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Chapter: Fundamentals of Database Systems : Transaction Processing, Concurrency Control, and Recovery : Introduction to Transaction Processing Concepts and Theory

Transaction and System Concepts

1. Transaction States and Additional Operations 2. The System Log 3. Commit Point of a Transaction

Transaction and System Concepts


In this section we discuss additional concepts relevant to transaction processing. Section 1 describes the various states a transaction can be in, and discusses other operations needed in transaction processing. Section 2 discusses the system log, which keeps information about transactions and data items that will be needed for recovery. Section 3 describes the concept of commit points of trans-actions, and why they are important in transaction processing.


1. Transaction States and Additional Operations


A transaction is an atomic unit of work that should either be completed in its entirety or not done at all. For recovery purposes, the system needs to keep track of when each transaction starts, terminates, and commits or aborts . Therefore, the recovery manager of the DBMS needs to keep track of the following operations:


        BEGIN_TRANSACTION. This marks the beginning of transaction execution.


        READ or WRITE. These specify read or write operations on the database

items that are executed as part of a transaction.


        END_TRANSACTION. This specifies that READ and WRITE transaction operations have ended and marks the end of transaction execution. However, at this point it may be necessary to check whether the changes introduced by the transaction can be permanently applied to the database (committed) or whether the transaction has to be aborted because it violates serializability (see Section 21.5) or for some other reason.


                             COMMIT_TRANSACTION. This signals a successful end of the transaction so that any changes (updates) executed by the transaction can be safely committed to the database and will not be undone.


                             ROLLBACK (or ABORT). This signals that the transaction has ended unsuccessfully, so that any changes or effects that the transaction may have applied to the database must be undone.


Figure 21.4 shows a state transition diagram that illustrates how a transaction moves through its execution states. A transaction goes into an active state immediately after it starts execution, where it can execute its READ and WRITE operations. When the transaction ends, it moves to the partially committed state. At this point, some recovery protocols need to ensure that a system failure will not result in an inability to record the changes of the transaction permanently (usually by recording changes in the system log, discussed in the next section).5 Once this check is successful, the transaction is said to have reached its commit point and enters the committed state. Commit points are discussed in more detail in Section 21.2.3. When a transaction is committed, it has concluded its execution successfully and all its changes must be recorded permanently in the database, even if a system failure occurs.


However, a transaction can go to the failed state if one of the checks fails or if the transaction is aborted during its active state. The transaction may then have to be rolled back to undo the effect of its WRITE operations on the database. The terminated state corresponds to the transaction leaving the system. The transaction information that is maintained in system tables while the transaction has been run-ning is removed when the transaction terminates. Failed or aborted transactions may be restarted later—either automatically or after being resubmitted by the user—as brand new transactions.

2. The System Log


To be able to recover from failures that affect transactions, the system maintains a log6 to keep track of all transaction operations that affect the values of database items, as well as other transaction information that may be needed to permit recovery from failures. The log is a sequential, append-only file that is kept on disk, so it is not affected by any type of failure except for disk or catastrophic failure. Typically, one (or more) main memory buffers hold the last part of the log file, so that log entries are first added to the main memory buffer. When the log buffer is filled, or when certain other conditions occur, the log buffer is appended to the end of the log file on disk. In addition, the log file from disk is periodically backed up to archival storage (tape) to guard against catastrophic failures. The following are the types of entries—called log records—that are written to the log file and the corresponding action for each log record. In these entries, T refers to a unique transaction-id that is generated automatically by the system for each transaction and that is used to identify each transaction:


        [start_transaction, T]. Indicates that transaction T has started execution.


        [write_item, T, X, old_value, new_value]. Indicates that transaction T has changed the value of database item X from old_value to new_value.


        [read_item, T, X]. Indicates that transaction T has read the value of database item X.


        [commit, T]. Indicates that transaction T has completed successfully, and affirms that its effect can be committed (recorded permanently) to the data-base.


        [abort, T]. Indicates that transaction T has been aborted.


Protocols for recovery that avoid cascading rollbacks (see Section 21.4.2)—which include nearly all practical protocols—do not require that READ operations are writ-ten to the system log. However, if the log is also used for other purposes—such as auditing (keeping track of all database operations)—then such entries can be included. Additionally, some recovery protocols require simpler WRITE entries only include one of new_value and old_value instead of including both (see Section 21.4.2).


Notice that we are assuming that all permanent changes to the database occur within transactions, so the notion of recovery from a transaction failure amounts to either undoing or redoing transaction operations individually from the log. If the system crashes, we can recover to a consistent database state by examining the log and using one of the techniques described in Chapter 23. Because the log contains a record of every WRITE operation that changes the value of some database item, it is possible to undo the effect of these WRITE operations of a transaction T by tracing backward through the log and resetting all items changed by a WRITE operation of T to their old_values. Redo of an operation may also be necessary if a transaction has its updates recorded in the log but a failure occurs before the system can be sure that all these new_values have been written to the actual database on disk from the main memory buffers.


3. Commit Point of a Transaction


A transaction T reaches its commit point when all its operations that access the database have been executed successfully and the effect of all the transaction operations on the database have been recorded in the log. Beyond the commit point, the transaction is said to be committed, and its effect must be permanently recorded in the database. The transaction then writes a commit record [commit, T] into the log. If a system failure occurs, we can search back in the log for all transactions T that have written a [start_transaction, T] record into the log but have not written their [commit, T] record yet; these transactions may have to be rolled back to undo their effect on the database during the recovery process. Transactions that have written their commit record in the log must also have recorded all their WRITE operations in the log, so their effect on the database can be redone from the log records.


Notice that the log file must be kept on disk. As discussed in Chapter 17, updating a disk file involves copying the appropriate block of the file from disk to a buffer in main memory, updating the buffer in main memory, and copying the buffer to disk. It is common to keep one or more blocks of the log file in main memory buffers, called the log buffer, until they are filled with log entries and then to write them back to disk only once, rather than writing to disk every time a log entry is added. This saves the overhead of multiple disk writes of the same log file buffer. At the time of a system crash, only the log entries that have been written back to disk are considered in the recovery process because the contents of main memory may be lost. Hence, before a transaction reaches its commit point, any portion of the log that has not been written to the disk yet must now be written to the disk. This process is called force-writing the log buffer before committing a transaction.

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