Transactions and Replication

See also


  • A transaction is a series of operations between a client and server.
  • Goals:
    • Objects remain in consistent state
    • System is tolerant to crash failures
    • Transactions are independent
    • Transactions are completed or not started
  • Example: bank account transfer


  • A transaction is committed or aborted.
  • Commit - all operations completed, results are written to permanent storage, operation cannot be undone.
  • Abort - transaction cannot be completed, all operations are undone.


  • Acronym used to refer to the properties of transactions.
  • Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability


  • "all-or-nothing"
  • Either a transaction completes successfully, and all effects are applied to all objects, or it has no effect all all.


  • A transaction must move the system from one consistent state to another consistent state.
  • Example: sum of all account balances equal to branch's total accounts


  • The intermediate effects of a transaction must not be visible to other transactions.
  • Example: for an account transfer, cannot see accounts after withdrawal but before deposit


  • After a transaction has been processed, its effects are saved to permanent storage.

Problems in Transaction Processing: Lost Updates

  • One transaction may overwrite the result of another.
  • Example: Transaction T wants to increase b's balance by 10%, transferring from a.
    1. bal = b.getBalance()
    2. b.setBalance(bal*1.1)
    3. a.withdraw(bal/10)
  • Transaction U wants to increase b's balance by 10%, transferring from c.
    1. bal = b.getBalance()
    2. b.setBalance(bal*1.1)
    3. c.withdraw(bal/10)
  • Problem: suppose order is T1, U1, U2, T2, T3, U3. Balance of b is $220 (not $242 as it should be).

Problems in Transaction Processing: Inconsistent Retrievals

  • An inconsistent value may be reported if a transaction is in progress.
  • Example: Transaction V transfers $100 from a to b.
    1. a.withdraw(100)
    2. b.deposit(100)
  • Transaction W gets the total of all accounts at the bank branch.
    1. getBranchTotal()
  • If W executes between V1 and V2, the total will be short $100.

Serial Equivalence

  • Interleaving of operations should produce the same effect as a non-interleaved execution.
  • From lost update example: T1, T2, U1, U2, T3, U3 is OK.
  • Recall, write/write and read/write are conflicting. Read/read operations are not conflicting.
  • For two transactions to be serially equivalent, all pairs of conflicting operations must execute in the same order on all objects they both access.
  • Example: T: x=read(i); write(i, 10); write(j, 20) U: read(j); write(j, 30); z=read(i)
  • write(i, 10) and read(i) conflict -- write(j, 20) and read(j) conflict
  • To be serially equivalent, (T must access i before U does AND T must access j before U does) OR (U must access i before T does and U must access j before T does).
  • Question: Give three serially equivalent interleavings of the following transactions T and U:
    • T: x=read(j); y=read(i); write(j, 44); write(i, 33)
    • U: x=read(k); write(i, 55); y=read(j); write(k, 66)


  • The most common way to achieve serial equivalence is through the use of locks.
  • Before a client accesses an object, it must acquire a lock on that object.
  • A process may not acquire new locks within a transaction once a lock has been released.
    • This is two-phase locking. There is a lock-growing phase and a lock-shrinking phase.

Strict Two-Phase Locking

  • All locks are held until transaction is committed.
  • Prevents dirty reads and premature writes.
  • Dirty read - a transaction sees a value that is part of another transaction that is later aborted
    • T1: bal1 = a.getBalance() ($100)
    • T2: a.setBalance(bal1+10) ($110)
    • U1: bal2 = a.getBalance() ($110)
    • U2: a..setBalance(bal2+20) ($130)
    • U commits
    • T aborts
    • U cannot be undone
  • Premature write - an aborted operation is reset to the wrong value
    • Some systems store the before image with a write and roll back to that value in the event of an abort. This is a problem if another process overwrites the value before the abort.
    • a - balance is $100
    • T: a.setBalance($105) - (before image: 100)
    • U: a.setBalance($110) - (before image: 105)
    • U commits, T aborts and resets to 100 -- should be 110
    • If T aborts then U aborts, result will be 105, but should be 100.


  • Two or more processes wait for lock held by other processes.
  • Neither can proceed until it gives up the lock, and neither can give up the lock until it proceeds.
  • Example:
    • T: a.deposit(100); b.withdraw(100)
    • U: b.deposit(50); a.withdraw(50)
    • T1: a.deposit(100) - locks a
    • U1: b.deposit(50) - locks b
    • T2: b.withdraw(100) - wait for lock on b
    • U2: a.withdraw(50) - wait for lock on a

Preventing Deadlock

  • Atomically acquire all locks at beginning of transaction - very restrictive
  • Specify order in which locks must be acquired - also restrictive

Detecting Deadlock

  • Have the process that grants locks force transactions to abort.
  • Use a wait-for-graph where vertices are processes and edges are lock dependencies
  • When a lock is requested an edge is added; when a lock is freed and edge is removed.
  • If the graph has a cycle, there is a deadlock.
  • The transaction of one of the processes must be aborted.

Distributed Transactions

  • A transaction that accesses objects at multiple servers.
  • If a transaction commits at one server, it must commit at all servers.
  • If a transaction aborts at one server, it must abort at all servers.
  • A coordinator process manages the transaction. The coordinator is a process on one of the servers.
  • Each server that manages an object used in the transaction is a participant.
  • When a participant joins, it informs the coordinator.


Two-phase Commit

  • The coordinator uses two-phase commit to ensure that all participants either commit or abort.
  • Phase 1: The coordinator asks each participant whether it can commit. A participant may not change its vote to abort once it has voted to commit.
  • Phase 2: Once all participants have voted, if any participant voted to abort then an abort is sent to all participants. If all participants voted to commit then a commit is sent to all participants.
  • The participants inform the coordinator that they have committed.

Failure in Two-phase Commit

  • Server crash: To address the failure of a participant server, servers store the state of the transaction to permanent storage so that the process may be restarted and recover.
  • Communication failure: To address communication failure, timeouts are used. If the coordinator times out waiting for participants to vote, it will eventually decide to abort. If a participant times out waiting for the final vote from the coordinator, it will ping the coordinator. if the coordinator has failed, the participant will wait for it to be restarted.

Distributed Deadlock

  • Deadlock can occur in distributed transactions.
  • Example: T locks object X on server A; U locks object Y on server B; T blocks waiting to lock object Y on server B; U blocks waiting to lock object X on server A.
  • A simple approach to deadlock detection: all lock managers send information to a central authority. This approach comes with all of the usual problems of a centralized solution.

Edge Chasing

  • Edge chasing is a distributed approach to detecting deadlock.
  • Each lock manager keeps a graph of the edges it knows about and sends probes that follow the edges and attempt to detect cycles.
  • When a transaction begins waiting for a lock, the coordinator is informed.
  • When a process receives a request for a lock, and another transaction is holding that lock, it checks with the coordinator to see if the other process is waiting.
  • If it is, it sends a probe to the server administering that lock, which includes the wait-for-graph.
  • As probes are forwarded, edges are added and cycles are detected.


Breaking Deadlock

  • To break deadlock, transactions are aborted.
  • Transactions are given globally unique priority IDs and the lowest priority is aborted.