7. Two Phase Commit csep 545 Transaction Processing for e-commerce

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7. Two Phase Commit

  • CSEP 545 Transaction Processing for E-Commerce

  • Philip A. Bernstein

  • Copyright ©2003 Philip A. Bernstein


  • 1. Introduction

  • 2. The Two-Phase Commit (2PC) Protocol

  • 3. 2PC Failure Handling

  • 4. 2PC Optimizations

  • 5. Process Structuring

  • 6. Three Phase Commit

7.1 Introduction

  • Goal - ensure the atomicity of a transaction that accesses multiple resource managers

  • (Recall, resource abstracts data, messages, and other items that are shared by transactions.)

  • Why is this hard?

    • What if resource manager RMi fails after a transaction commits at RMk?
    • What if other resource managers are down when RMi recovers?
    • What if a transaction thinks a resource manager failed and therefore aborted, when it actually is still running?


  • Each resource manager independently commits or aborts a transaction atomically on its resources.

  • Home(T) decides when to start committing T

  • Home(T) doesn’t start committing T until T terminates at all nodes (possibly hard)

  • Resource managers fail by stopping

    • no Byzantine failures, where a failed process exhibits arbitrary behavior, such as sending the wrong message

Problem Statement

  • Transaction T accessed data at resource managers R1, … Rn.

  • The goal is to either

    • commit T at all of R1, … Rn, or
    • abort T at all of R1, … Rn
    • even if resource managers, nodes and communications links fail during the commit or abort activity
  • That is, never commit at Ri but abort at Rk.

7.2 Two-Phase Commit

  • Two phase commit (2PC) is the standard protocol for making commit and abort atomic

  • Coordinator - the component that coordinates commitment at home(T)

  • Participant - a resource manager accessed by T

  • A participant P is ready to commit T if all of T’s after-images at P are in stable storage

  • The coordinator must not commit T until all participants are ready

    • If P isn’t ready, T commits, and P fails, then P can’t commit when it recovers.

The Protocol

  • (Begin Phase 1) The coordinator sends a Request-to-Prepare message to each participant

  • The coordinator waits for all participants to vote

  • Each participant

    • votes Prepared if it’s ready to commit
    • may vote No for any reason
    • may delay voting indefinitely
  • (Begin Phase 2) If coordinator receives Prepared from all participants, it decides to commit. (The transaction is now committed.) Otherwise, it decides to abort.

The Protocol (cont’d)

  • The coordinator sends its decision to all participants (i.e. Commit or Abort)

  • Participants acknowledge receipt of Commit or Abort by replying Done.

Case 1: Commit


  • In the absence of failures, 2PC requires 3 rounds of messages before the decision is made

    • Request-to-prepare
    • Votes
    • Decision
  • Done messages are just for bookkeeping

    • they don’t affect response time
    • they can be batched


  • Before it votes, a participant can abort unilaterally

  • After a participant votes Prepared and before it receives the coordinator’s decision, it is uncertain. It can’t unilaterally commit or abort during its uncertainty period.

Uncertainty (cont’d)

  • The coordinator is never uncertain

  • If a participant fails or is disconnected from the coordinator while it’s uncertain, at recovery it must find out the decision

The Bad News Theorems

  • Uncertainty periods are unavoidable

  • Blocking - a participant must await a repair before continuing. Blocking is bad.

  • Theorem 1 - For every possible commit protocol (not just 2PC), a communications failure can cause a participant to become blocked.

  • Independent recovery - a recovered participant can decide to commit or abort without communicating with other nodes

  • Theorem 2 - No commit protocol can guarantee independent recovery of failed participants

7.3 2PC Failure Handling

  • Failure handling - what to do if the coordinator or a participant times out waiting for a message.

    • Remember, all failures are detected by timeout
  • A participant times out waiting for coordinator’s Request-to-prepare.

    • It decides to abort.
  • The coordinator times out waiting for a participant’s vote

    • It decides to abort

2PC Failure Handling (cont’d)

  • A participant that voted Prepared times out waiting for the coordinator’s decision

    • It’s blocked.
    • Use a termination protocol to decide what to do.
    • Naïve termination protocol - wait till the coordinator recovers
  • The coordinator times out waiting for Done

    • it must resolicit them, so it can forget the decision

Forgetting Transactions

  • After a participant receives the decision, it may forget the transaction

  • After the coordinator receives Done from all participants, it may forget the transaction

  • A participant must not reply Done until its commit or abort log record is stable

    • Else, if it fails, then recovers, then asks the coordinator for a decision, the coordinator may not know

Logging 2PC State Changes

Coordinator Recovery

  • If the coordinator fails and later recovers, it must know the decision. It must therefore log

    • the fact that it began T’s 2PC protocol, including the list of participants, and
    • Commit or Abort, before sending Commit or Abort to any participant (so it knows whether to commit or abort after it recovers).
  • If the coordinator fails and recovers, it resends the decision to participants from whom it doesn’t remember getting Done

    • If the participant forgot the transaction, it replies Done
    • The coordinator should therefore log Done after it has received them all.

Participant Recovery

  • If a participant P fails and later recovers, it first performs centralized recovery (Restart)

  • For each distributed transaction T that was active at the time of failure

    • If P is not uncertain about T, then it unilaterally aborts T
    • If P is uncertain, it runs the termination protocol (which may leave P blocked)
  • To ensure it can tell whether it’s uncertain, P must log its vote before sending it to the coordinator

  • To avoid becoming totally blocked due to one blocked transaction, P should reacquire T’s locks during Restart and allow Restart to finish before T is resolved.

Heuristic Commit

  • Suppose a participant recovers, but the termination protocol leaves T blocked.

  • Operator can guess whether to commit or abort

    • Must detect wrong guesses when coordinator recovers
    • Must run compensations for wrong guesses
  • Heuristic commit

    • If T is blocked, the local resource manager (actually, transaction manager) guesses
    • At coordinator recovery, the transaction managers jointly detect wrong guesses.

7.4 2PC Optimizations and Variations

  • Optimizations

    • Read-only transaction
    • Presumed Abort
    • Transfer of coordination
    • Cooperative termination protocol
  • Variations

    • Re-infection
    • Phase Zero

Read-only Transaction

  • A read-only participant need only respond to phase one. It doesn’t care what the decision is.

  • It responds Prepared-Read-Only to Request-to-Prepare, to tell the coordinator not to send the decision

  • Limitation - All other participants must be fully terminated, since the read-only participant will release locks after voting.

    • No more testing of SQL integrity constraints
    • No more evaluation of SQL triggers

Presumed Abort

  • After a coordinator decides Abort and sends Abort to participants, it forgets about T immediately.

  • Participants don’t acknowledge Abort (with Done)

Transfer of Coordination

Cooperative Termination Protocol (CTP)

  • Assume coordinator includes a list of participants in Request-to-Prepare.

  • If a participant times-out waiting for the decision, it runs the following protocol.

  • 1. Participant P sends Decision-Req to other participants

  • 2. If participant Q voted No or hasn’t voted or received Abort from the coordinator, it responds Abort

  • 3. If participant Q received Commit from the coordinator, it responds Commit.

  • 4. If participant Q is uncertain, it responds Uncertain (or doesn’t respond at all).

  • If all participants are uncertain, then P remains blocked.

Cooperative Termination Issues

  • Participants don’t know when to forget T, since other participants may require CTP

    • Solution 1 - After receiving Done from all participants, coordinator sends End to all participants
    • Solution 2 - After receiving a decision, a participant may forget T any time.
  • To ensure it can run CTP, a participant should include the list of participants in the vote log record.


  • Suppose A is coordinator and B and C are participants

    • A asks B and C to prepare
    • B votes prepared
    • C calls B to do some work. (B is reinfected.)
    • B does the work and tells C it has prepared, but now it expects C to be its coordinator.
    • When A asks C to prepare, C propagates the request to B and votes prepared only if both B and C are prepared. (See Tree of Processes discussion later.)
  • Can be used to implement integrity constraint checking, triggers, and other commit-time processing, without requiring an extra phase (between phases 1 and 2 of 2PC).

Phase Zero

  • Suppose a participant P is caching transaction T’s updates that P needs to send to an RM (another participant) before T commits.

    • P must send the updates after T invokes Commit, to ensure P has all of T’s updates
    • P must send the updates before the RM prepares, to ensure the updates are made stable during phase one.
    • Thus, we need an extra phase, before phase 1.
  • A participant explicitly enlists for phase zero.

    • It doesn’t ack phase zero until it finishes flushing its cached updates to other participants.
  • Supported in Microsoft DTC.

7.5 Process Structuring

  • To support multiple RMs on multiple nodes, and minimize communication, use one transaction manager (TM) per node

  • TM may be in the OS (VAX/VMS, Win), the app server (IBM CICS), DBMS, or a separate product (early Tandem).

  • TM performs coordinator and participant roles for all transactions at its node.

  • TM communicates with local RMs and remote TMs.

Enlisting in a Transaction

  • When an Application in a transaction T first calls an RM, the RM must tell the TM it is part of T.

  • Called enlisting or joining the transaction

Enlisting in a Transaction (cont’d)

  • When an application A in a transaction T first calls an application B at another node, B must tell its local TM that the transaction has arrived.

Tree of Processes

  • Application calls to RMs and other applications induces a tree of processes

  • Each internal node is the coordinator for its descendants, and a participant to its parents.

  • This adds delay to two-phase commit

  • Optimization: flatten the tree, e.g. during phase 1

Handling Multiple Protocols

  • Communication managers solve the problem of handling multiple 2PC protocols by providing

    • a model for communication between address spaces
    • a wire protocol for two-phase commit
  • But, expect restrictions on multi-protocol interoperation.

  • The RM only talks to the TM-RM interface. The multi-protocol problem is solved by the TM vendor.

Complete Walkthrough

Customer Checklist

  • Does your DBMS support 2PC?

  • Does your execution environment support it? If so,

    • with what DBMSs?
    • Using what protocol(s)?
    • Do these protocols meet your interoperation needs?
  • Is the TM-DBMS interface open (for home-grown DBMSs)?

  • Can an operator commit/abort a blocked txn?

    • If so, is there automated support for reconciling mistakes?
    • Is there automated heuristic commit?

7.6 Three Phase Commit- The Idea

  • 3PC prevents blocking in the absence of communications failures (unrealistic, but …). It can be made resilient to communications failures, but then it may block

  • 3PC is much more complex than 2PC, but only marginally improves reliability — prevents some blocking situations.

  • 3PC therefore is not used much in practice

  • Main idea: becoming certain and deciding to commit are separate steps.

  • 3PC ensures that if any operational process is uncertain, then no (failed or operational) process has committed.

  • So, in the termination protocol, if the operational processes are all uncertain, they can decide to abort (avoids blocking).

Three Phase Commit- The Protocol

  • 1. (Begin phase 1) Coordinator C sends Request-to-prepare to all participants

  • 2. Participants vote Prepared or No, just like 2PC.

  • 3. If C receives Prepared from all participants, then (begin phase 2) it sends Pre-Commit to all participants.

  • 4. Participants wait for Abort or Pre-Commit. Participant acknowledges Pre-commit.

  • 5. After C receives acks from all participants, or times out on some of them, it (begin third phase) sends Commit to all participants (that are up)

3PC Failure Handling

  • If coordinator times out before receiving Prepared from all participants, it decides to abort.

  • Coordinator ignores participants that don’t ack its Pre-Commit.

  • Participants that voted Prepared and timed out waiting for Pre-Commit or Commit use the termination protocol.

  • The termination protocol is where the complexity lies. (E.g. see [Bernstein, Hadzilacos, Goodman 87], Section 7.4)

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