Earlier this year I was sent an interesting question about why the person was seeing lots of VLFs in the log with status = 2 (which means ‘active’) after clearing (also known as ‘truncating’) the log and log_reuse_wait_desc showed NOTHING.

I did some digging around and all I could find was an old blog post from 2013 that shows the behavior and mentions that this happens with mirroring and Availability Groups. I hadn’t heard of this behavior before but I guessed at the reason, and confirmed with the SQL Server team.

When an AG secondary is going to be added, at that point in time, the maximum LSN (the Log Sequence Number of the most recent log record) present in the restored copy of the database that will be the secondary must be part of the ‘active’ log on the AG primary (i.e. that LSN must be in a VLF on the primary that has status = 2). If that’s not the case, you need to restore another log backup on what will be the new secondary, and try the AG joining process again. Repeat until it works. You can see how for a very busy system, generating lots of log records and with frequent log backups (which clear the log on the primary), catching up the secondary enough to allow it to join the AG might be difficult, or necessitate temporarily stopping log backups on the primary (possibly opening up a window for increased data loss in a disaster).

To make this whole process easier, when a database is an AG primary, when log clearing occurs, the VLFs don’t go to status = 0; they remain ‘active’ with status = 2. So how does this help? Well, the fact that lots more VLFs are ‘active’ on the AG primary means that it’s more likely that the maximum LSN of a new secondary is still part of the ‘active’ log on the primary, and the AG-joining succeeds without having to repeat the restore-retry-the-join over and over.

(Note: the log manager knows that these VLFs are really ‘fake active’ and can reuse them as if they were ‘inactive’ if the log wraps around (see this post for an explanation) so there’s no interruption to regular operations on the AG primary.)

It’s a clever little mechanism that someone thought of to make a DBA’s life a bit easier and AGs less problematic to set up.

And now you know – log clearing won’t *always* set VLF statuses to zero.