The Nuts and Bolts of Locking in SQL Server 2012

on September 11, 2013

Concurrency can lead to several negative effects, such as the reading of nonexistent data or loss of modified data. Consider this real-world example illustrating one of these negative effects, called dirty read: User U1 in the personnel department gets notice of an address change for the employee Jim Smith. U1 makes the address change, but when viewing the bank account information of Mr. Smith in the consecutive dialog step, he realizes that he modified the address of the wrong person. (The enterprise employs two persons with the name Jim Smith.) Fortunately, the application allows the user to cancel this change by clicking a button. U1 clicks the button, knowing that he has committed no error.

At the same time, user U2 in the technical department retrieves the data of the latter Mr. Smith to send the newest technical document to his home, because the employee seldom comes to the office. As the employee’s address was wrongly changed just before U2 retrieved the address, U2 prints out the wrong address label and sends the document to the wrong person.

To prevent problems like these in the pessimistic concurrency model, every DBMS must have mechanisms that control the access of data by all users at the same time. The Database Engine, like all relational DBMSs, uses locks to guarantee the consistency of the database in case of multiuser access. Each application program locks the data it needs, guaranteeing that no other program can modify the same data. When another application program requests the modification of the locked data, the system either stops the program with an error or makes a program wait.

Locking has several different aspects:

  • Lock duration
  • Lock modes
  • Lock granularity

Lock duration specifies a time period during which a resource holds the particular lock. Duration of a lock depends on, among other things, the mode of the lock and the choice of the isolation level.


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