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The recommended juju charm for postgresql states a nice feature in its readme which is when configured as a standalone server it has the ability to become a master / slave with replication when adding more units. Automatically. The master can even be deleted and a slave recovers its function.

It sounds great but I am wondering, since I have set up a database manually (I have SSHed into the server and createdb and loaded a dump), will it still work or does it have to be with a db that has been created automatically with the charm?

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Yes, it will work.

PostgreSQL replication replicates the entire PostgreSQL cluster, so all databases in the default cluster created by you, juju, and the system ones (template0, template1 and postgres), and all cluster global objects like users & roles.

Replication is not set up for any non-default clusters you create with pg_createcluster or initdb.

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