Oracle8i Concepts
Release 8.1.5






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Transaction Management

The pigs did not actually work, but directed and supervised the others.

George Orwell: Animal Farm

This chapter defines a transaction and describes how you can manage your work using transactions. It includes:

Introduction to Transactions

A transaction is a logical unit of work that contains one or more SQL statements. A transaction is an atomic unit; the effects of all the SQL statements in a transaction can be either all committed (applied to the database) or all rolled back (undone from the database).

A transaction begins with the first executable SQL statement. A transaction ends when it is committed or rolled back, either explicitly (with a COMMIT or ROLLBACK statement) or implicitly (when a DDL statement is issued).

To illustrate the concept of a transaction, consider a banking database. When a bank customer transfers money from a savings account to a checking account, the transaction might consist of three separate operations: decrement the savings account, increment the checking account, and record the transaction in the transaction journal.

Oracle must allow for two situations. If all three SQL statements can be performed to maintain the accounts in proper balance, the effects of the transaction can be applied to the database. However, if something (such as insufficient funds, invalid account number, or a hardware failure) prevents one or two of the statements in the transaction from completing, the entire transaction must be rolled back so that the balance of all accounts is correct.

Figure 17-1 illustrates the banking transaction example.

Figure 17-1 A Banking Transaction

Statement Execution and Transaction Control

A SQL statement that "executes successfully" is different from a "committed" transaction.

Executing successfully means that a single statement was parsed and found to be a valid SQL construction, and that the entire statement executed without error as an atomic unit (for example, all rows of a multirow update are changed). However, until the transaction that contains the statement is committed, the transaction can be rolled back, and all of the changes of the statement can be undone. A statement, rather than a transaction, executes successfully.

Committing means that a user has said either explicitly or implicitly "make the changes in this transaction permanent". The changes made by the SQL statement(s) of your transaction become permanent and visible to other users only after your transaction has been committed. Only other users' transactions that started after yours will see the committed changes.

Statement-Level Rollback

If at any time during execution a SQL statement causes an error, all effects of the statement are rolled back. The effect of the rollback is as if that statement were never executed. This is a statement-level rollback.

Errors discovered during SQL statement execution cause statement-level rollbacks. (An example of such an error is attempting to insert a duplicate value in a primary key.) Errors discovered during SQL statement parsing (such as a syntax error) have not yet been executed, so do not cause a statement-level rollback. Single SQL statements involved in a deadlock (competition for the same data) may also cause a statement-level rollback. See "Deadlocks".

A SQL statement that fails causes the loss only of any work it would have performed itself; it does not cause the loss of any work that preceded it in the current transaction. If the statement is a DDL statement, the implicit commit that immediately preceded it is not undone.


Users cannot directly refer to implicit savepoints in rollback statements.  

Oracle and Transaction Management

A transaction in Oracle begins when the first executable SQL statement is encountered. An executable SQL statement is a SQL statement that generates calls to an instance, including DML and DDL statements.

When a transaction begins, Oracle assigns the transaction to an available rollback segment to record the rollback entries for the new transaction. See "Transactions and Rollback Segments" for more information about this topic.

A transaction ends when any of the following occurs:

After one transaction ends, the next executable SQL statement automatically starts the following transaction.


Applications should always explicitly commit or roll back transactions before program termination.  

Committing Transactions

Committing a transaction means making permanent the changes performed by the SQL statements within the transaction.

Before a transaction that modifies data is committed, the following has occurred:

When a transaction is committed, the following occurs:

See "Oracle Processes" for more information about the background processes LGWR and DBWn.

Rolling Back Transactions

Rolling back means undoing any changes to data that have been performed by SQL statements within an uncommitted transaction.

Oracle allows you to roll back an entire uncommitted transaction. Alternatively, you can roll back the trailing portion of an uncommitted transaction to a marker called a savepoint; see "Savepoints" for a complete explanation.

All types of rollbacks use the same procedures:

In rolling back an entire transaction, without referencing any savepoints, the following occurs:

In rolling back a transaction to a savepoint, the following occurs:


You can declare intermediate markers called savepoints within the context of a transaction. Savepoints divide a long transaction into smaller parts.

Using savepoints, you can arbitrarily mark your work at any point within a long transaction. You then have the option later of rolling back work performed before the current point in the transaction (the end of the transaction) but after a declared savepoint within the transaction. For example, you can use savepoints throughout a long complex series of updates so that if you make an error, you do not need to resubmit every statement.

Savepoints are similarly useful in application programs. If a procedure contains several functions, you can create a savepoint before each function begins. Then, if a function fails, it is easy to return the data to its state before the function began and reexecute the function with revised parameters or perform a recovery action.

After a rollback to a savepoint, Oracle releases the data locks obtained by rolled back statements. Other transactions that were waiting for the previously locked resources can proceed. Other transactions that want to update previously locked rows can do so.

The Two-Phase Commit Mechanism

In a distributed database, Oracle must coordinate transaction control over a network and maintain data consistency, even if a network or system failure occurs.

A two-phase commit mechanism guarantees that all database servers participating in a distributed transaction either all commit or all roll back the statements in the transaction. A two-phase commit mechanism also protects implicit DML operations performed by integrity constraints, remote procedure calls, and triggers.

The Oracle two-phase commit mechanism is completely transparent to users who issue distributed transactions. In fact, users need not even know the transaction is distributed. A COMMIT statement denoting the end of a transaction automatically triggers the two-phase commit mechanism to commit the transaction; no coding or complex statement syntax is required to include distributed transactions within the body of a database application.

The recoverer (RECO) background process automatically resolves the outcome of in-doubt distributed transactions--distributed transactions in which the commit was interrupted by any type of system or network failure. After the failure is repaired and communication is reestablished, the RECO of each local Oracle server automatically commits or rolls back any in-doubt distributed transactions consistently on all involved nodes.

In the event of a long-term failure, Oracle allows each local administrator to manually commit or roll back any distributed transactions that are in doubt as a result of the failure. This option enables the local database administrator to free up any locked resources that may be held indefinitely as a result of the long-term failure.

If a database must be recovered to a point in the past, Oracle's recovery facilities enable database administrators at other sites to return their databases to the earlier point in time also. This ensures that the global database remains consistent.

Discrete Transaction Management

Application developers can improve the performance of short, nondistributed transactions by using the procedure BEGIN_DISCRETE_TRANSACTION. This procedure streamlines transaction processing so that short transactions can execute more rapidly.

During a discrete transaction, all changes made to any data are deferred until the transaction commits. Of course, other concurrent transactions are unable to see the uncommitted changes of a transaction whether the transaction is discrete or not.

Oracle generates redo information, but stores it in a separate location in memory. When the transaction issues a commit request, Oracle writes the redo information to the redo log file (along with other group commits), and applies the changes to the database block directly to the block. Oracle returns control to the application once the commit completes. This eliminates the need to generate undo information, since the block actually is not modified until the transaction is committed, and the redo information is stored in the redo log buffers.

There is no interaction between discrete transactions, which always generate redo, and the NOLOGGING mode, which applies only to direct path operations. (See "Logging Mode".) Discrete transactions may therefore be issued against tables that have the NOLOGGING attribute set.

Additional Information:

See Oracle8i Tuning for more information on discrete transactions.  

Autonomous Transactions

Autonomous transactions are independent transactions that can be called from within another transaction. An autonomous transaction lets you "step out" of the context of the calling transaction, perform some SQL operations, commit or roll back those operations, and then return to the calling transaction's context and continue with that transaction.

Once invoked, an autonomous transaction is totally independent of the calling transaction (the main transaction). It does not see any of the uncommitted changes made by the main transaction and does not share any locks or resources with the main transaction. Changes made by an autonomous transaction become visible to other transactions upon commit of the autonomous transactions.

One autonomous transaction can call another. There are no limits, other than resource limits, on how many levels of autonomous transactions may be called.

Deadlocks are possible between an autonomous transaction and its calling transaction. Oracle detects such deadlocks and returns an error. The application developer is responsible for avoiding deadlock situations.

Autonomous transactions are useful for implementing actions that need to be performed independently, regardless of whether the calling transaction commits or rolls back, such as transaction logging and retry counters.

Autonomous PL/SQL Blocks

You can call autonomous transactions from within a PL/SQL block. The specification PRAGMA AUTONOMOUS_TRANSACTION can declare the following kinds of PL/SQL blocks to be autonomous:

Transactional operations performed in the "BEGIN .. END" section of an autonomous block are done as part of an autonomous transaction, that is, independent of the transaction context of the calling block. When an autonomous PL/SQL block is entered, the transaction context of the caller is suspended. This ensures that SQL operations performed in this block (or other blocks called from it) have no dependence or effect on the state of the caller's transaction context.

An autonomous PL/SQL block is considered to have purity of RNDS (reads no database state) and WNDS (writes no database state) even if SQL operations are performed in the autonomous block or in other blocks called from it. Hence, such blocks can be called from SQL contexts.

Additional Information:

See the Oracle8i Application Developer's Guide - Fundamentals for more information on purity levels.  

When an autonomous block invokes another autonomous block or itself, the called block does not share any transaction context with the calling block. However, when an autonomous block invokes a non-autonomous block (that is, one that is not declared to be autonomous), the called block inherits the transaction context of the calling autonomous block.

Transaction Control Statements in Autonomous Blocks

Transaction control statements in an autonomous PL/SQL block apply only to the currently active autonomous transaction. Examples of such statements are:

Similarly, transaction control statements in the main transaction apply only to that transaction and not to any autonomous transaction that it calls. For example, rolling back the main transaction to a savepoint taken before the beginning of an autonomous transaction does not roll back the autonomous transaction.

Additional Information:

See the PL/SQL User's Guide and Reference for detailed information about autonomous transactions.  


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