With the increasing need for Five 9 continuity and the advent of virtualization, High Availability (HA) is seen more in the IT community as a necessity instead of a luxury.

SuSE is the choice distribution for HA-Linux (Heartbeat) binaries and is included with SLES 10.

This article describes the process for setting up Apache in a passive/active cluster using Heartbeat. It is assumed that there is a common disk device for the web server.

Cluster Configuration

The cluster consists of two SLES servers running Heartbeat and Apache in a cold standby mode.

Server1 is the active and has a DNS name of server1.mydomain.com
Server2 is the standby and has a DNS name of server2.mydomain.com
The cluster is named hacluster1.mydomain.com – Also the web server’s URL.

Configure Heartbeat

There are three main configuration files for HA (Heartbeat):


Lets’ take a look at each file what is required for our configuration.


There are three types of key methods for HA.

sha1 – SHA1 hash method
md5 – MD5 hash method
crc – CRC hash method – unsecured

The file looks like this:

auth 1

Auth 1 – determines with line number the key is located for use.
md5 is the method of encryption

NOTE: This file must be identical on both servers.


This is the main configuration file for HA and determines how HA will act.

logfacility local0       # Logging

node server1 server2       # List of cluster servers

keepalive 1                # Send one heartbeat each second

deadtime 10                # Declare node dead after 10 seconds

bcast eth0                 # Broadcast heartbeats on the eth0 interface

ping          # Ping the default gateway to monitor ethernet
                           # connectivity

auto_failback no           # Don't fail back to server1 automatically

respawn hacluster /usr/lib/heartbeat/ipfail  # Failover on network failures
Refer to the man pages for more options.

NOTE: This file must be identical on both servers


This file describes how HA will manage resources. It is basically a collection of scripts to be executed by HA. We will only use Apache for our cluster. Here is the file:

server1 apache

We specify server1 (active) the IP address of the cluster and the service httpd (Apache).
HA also stops these resources in reverse order.

NOTE: This file must be identical on both servers.
Gotcha: Remove Apache from system boot on both servers, otherwise HA will conflict with /etc/init.d. To remove Apache from startup, run the following command as root.

/sbin/chkconfig apache off

This will remove it from the runlevels and allow HA to start it.

Configure Apache

Create a mount point for Apache to be accessed on either server. We’ll call it /ha
Create the subdirectories for your web site under /ha

md /ha/srv
md /ha/srv/www
md /ha/srv/www/htdocs

Change the permissions for shared directories

chmod 775 /ha/srv/www
chmod 775 /ha/srv/www/htdocs

On each server, create a localname.html in /var/www/local, in this file put

Welcome to SLES HA Cluster! The page you are viewing is being served from node server1.mydomain.com from cluster hacluster1.mydomain.com

and make sure you change the name of the server to the relevant server.

Create a symbolic link to the shared directories on both servers.

ln -s /ha/srv/www/htdocs /var/www/local

Create a symbolic link to the localname.html on both servers.

ln -s /var/www/local/localname.html /ha/srv/www/htdocs/index.html


We can test the setup and fail over by manually failing the primary. First, start the cluster. On the primary server and then on the backup server:

/etc/rc.d/init.d/heartbeat start

If there are any problems, or if you are just curious, look in /var/log/messages and /var/log/ha-log.

Open a browser and enter the URL of your cluster. hacluster1.mydomain.com/index.html

Note the node name in red for server1.mydomain.com

Ok. Let’s fail the node and see what happens. Don’t close your browser!

One server1, stop Heartbeat:

/etc/rc.d/init.d/heartbeat stop

Now, Refresh your browser page.

Look at the server name! We failed over successfully… Sweet.

Now, more testing. The fail back. Restart the Heartbeat service on the primary and it should stop the service automatically on the backup, server2.

Refresh your browser page one more time.

Server1 is now back in control.

The fail over from the primary to the backup should occur in less than a minute depending on you Apache configurations.


This is just a small example of what resources can be maintained in a High Availability setup using Heartbeat. The main component for this to work in ensuring a homogeneous environment for both nodes.

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Category: SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, Technical Solutions
This entry was posted Friday, 22 February, 2008 at 11:20 am
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  • DamianMyerscough says:

    This article is really good 🙂 I think I will try this.

  • geistc says:

    In your example /etc/ha.d/ha.cf file, you have ‘auto_failback’ set to ‘no’. My understanding is this will prevent Heartbeat from failing back resources to the primary node automatically. In your ‘Testing’ section, you say that starting the Heartbeat service on the primary server will cause the fail back of resources. In order for this to happen, you would have to have the ‘auto_failback’ option set to ‘yes’. Thanks for the the great article.

  • Q_Element says:

    I am running Heartbeat on SLES10 and OpenSuse 11.3. I don’t have the directory /var/www/local to create the localname.html file. Do you recommend another location? I am running Apache2.

  • mfaris01 says:

    SLES defaults to /srv/www/htdocs but you can create your DocumentRoot anywhere as long as you specify it in the /etc/apache2/default-server.conf or what ever you call your installation’s config file.

    Like the install for SLES, I also recommend not making changes to httpd.conf as Novell has implied that the majority of the Apache config files should stay static and recommends creating additional custom “.conf” files in vhosts.d/ or another specified location. If you read the /etc/apache2/httpd.conf file, it has the layout of the install and all the details.

    I hope this helps you.

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