How to use a ServiceNow Read Replica

We have all heard about dynamic scaling or horizontal scaling in the cloud but can our SaaS offering from ServiceNow scale like this?  The answer, YES!  The platform can scale with more app nodes, but the real horsepower comes from scaling the back end using Read Replicas.

Before we go further, I would like to take a second and give a brief description to those of us asking “What is a read replica and do I really need one?” A read replica in ServiceNow is a database instance that is configured to handle read-only operations, helping to offload traffic from the primary database and improve performance as well as improving user experience through response times.

Do I have a Read Replica?

Before you go check if you have a Read Replica, please don’t everyone at once start banging down ServiceNow’s doors demanding Read Replicas.  Not everyone will have a Read Replica, nor will everyone need one.  Having a Read Replica is based on instance size, performance and many other factors.  Work with your Account Team to determine if one is right for your instance.

One of the larger instances I have worked on had a database footprint of 100TB+ and had multiple read replicas.  You’re probably asking how do I know if I need a read replica which we will not cover here, however we will go over how to check if you have one:

First we can check our “Secondary Database Pools” to see if we have data in the table:


Once we verify we have read replicas we need to check our “categories”.


If both of these tables show up on your instance and have data in the tables, then you have a read replica!  Now onto how we use it.

How to use it:

ServiceNow will tune your queries to automatically go to a read replica more often than not without you the customer doing a thing.  However, there are some scenarios where you will want to use a query category to ensure it is forced to the correct place, aka a Read Replica!

From our previous steps, we can see our categories (sys_db_category) but the two I find myself using to start with are “reporting” for report-type queries and scripts and “reroute” for most other things.

Scenario 1:

I want to query data and have NO intention to write back to the database:

In this scenario, I want to bring back a list of all Active incidents.  This can be an expensive query in a large-scale instance and could put undue load on the primary database.  Using the “setCategory” in our GlideRecord will force this query to use the read replicas configured within the “reroute” category.

//return back a list of all active incident

var gr = new GlideRecord('incident');
gr.setCategory("reroute"); //This forces it to a read replica

Scenario 2:

In this scenario, I have a reporting engineer who needs to report off-platform and will be making an API query to bring back those same Active incidents.  Since this is reporting and we don’t want to hammer our primary DB we should instruct our API consumer to pass in a parameter that will ensure that this API query goes to a read replica:

URL Parameter:  sysparm_query_category=reporting

When NOT to use a Read Replica:

If we are going to be checking if a record exists before inserting it, then we should NOT use a Read Replica.  This is due to replication lag between the primary and the replica.

In closing, Read Replicas are not the only way to improve performance but are part of a holistic architecture to help improve platform performance.  How are you using read replicas today or how do you plan on using them in the future?  Let us know in the comments!

Pro tip:  Troll your slow query log for the top 20 and fix those first. Then do the same next month.

Date Posted:

June 4, 2024

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  1. John G June 4, 2024 at 6:23 pm - Reply

    Great content, thanks Marcus! :)

  2. Vinay June 12, 2024 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    Can this read replica enable for performance analytics ?

    • Marcus Fly June 13, 2024 at 1:41 pm - Reply

      YES, and it should be happening without any configuration from you. If you have a read replica work with your support team to verify Performance Analytics is using your replica.

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