Database Transactions

Often, a collection of several operations on the database appears to be a single unit from the point of view of the database user. For example, a transfer of funds from a checking account to a savings account is a single operation from the customer’s standpoint; within the database system, however, it consists of several operations. Clearly, it is essential that all these operations occur, or that, in case of a failure, none occur. It would be unacceptable if the checking account were debited but the savings account not credited.


Collection of operations that form a single logical unit of work is called transaction.

A database system must ensure proper execution of transactions despite failures—either the entire transaction executes, or none of it does. Fur- thermore, it must manage concurrent execution of transactions in a way that avoids the introduction of inconsistency. In our funds-transfer example, a transaction computing the customer’s total balance might see the checking-account (account from which we are debiting) balance before it is debited by the funds-transfer transaction, but see the savings balance after it is credited. As a result, it would obtain an incorrect result.

  • Atomicity:

    It is important that either all actions of a transaction be executed completely, or, in case of some failure, partial effects of each incomplete transaction be un- done. This property is called atomicity.

  • Durability:

    Once a transaction is successfully executed, its effects must persist in the database system. A failure should not result in the database forgetting about a transaction that successfully completed. This property is called durability. Basically we have to transfer complete effect of transaction from computer memory to disk.

  • Isolation:

    In a database system where multiple transactions are executing concurrently, if updates to shared data are not controlled there is potential for transactions to see inconsistent intermediate states created by updates of other transactions. Such a situation can result in erroneous updates to data stored in the database. Thus, database systems must provide mechanisms to isolate transactions from the effects of other concurrently executing transactions. This property is called isolation. Formally speaking, the system guarantees that, for every pair of transactions Ti and Tj , it appears to Ti that either Tj finished execution before Ti started or Tj started execution after Ti finished.Thus,each transaction is unaware of other transactions executing concurrently in the system.

  • Consistency:

    The consistency property ensures that any transaction will bring the database from one valid state to another. Any data written to the database must be valid according to all defined rules, including constraints, cascades, triggers, and any combination thereof. This does not guarantee correctness of the transaction in all ways the application programmer might have wanted (that is the responsibility of application-level code), but merely that any programming errors cannot result in the violation of any defined rules.

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