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Oracle® Database Administrator's Guide
11g Release 2 (11.2)

Part Number E17120-11
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Two-Phase Commit Mechanism

Unlike a transaction on a local database, a distributed transaction involves altering data on multiple databases. Consequently, distributed transaction processing is more complicated, because the database must coordinate the committing or rolling back of the changes in a transaction as a self-contained unit. In other words, the entire transaction commits, or the entire transaction rolls back.

The database ensures the integrity of data in a distributed transaction using the two-phase commit mechanism. In the prepare phase, the initiating node in the transaction asks the other participating nodes to promise to commit or roll back the transaction. During the commit phase, the initiating node asks all participating nodes to commit the transaction. If this outcome is not possible, then all nodes are asked to roll back.

All participating nodes in a distributed transaction should perform the same action: they should either all commit or all perform a rollback of the transaction. The database automatically controls and monitors the commit or rollback of a distributed transaction and maintains the integrity of the global database (the collection of databases participating in the transaction) using the two-phase commit mechanism. This mechanism is completely transparent, requiring no programming on the part of the user or application developer.

The commit mechanism has the following distinct phases, which the database performs automatically whenever a user commits a distributed transaction:

Phase Description
Prepare phase The initiating node, called the global coordinator, asks participating nodes other than the commit point site to promise to commit or roll back the transaction, even if there is a failure. If any node cannot prepare, the transaction is rolled back.
Commit phase If all participants respond to the coordinator that they are prepared, then the coordinator asks the commit point site to commit. After it commits, the coordinator asks all other nodes to commit the transaction.
Forget phase The global coordinator forgets about the transaction.

This section contains the following topics:

Prepare Phase

The first phase in committing a distributed transaction is the prepare phase. In this phase, the database does not actually commit or roll back the transaction. Instead, all nodes referenced in a distributed transaction (except the commit point site, described in the "Commit Point Site") are told to prepare to commit. By preparing, a node:

  • Records information in the redo logs so that it can subsequently either commit or roll back the transaction, regardless of intervening failures

  • Places a distributed lock on modified tables, which prevents reads

When a node responds to the global coordinator that it is prepared to commit, the prepared node promises to either commit or roll back the transaction later, but does not make a unilateral decision on whether to commit or roll back the transaction. The promise means that if an instance failure occurs at this point, the node can use the redo records in the online log to recover the database back to the prepare phase.

Note:

Queries that start after a node has prepared cannot access the associated locked data until all phases complete. The time is insignificant unless a failure occurs (see "Deciding How to Handle In-Doubt Transactions").

Types of Responses in the Prepare Phase

When a node is told to prepare, it can respond in the following ways:

Response Meaning
Prepared Data on the node has been modified by a statement in the distributed transaction, and the node has successfully prepared.
Read-only No data on the node has been, or can be, modified (only queried), so no preparation is necessary.
Abort The node cannot successfully prepare.

Prepared Response

When a node has successfully prepared, it issues a prepared message. The message indicates that the node has records of the changes in the online log, so it is prepared either to commit or perform a rollback. The message also guarantees that locks held for the transaction can survive a failure.

Read-Only Response

When a node is asked to prepare, and the SQL statements affecting the database do not change any data on the node, the node responds with a read-only message. The message indicates that the node will not participate in the commit phase.

There are three cases in which all or part of a distributed transaction is read-only:

Case Conditions Consequence
Partially read-only Any of the following occurs:
  • Only queries are issued at one or more nodes.

  • No data is changed.

  • Changes rolled back due to triggers firing or constraint violations.

The read-only nodes recognize their status when asked to prepare. They give their local coordinators a read-only response. Thus, the commit phase completes faster because the database eliminates read-only nodes from subsequent processing.
Completely read-only with prepare phase All of following occur:
  • No data changes.

  • Transaction is not started with SET TRANSACTION READ ONLY statement.

All nodes recognize that they are read-only during prepare phase, so no commit phase is required. The global coordinator, not knowing whether all nodes are read-only, must still perform the prepare phase.
Completely read-only without two-phase commit All of following occur:
  • No data changes.

  • Transaction is started with SET TRANSACTION READ ONLY statement.

Only queries are allowed in the transaction, so global coordinator does not have to perform two-phase commit. Changes by other transactions do not degrade global transaction-level read consistency because of global SCN coordination among nodes. The transaction does not use undo segments.

Note that if a distributed transaction is set to read-only, then it does not use undo segments. If many users connect to the database and their transactions are not set to READ ONLY, then they allocate undo space even if they are only performing queries.

Abort Response

When a node cannot successfully prepare, it performs the following actions:

  1. Releases resources currently held by the transaction and rolls back the local portion of the transaction.

  2. Responds to the node that referenced it in the distributed transaction with an abort message.

These actions then propagate to the other nodes involved in the distributed transaction so that they can roll back the transaction and guarantee the integrity of the data in the global database. This response enforces the primary rule of a distributed transaction: all nodes involved in the transaction either all commit or all roll back the transaction at the same logical time.

Steps in the Prepare Phase

To complete the prepare phase, each node excluding the commit point site performs the following steps:

  1. The node requests that its descendants, that is, the nodes subsequently referenced, prepare to commit.

  2. The node checks to see whether the transaction changes data on itself or its descendants. If there is no change to the data, then the node skips the remaining steps and returns a read-only response (see "Read-Only Response").

  3. The node allocates the resources it must commit the transaction if data is changed.

  4. The node saves redo records corresponding to changes made by the transaction to its redo log.

  5. The node guarantees that locks held for the transaction are able to survive a failure.

  6. The node responds to the initiating node with a prepared response (see "Prepared Response") or, if its attempt or the attempt of one of its descendents to prepare was unsuccessful, with an abort response (see "Abort Response").

These actions guarantee that the node can subsequently commit or roll back the transaction on the node. The prepared nodes then wait until a COMMIT or ROLLBACK request is received from the global coordinator.

After the nodes are prepared, the distributed transaction is said to be in-doubt (see "In-Doubt Transactions").It retains in-doubt status until all changes are either committed or rolled back.

Commit Phase

The second phase in committing a distributed transaction is the commit phase. Before this phase occurs, all nodes other than the commit point site referenced in the distributed transaction have guaranteed that they are prepared, that is, they have the necessary resources to commit the transaction.

Steps in the Commit Phase

The commit phase consists of the following steps:

  1. The global coordinator instructs the commit point site to commit.

  2. The commit point site commits.

  3. The commit point site informs the global coordinator that it has committed.

  4. The global and local coordinators send a message to all nodes instructing them to commit the transaction.

  5. At each node, the database commits the local portion of the distributed transaction and releases locks.

  6. At each node, the database records an additional redo entry in the local redo log, indicating that the transaction has committed.

  7. The participating nodes notify the global coordinator that they have committed.

When the commit phase is complete, the data on all nodes of the distributed system is consistent.

Guaranteeing Global Database Consistency

Each committed transaction has an associated system change number (SCN) to uniquely identify the changes made by the SQL statements within that transaction. The SCN functions as an internal timestamp that uniquely identifies a committed version of the database.

In a distributed system, the SCNs of communicating nodes are coordinated when all of the following actions occur:

  • A connection occurs using the path described by one or more database links

  • A distributed SQL statement executes

  • A distributed transaction commits

Among other benefits, the coordination of SCNs among the nodes of a distributed system ensures global read-consistency at both the statement and transaction level. If necessary, global time-based recovery can also be completed.

During the prepare phase, the database determines the highest SCN at all nodes involved in the transaction. The transaction then commits with the high SCN at the commit point site. The commit SCN is then sent to all prepared nodes with the commit decision.

See Also:

"Managing Read Consistency" for information about managing time lag issues in read consistency

Forget Phase

After the participating nodes notify the commit point site that they have committed, the commit point site can forget about the transaction. The following steps occur:

  1. After receiving notice from the global coordinator that all nodes have committed, the commit point site erases status information about this transaction.

  2. The commit point site informs the global coordinator that it has erased the status information.

  3. The global coordinator erases its own information about the transaction.