The eventual-consistency model employed in replication introduces a window where conflicting updates targeting the same entry may be applied at two different Directory Servers. In general, two updates to the same Directory Server are in conflict if the update that arrived later fails. Conflict resolution, when possible, corrects conflicts introduced by clients automatically. There are some exceptions, however, when manual administrative action is required. For example, adding an entry in one replica and deleting the parent of this entry on another replica simultaneously will introduce a conflict that requires manual action. In a carefully implemented deployment, the risk of introducing conflicts that require manual action can be significantly reduced or even eliminated.

The conflict resolution algorithm in the PingDirectory Server uses a mechanism that orders all updates in the replication topology. Each update in the Directory Server is assigned a unique change number. The change number is attached to each update propagated via replication and allows each Directory Server to order updates exactly the same way.

Consider the following example that results in a conflict: add a single-valued attribute with different values to an entry concurrently at two Directory Servers (shown in the figure below). It is easy to see that the second operation would fail if a client attempted to add the same attribute to the same entry at the same Directory Server. In a replicated environment, the conflict is not immediately seen if these updates are applied concurrently at two different Directory Servers. The conflict is handled only after replication propagates the updates. The Directory Servers resolve the conflict independently of the other server. On one Directory Server, the entry will be updated to reflect the correct value; on the other Directory Server, the value will stay the same. As result, each Directory Server will independently resolve the conflict the same way based on the ordering of the updates. This example is illustrated below: