nodes acting as primary and backup. It prompts for the following data:

  • IP address of the local and remote nodes (one of which will be configured as the primary, the other as the backup)
  • One additional free IP address to be used as the cluster endpoint’s (floating) VIP

The configuration of the keepalived daemon is recorded in /etc/keepalived/keepalived.conf. The configuration blocks in the file control notification settings, the VIPs to manage, and the health checks to use to test the services that rely on VIPs. Following is the configuration file created by the nginx-ha-setup script on a CentOS 7 machine. Note that this is not an NGINX Plus configuration file, so the syntax is different (semicolons are not used to delimit directives, for example).

global_defs {
    vrrp_version 3

vrrp_script chk_manual_failover {
    script   "/usr/libexec/keepalived/nginx-ha-manual-failover"
    interval 10
    weight   50

vrrp_script chk_nginx_service {
    script   "/usr/libexec/keepalived/nginx-ha-check"
    interval 3
    weight   50

vrrp_instance VI_1 {
    interface                  eth0
    priority                   101
    virtual_router_id          51
    advert_int                 1
    garp_master_refresh        5
    garp_master_refresh_repeat 1

    unicast_peer {

    virtual_ipaddress {

    track_script {

    notify "/usr/libexec/keepalived/nginx-ha-notify"

Describing the entire configuration is beyond the scope of this article, but a few items are worth noting:

  • Each node in the HA setup needs its own copy of the configuration file, with values for the priority, unicast_src_ip, and unicast_peer directives that are appropriate to the node’s role (primary or backup).
  • The priority directive controls which host becomes the primary, as explained in the next section.
  • The notify directive names the notification script included in the distribution, which can be used to generate syslog messages (or other notifications) when a state transition or fault occurs.
  • The value 51 for the virtual_router_id directive in the vrrp_instance VI_1 block is a sample value; change it as necessary to be unique in your environment.
  • If you have multiple pairs of keepalived instances (or other VRRP instances) running in your local network, create a vrrp_instance block for each one, with a unique name (like VI_1 in the example) and virtual_router_id number.

See keepalived manpage for more information about keepalived directives.

Using a Health-Check Script to Control Which Server Is Primary

There is no fencing mechanism in keepalived. If the two nodes in a pair are not aware of each other, each assumes it is the primary and assigns the VIP to itself. To prevent this situation, the configuration file defines a script‑execution mechanism called chk_nginx_service that runs a script regularly to check whether NGINX Plus is operational, and adjusts the local node’s priority based on the script’s return code. Code 0 (zero) indicates correct operation, and code 1 (or any nonzero code) indicates an error.

In the sample configuration of the script, the weight directive is set to 50, which means that when the check script succeeds (and by implication returns code 0):

  • The priority of the first node (which has a base priority of 101) is set to 151.
  • The priority of the second node (which has a base priority of 100) is set to 150.

The first node has higher priority (151 in this case) and becomes primary.

The interval directive specifies how often the check script executes, in seconds (3 seconds in the sample configuration file). Note that the check fails if the timeout is reached (by default, the timeout is the same as the check interval).

The rise and fall directives (not used in the sample configuration file) specify how many times the script must succeed or fail before action is taken.

The nginx-ha-check script provided with the nginx-ha-keepalive package checks if NGINX Plus is up. We recommend creating additional scripts as appropriate for your local setup.

Displaying Node State

To see which node is currently the primary for a given VIP, run the ip addr show command for the interface on which the VRRP instance is defined (in the following commands, interface eth0 on nodes centos7-1 and centos7-2):

centos7-1 $ ip addr show eth0
2: eth0: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1500 qdisc pfifo_fast state
     UP qlen 1000
    link/ether 52:54:00:33:a5:a5 brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff
    inet brd scope global dynamic eth0
       valid_lft 3071sec preferred_lft 3071sec
    inet scope global eth0
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever
centos7-2 $ ip addr show eth0
2: eth0: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1500 qdisc pfifo_fast state
     UP qlen 1000
    link/ether 52:54:00:33:a5:87 brd ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff
    inet brd scope global eth0
       valid_lft forever preferred_lft forever

In this output, the second inet line for centos7-1 indicates that it is primary – the defined VIP ( is assigned to it. The other inet lines show the primary node’s real IP address ( and the backup node’s IP address (

A node’s current state is recorded in the local /var/run/nginx-ha-keepalived.state file. You can use the cat command to display it:

centos7-1 $ cat /var/run/nginx-ha-keepalived.state
centos7-2 $ cat /var/run/nginx-ha-keepalived.state

In version 1.1 and later of the nginx-ha-keepalived package, it is possible to dump VRRP extended statistics and data to the filesystem with the following command:

centos7-1 $ service keepalived dump

This command sends signals to the running keepalived proccess to write the current state to /tmp/keepalived.stats and /tmp/keepalived.data.

Forcing a State Change

To force the primary node to become the backup, run the following command on it:

service keepalived stop

As it shuts down, keepalived sends a VRRP packet with priority 0 to the backup node, which causes the backup node to take over the VIP.

If your cluster is using version 1.1 of the nginx-ha-keepalived package, this is a simpler way to force the state change:

touch /var/run/keepalived-manual-failover

This command creates a file checked by the script defined in a vrrp_script chk_manual_failover block. If the file exists, keepalived lowers the priority of the primary node, which causes the backup node to take over the VIP.

Adding More Virtual IP Addresses

The configuration created by the nginx-ha-setup script is very basic, and makes a single IP address highly available.

To make more than one IP address highly available:

  1. Add each new IP address to the virtual_ipaddress block in the /etc/keepalived/keepalived.conf file on both nodes:

    virtual_ipaddress {

    The syntax in the virtual_ipaddress block replicates the syntax of the ip utility.

  2. Run the service keepalived reload command on both nodes to reload the keepalived service:

    centos7-1 $ service keepalived reload
    centos7-2 $ service keepalived reload

Dual-Stack Configuration of IPv4 and IPv6

In keepalived version 1.2.20 and later (and version 1.1 and later of the nginx-ha-keepalived package), keepalived no longer supports mixing IPv4 and IPv6 addresses in one VRRP instance (virtual_ipaddress block), because that violates the VRRP standard.

There are two ways to configure dual‑stack HA with VRRP:

  • Add the virtual_ipaddress_excluded block with the addresses of one family.

    vrrp_instance VI_1 {
        unicast_peer {
        virtual_ipaddress {
        virtual_ipaddress_excluded {

    The addresses are excluded from VRRP advertisements, but are still managed by keepalived and added or removed when there is a state change.

  • Add another VRRP instance for IPv6 addresses.

    The VRRP configuration for IPv6 addresses on the primary node is:

    vrrp_instance VI_2 {
        interface         eth0
        priority          101
        virtual_router_id 51
        advert_int        1
        unicast_src_ip    1234:5678:9abc:def::3
        unicast_peer {
        virtual_ipaddress {
        track_script {
        notify "/usr/libexec/keepalived/nginx-ha-notify"

    Note that VRRP instances can both use the same virtual_router_id since the VRRP IPv4 and IPv6 instances are completely independent of each other.

Troubleshooting keepalived and VRRP

The keepalived daemon uses the syslog utility for logging. On CentOS, RHEL, and SLES‑based systems, the output is typically written to /var/log/messages, whereas on Ubuntu and Debian‑based systems it is written to /var/log/syslog. Log entries record events such as startup of the keepalived daemon and state transitions.

Here are a few sample entries that show the keepalived daemon starting up and the node transitioning a VRRP instance to the primary state (for easier reading, the centos7-1 hostname has been removed from each line after the first):

Feb 27 14:42:04 centos7-1 systemd: Starting LVS and VRRP High Availability Monitor...
Feb 27 14:42:04 Keepalived [19242]: Starting Keepalived v1.2.15 (02/26,2015)
Feb 27 14:42:04 Keepalived [19243]: Starting VRRP child process, pid=19244
Feb 27 14:42:04 Keepalived_vrrp [19244]: Registering Kernel netlink reflector
Feb 27 14:42:04 Keepalived_vrrp [19244]: Registering Kernel netlink command channel
Feb 27 14:42:04 Keepalived_vrrp [19244]: Registering gratuitous ARP shared channel
Feb 27 14:42:05 systemd: Started LVS and VRRP High Availability Monitor.
Feb 27 14:42:05 Keepalived_vrrp [19244]: Opening file '/etc/keepalived/keepalived.conf '.
Feb 27 14:42:05 Keepalived_vrrp [19244]: Truncating auth_pass to 8 characters
Feb 27 14:42:05 Keepalived_vrrp [19244]: Configuration is using: 64631 Bytes
Feb 27 14:42:05 Keepalived_vrrp [19244]: Using LinkWatch kernel netlink reflector...
Feb 27 14:42:05 Keepalived_vrrp [19244]: VRRP_Instance(VI_1) Entering BACKUP STATE
Feb 27 14:42:05 Keepalived_vrrp [19244]: VRRP sockpool: [ifindex(2), proto(112), unicast(1), fd(14,15)]
Feb 27 14:42:05 nginx-ha-keepalived: Transition to state 'BACKUP ' on VRRP instance 'VI_1 '.
Feb 27 14:42:05 Keepalived_vrrp [19244]: VRRP_Script(chk_nginx_service) succeeded
Feb 27 14:42:06 Keepalived_vrrp [19244]: VRRP_Instance(VI_1) forcing a new MASTER election
Feb 27 14:42:06 Keepalived_vrrp [19244]: VRRP_Instance(VI_1) forcing a new MASTER election
Feb 27 14:42:07 Keepalived_vrrp [19244]: VRRP_Instance(VI_1) Transition to MASTER STATE
Feb 27 14:42:08 Keepalived_vrrp [19244]: VRRP_Instance(VI_1) Entering MASTER STATE
Feb 27 14:42:08 Keepalived_vrrp [19244]: VRRP_Instance(VI_1) setting protocol VIPs.
Feb 27 14:42:08 Keepalived_vrrp [19244]: VRRP_Instance(VI_1) Sending gratuitous ARPs on eth0 for
Feb 27 14:42:08 nginx-ha-keepalived: Transition to state 'MASTER ' on VRRP instance 'VI_1 '.
Feb 27 14:42:13 Keepalived_vrrp [19244]: VRRP_Instance(VI_1) Sending gratuitous ARPs on eth0 for

If the system log does not explain the source of a problem, run the tcpdump command with the following parameters to display the VRRP advertisements that are sent on the local network:

tcpdump -vvv -ni eth0 proto vrrp

If you have multiple VRRP instances on the local network and want to filter the output to include only traffic between the node and its peer for a given service, include the host parameter and specify the peer’s IP address as defined by the unicast_peer block in the keepalived.conf file, as in the following example:

centos7-1 $ tcpdump -vvv -ni eth0 proto vrrp and host
tcpdump: listening on eth0, link-type EN10MB (Ethernet), capture size 65535 bytes
14:48:27.188100 IP (tos 0xc0, ttl 255, id 382, offset 0, flags [none],
    proto VRRP (112), length 40) > vrrp > VRRPv2 , Advertisement , vrid 51, prio 151,
        authtype simple , intvl 1s, length 20, addrs: auth

Several fields in the output are useful for debugging:

  • vrid – Virtual router ID (set by the virtual_router_id directive)
  • prio – Node’s priority (set by the priority directive)
  • authtype – Type of authentication in use (set by the authentication directive)
  • intvl – Frequency at which advertisements are sent (set by the advert_int directive)
  • auth – Authentication token sent (set by the auth_pass directive)

Keeping NGINX Plus Configuration Files in Sync

The NGINX Plus configuration files on the nodes must both define the services that are being made highly available. For information about synchronizing NGINX Plus configuration, see Synchronizing NGINX Configuration in a Cluster.

Additional Configuration Examples

The nginx-ha-keepalived package includes more configuration examples in the /usr/share/doc/nginx-ha-keepalived directory.