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Handling Write Conflicts

The biggest problem with multi-leader replication is that write conflicts can occur, which means that conflict resolution is required.

For example, consider a wiki page that is simultaneously being edited by two users, as shown in Figure 5-7. User 1 changes the title of the page from A to B, and user 2 changes the title from A to C at the same time. Each user’s change is successfully applied to their local leader. However, when the changes are asynchronously replicated, a conflict is detected [33]. This problem does not occur in a single-leader database.

A write conflict caused by two leaders concurrently updating the same record

Figure 5-7. A write conflict caused by two leaders concurrently updating the same record.

Synchronous versus asynchronous conflict detection

In a single-leader database, the second writer will either block and wait for the first write to complete, or abort the second write transaction, forcing the user to retry the write. On the other hand, in a multi-leader setup, both writes are successful, and the conflict is only detected asynchronously at some later point in time. At that time, it may be too late to ask the user to resolve the conflict.

In principle, you could make the conflict detection synchronous—i.e., wait for the write to be replicated to all replicas before telling the user that the write was successful. However, by doing so, you would lose the main advantage of multi-leader replication: allowing each replica to accept writes independently. If you want synchronous conflict detection, you might as well just use single-leader replication.

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