At least since I started working on the SQL Server team (just after 7.0 shipped) and since then there have only been two VLF status codes:

  • 0 = the VLF is not active (i.e. it can be (re)activated and overwritten)
  • (1 = not used and no-one seems to remember what it used to mean)
  • 2 = the VLF is active because at least one log record in it is ‘required’ by SQL Server for some reason (e.g. hasn’t been backed up by a log backup or scanned by replication)

A few weeks ago I learned about a new VLF status code that was added back in SQL Server 2012 but hasn’t come to light until recently (at least I’ve never encountered it in the wild). I went back-and-forth with a friend from Microsoft (Sean Gallardy, a PFE and MCM down in Tampa) who was able to dig around in the code to figure out when it’s used.

It can show up on an Availability Group secondary replica (only, not on the primary, and isn’t used in Database Mirroring):

  • 4 = the VLF exists on the primary replica but doesn’t really exist yet on this secondary replica

The main case where this status can happen is when a log file growth (or creation of an extra log file) has occurred on the primary replica but it hasn’t yet been replayed on the secondary replica. More log records are generated on the primary, written to a newly-created VLF, and sent across to the secondary replica to be hardened (written to the replica’s log file). If the secondary hasn’t yet replayed the log growth, the VLFs that should contain the just-received log records don’t exist yet, so they’re kind of temporarily created with a status of 4 so that the log records from the primary can be hardened successfully on the secondary. Eventually the log growth is replayed on the secondary and the temporary VLFs are fixed up correctly and change to a status of 2.

It makes perfect sense that a scheme like this exists, but I’d never really thought about this case or experimented to see what happens.

Anyway, now you know what status 4 means if you ever see it (and thanks Sean!)