I help maintain PyMongo, 10gen's Python driver for MongoDB. Mainly this means I write a lot of tests, and writing tests sometimes requires me to solve problems no normal person would encounter. I'll describe one such problem and the fix: I'm going to explain how to wait for an index build to finish on all secondary members of a replica set.

Normally, this is how I'd build an index on a replica set:

client = MongoReplicaSetClient(
    'server0,server1,server2',
    replicaSet='replica_set_name')

collection = client.test.collection
collection.create_index([('key', ASCENDING)])
print("All done!")

Once "All done!" is printed, I know the index has finished building on the primary. (I could pass background=True if I didn't want to wait for the build to finish.) Once the index is built on the primary, the primary inserts a description of the index into the system.indexes collection, and appends the insert operation to its oplog:

{
    "ts" : { "t" : 1373049049, "i" : 1 },
    "op" : "i",
    "ns" : "test.system.indexes",
    "o" : {
        "ns" : "test.collection",
        "key" : { "key" : 1 },
        "name" : "key_1"
    }
}

The ts is the timestamp for the operation. "op": "i" means this is an insert, and the "o" subdocument is the index description itself. The secondaries see the entry and start their own index builds.

But now my call to PyMongo's create_index returns and Python prints "All done!" In one of the tests I wrote, I couldn't start testing until the index was ready on the secondaries, too. How do I wait until then?

The trick is to insert the index description into system.indexes manually. This way I can insert with a write concern so I wait for the insert to be replicated:

client = MongoReplicaSetClient(
    'server0,server1,server2',
    replicaSet='replica_set_name')

# Count the number of replica set members.
w = 1 + len(client.secondaries)

# Manually form the index description.
from pymongo.collection import _gen_index_name
index = {
    'ns': 'test.collection',
    'name': _gen_index_name([('key', 1)]),
    'key': {'key': ASCENDING}}

client.test.system.indexes.insert(index, w=w)

print("All done!")

Setting the w parameter to the number of replica set members (one primary plus N secondaries) makes insert wait for the operation to complete on all members. First the primary builds its index, then it adds it to its oplog, then the secondaries all start building the index. Only once all secondaries have finished building the index is the insert operation considered complete. Once Python prints "All done!" we know the index is finished everywhere.