Lock (database)

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A lock, as a read lock or write lock, is used when multiple users need to access a database concurrently. This prevents data from being corrupted or invalidated when multiple users try to read while others write to the database. Any single user can only modify those database records (that is, items in the database) to which they have applied a lock that gives them exclusive access to the record until the lock is released. Locking not only provides exclusivity to writes but also prevents (or controls) reading of unfinished modifications (AKA uncommitted data).

A read lock can be used to prevent other users from reading a record (or page) which is being updated, so that others will not act upon soon-to-be-outdated information.

Mechanisms for locking[edit]

There are two mechanisms for locking data in a database: pessimistic locking, and optimistic locking. In pessimistic locking a record or page is locked immediately when the lock is requested, while in an optimistic lock the record or page is only locked when the changes made to that record are updated. The latter situation is only appropriate when there is less chance of someone needing to access the record while it is locked; otherwise it cannot be certain that the update will succeed because the attempt to update the record will fail if another user updates the record first. With pessimistic locking it is guaranteed that the record will be updated.

The degree of locking can be controlled by isolation level. Change of a lock is called lock conversion and the lock may be upgraded (lock upgrade) or downgraded (lock downgrade).

Transactional isolation is usually implemented by locking whatever is accessed in a transaction. There are two different approaches to transactional locking: Pessimistic locking and optimistic locking. The disadvantage of pessimistic locking is that a resource is locked from the time it is first accessed in a transaction until the transaction is finished, making it inaccessible to other transactions during that time. If most transactions simply look at the resource and never change it, an exclusive lock may be overkill as it may cause lock contention, and optimistic locking may be a better approach. With pessimistic locking, locks are applied in a fail-safe way. In the banking application example, an account is locked as soon as it is accessed in a transaction. Attempts to use the account in other transactions while it is locked will either result in the other process being delayed until the account lock is released, or that the process transaction will be rolled back. The lock exists until the transaction has either been committed or rolled back. With optimistic locking, a resource is not actually locked when it is first is accessed by a transaction. Instead, the state of the resource at the time when it would have been locked with the pessimistic locking approach is saved. Other transactions are able to concurrently access to the resource and the possibility of conflicting changes is possible. At commit time, when the resource is about to be updated in persistent storage, the state of the resource is read from storage again and compared to the state that was saved when the resource was first accessed in the transaction. If the two states differ, a conflicting update was made, and the transaction will be rolled back. In the banking application example, the balance of an account is saved when the account is first accessed in a transaction. If the transaction changes the account balance, the balance is read from the store again just before the balance is about to be updated. If the balance has changed since the transaction began, the transaction will fail itself, otherwise the new balance is written to persistent storage. A lock is used when multiple users need to access a database concurrently. This prevents data from being corrupted or invalidated when multiple users try to write to the database. Any single user can only modify those database records (that is, items in the database) to which they have applied a lock that gives them exclusive access to the record until the lock is released. Locking not only provides exclusivity to writes but also prevents (or controls) reading of unfinished modifications (AKA uncommitted data).

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