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Postgresql Transaction isolation

Transaction isolation:
The SQL standard defines four levels of transaction isolation. The most strict is Serializable, which is defined by the standard in a paragraph which says that any concurrent execution of a set of Serializable transactions is guaranteed to produce the same effect as running them one at a time in some order. The other three levels are defined in terms of phenomena, resulting from interaction between concurrent transactions, which must not occur at each level. The standard notes that due to the definition of Serializable, none of these phenomena are possible at that level. (This is hardly surprising -- if the effect of the transactions must be consistent with having been run one at a time, how could you see any phenomena caused by interactions?)
The phenomena which are prohibited at various levels are:
dirty read

A transaction reads data written by a concurrent uncommitted transaction.

nonrepeatable read

A transaction re-reads data it has previously read and finds that data has been modified by another transaction (that committed since the initial read).

phantom read

A transaction re-executes a query returning a set of rows that satisfy a search condition and finds that the set of rows satisfying the condition has changed due to another recently-committed transaction.
The four transaction isolation levels and the corresponding behaviors are described in below  table
Standard SQL Transaction Isolation Levels:
Isolation Level
Dirty Read
Nonrepeatable Read
Phantom Read
Read uncommitted
Possible
Possible
Possible
Read committed
Not possible
Possible
Possible
Repeatable read
Not possible
Not possible
Possible
Serializable
Not possible
Not possible
Not possible

In PostgreSQL, you can request any of the four standard transaction isolation levels. But internally, there are only three distinct isolation levels, which correspond to the levels Read Committed, Repeatable Read, and Serializable. When you select the level Read Uncommitted you really get Read Committed, and phantom reads are not possible in the PostgreSQL implementation of Repeatable Read, so the actual isolation level might be stricter than what you select. This is permitted by the SQL standard: the four isolation levels only define which phenomena must not happen, they do not define which phenomena must happen. The reason that PostgreSQL only provides three isolation levels is that this is the only sensible way to map the standard isolation levels to the multiversion concurrency control architecture. The behavior of the available isolation levels is detailed in the following subsections.
To set the transaction isolation level of a transaction, use the command SET TRANSACTION.
SET TRANSACTION:

Name

SET TRANSACTION -- set the characteristics of the current transaction

Synopsis

SET TRANSACTION transaction_mode [, ...]

SET TRANSACTION SNAPSHOT snapshot_id

SET SESSION CHARACTERISTICS AS TRANSACTION transaction_mode [, ...]

where transaction_mode is one of:

  ISOLATION LEVEL { SERIALIZABLE | REPEATABLE READ | READ COMMITTED | READ UNCOMMITTED }

    READ WRITE | READ ONLY

    [ NOT ] DEFERRABLE

Description

The SET TRANSACTION command sets the characteristics of the current transaction. It has no effect on any subsequent transactions. SET SESSION CHARACTERISTICS sets the default transaction characteristics for subsequent transactions of a session. These defaults can be overridden by SET TRANSACTION for an individual transaction.The available transaction characteristics are the transaction isolation level, the transaction access mode (read/write or read-only), and the deferrable mode. In addition, a snapshot can be selected, though only for the current transaction, not as a session default.
The isolation level of a transaction determines what data the transaction can see when other transactions are running concurrently:
READ COMMITTED

A statement can only see rows committed before it began. This is the default.

REPEATABLE READ

All statements of the current transaction can only see rows committed before the first query or data-modification statement was executed in this transaction.

SERIALIZABLE

All statements of the current transaction can only see rows committed before the first query or data-modification statement was executed in this transaction. If a pattern of reads and writes among concurrent serializable transactions would create a situation which could not have occurred for any serial (one-at-a-time) execution of those transactions, one of them will be rolled back with a serialization_failure error.

The SQL standard defines one additional level, READ UNCOMMITTED. In PostgreSQL READ UNCOMMITTED is treated as READ COMMITTED.

The transaction isolation level cannot be changed after the first query or data-modification statement (SELECT, INSERT, DELETE, UPDATE, FETCH, or COPY) of a transaction has been executed

The transaction access mode determines whether the transaction is read/write or read-only. Read/write is the default.

 When a transaction is read-only, the following SQL commands are disallowed: INSERT, UPDATE, DELETE, and COPY FROM if the table they would write to is not a temporary table; all CREATE, ALTER, and DROP commands; COMMENT, GRANT, REVOKE, TRUNCATE;and EXPLAINANALYZE and EXECUTE if the command they would execute is among those listed. This is a high-level notion of read-only that does not prevent all writes to disk.

The SET TRANSACTION SNAPSHOT command allows a new transaction to run with the same snapshot as an existing transaction. The pre-existing transaction must have exported its snapshot with the pg_export_snapshot function (see Section 9.26.5). That function returns a snapshot identifier, which must be given to SET TRANSACTION SNAPSHOT to specify which snapshot is to be imported. The identifier must be written as a string literal in this command, for example '000003A1-1'. SET TRANSACTION SNAPSHOT can only be executed at the start of a transaction, before the first query or data-modification statement (SELECT, INSERT, DELETE, UPDATE, FETCH, or COPY) of the transaction. Furthermore, the transaction must already be set to SERIALIZABLE or REPEATABLE READ isolation level (otherwise, the snapshot would be discarded immediately, since READ COMMITTED mode takes a new snapshot for each command). If the importing transaction uses SERIALIZABLE isolation level, then the transaction that exported the snapshot must also use that isolation level. Also, a non-read-only serializable transaction cannot import a snapshot from a read-only transaction.

Notes:

If SET TRANSACTION is executed without a prior START TRANSACTION or BEGIN, it will appear to have no effect, since the transaction will immediately end.It is possible to dispense with SET TRANSACTION by instead specifying the desired transaction_modes in BEGIN or START TRANSACTION. But that option is not available for SET TRANSACTION SNAPSHOT.

The session default transaction modes can also be set by setting the configuration parameters default_transaction_isolationdefault_transaction_read_only, and default_transaction_deferrable. (In fact SET SESSION CHARACTERISTICS is just a verbose equivalent for setting these variables with SET.) This means the defaults can be set in the configuration file, via ALTER DATABASE, etc. Consult Chapter 18 for more information.

Examples

To begin a new transaction with the same snapshot as an already existing transaction, first export the snapshot from the existing transaction. That will return the snapshot identifier, for example:

BEGIN TRANSACTION ISOLATION LEVEL REPEATABLE READ;
SELECT pg_export_snapshot();
 pg_export_snapshot
 000003A1-1
(1 row)
Then give the snapshot identifier in a SET TRANSACTION SNAPSHOT command at the beginning of the newly opened transaction:
BEGIN TRANSACTION ISOLATION LEVEL REPEATABLE READ;
SET TRANSACTION SNAPSHOT '000003A1-1';
References:



Written BY :- Raghavan Rao

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