High-Availability Groups

SafeNet Luna HSMs can provide scalability and redundancy for cryptographic applications that are critical to your organization. For applications that require continuous, uninterruptible uptime, the SafeNet Luna HSM Client allows you to combine application partitions on multiple HSMs into a single logical group, known as a High-Availability (HA) group.

An HA group allows your client application to access cryptographic services as long as one member HSM is functional and network-connected. This allows you to perform maintenance on any individual member without ever pausing your application, and provides redundancy in the case of individual failures. Cryptographic requests are distributed across all active group members, enabling a performance gain for each member added. Cryptographic objects are replicated across the entire group, so HA can also be used to keep a current, automatic, remote backup of the group contents.

HA functionality is handled by the SafeNet Luna HSM Client software. The individual partitions have no way to know they are configured in an HA group, so you can configure HA on a per-application basis. The way you group your HSMs depends on your circumstances and desired performance.

This chapter contains the following sections:

>How HA Works

>Planning Your HA Group Deployment

>Setting Up an HA Group

>Verifying an HA Group

>Setting an HA Group Member to Standby

>Configuring HA Auto-Recovery

>Enabling/Disabling HA Only Mode

>Managing Your HA Groups

>Adding/Removing an HA Group Member

>Replacing an HA Group Member

>Deleting an HA Group

>HA Troubleshooting


For repetitive operations (for example, many signings using the same key), an HA group provides linear performance gains as group members are added. The best approach is to maintain an HA group at a size that best balances application server capability and the expected loads, with an additional unit providing capacity for bursts of traffic.

Load Balancing

Cryptographic requests sent to the HA group's virtual slot are load-balanced across all active members of the HA group. The load-balancing algorithm sends requests for cryptographic operations to the least busy partition in the HA group. This scheme accounts for operations of variable length, ensuring that queues are balanced even when some partitions are assigned very long operations. When an application requests a repeated set of operations, this method works. When the pattern is interrupted, however, the request type becomes relevant, as follows:

>Single-part (stateless) cryptographic operations are load-balanced.

>Multi-part (stateful) cryptographic operations are load-balanced.

>Multi-part (stateful) information retrieval requests are not load-balanced. In this case, the cost of distributing the requests to different HA group members is generally greater than the benefit. For this reason, multi-part information retrieval requests are all targeted at one member.

> Key management requests are not load-balanced. Operations affecting the state of stored keys (creation, deletion) are performed on a single HA member, and the result is then replicated to the rest of the HA group.

Key Replication

When an application creates a key on the virtual HA slot, the HA library automatically replicates the key across all group members before reporting back to the application. Keys are created on one member partition and replicated to the other members. If a member fails during this process, the HA group reattempts key replication to that member until it recovers, or failover attempts time out. Once the key exists on all active members of the HA group, a success code is returned to the application.

All key replication uses the Luna cloning protocol, which provides mutual authentication, confidentiality, and integrity for each object that is copied from one partition to another. Therefore, all HA group member partitions must be initialized with the same cloning domain.


When any active HA group member fails, a failover event occurs – the affected partition is dropped from the list of available HA group members, and all operations that were pending on the failed partition are transparently rescheduled on the remaining member partitions. The SafeNet Luna HSM Client continuously monitors the health of member partitions at two levels:

> network connectivity – disruption of the network connection causes a failover event after a 20-second timeout.

>command completion – any command that is not executed within 20 seconds causes a failover event.

As long as one HA group member remains functional, cryptographic service is maintained to an application no matter how many other group members fail.


Recovery of a failed HA group member is designed to be automatic in as many cases as possible. You can configure your auto-recovery settings to require as much manual intervention as is convenient for you and your organization. In either an automated or manual recovery process, there is no need to restart your application. As part of the recovery process:

>Any cryptographic objects created while the member was offline are automatically replicated to the recovered partition.

>The recovered partition becomes available for its share of load-balanced cryptographic operations.

Automatic Recovery

With automatic recovery, the client library automatically performs periodic recovery attempts while a member is failed. The frequency of these checks is adjustable. Most customers enable auto-recovery in all configurations.

Manual Recovery

Simply run the client recovery command and the recovery logic inside the client makes a recovery attempt the next time the application uses the HSM. As part of recovery, any key material created while the member was offline is automatically replicated to the recovered unit.

Even if a manual recovery process is selected, the application does not need to be restarted.

Permanent Failure

Sometimes a failure of a device is permanent (for example, if the HSM is re-initialized). In this event, you only need to remove the failed unit and deploy a new member to the group. The running clients automatically resynchronize keys to the new member and start scheduling operations to it.

Standby Members

After you add member partitions to an HA group, you can designate some as standby members. Cryptographic objects are replicated on all members of the HA group, including standby members, but standby members do not perform any cryptographic operations unless all the active members go offline. In this event, all standby members are immediately promoted to active service, and operations are load-balanced across them. This provides an extra layer of assurance against a service blackout for your application.