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Lets say you have 5 drives. On 5 nodes.

1 Drive fail's so either you unmount it or the drive failure script does.

The drive failed on Friday night but you don't feel like messing with it. In the mean time swift starts working around the failure by doing things like writing uploads destined to that drive automatically to a handoff node.

Monday roll's around and you finally get the chance to replace the failed drive with a new drive. You insert the drive, format it, and mount it. Of course now that drive is empty but Swift has you covered. It will start replicating all the data that's supposed to be on that drive back on it with out your intervention.

You never had to touch the ring. All you did was replace the physical gear.

Even if an entire zones worth of servers goes away (whether 1 Zone == 1 Drive or 1 Zone == 100 drives),when you swap the gear for a working chassis and mount drives Swift will start replicating the data back.

The only reason you would have to mess with the ring is if you're permanently pulling a node/device off line or if the replacement needs to go in at a higher weight (say you swap a failed 2TB drive with a 3 TB drive).