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Database transaction and the ACID rules

The concept of a database transaction (or atomic transaction) has evolved in order to enable both a well understood database system behavior in a faulty environment where crashes can happen any time, and recovery from a crash to a well understood database state. A database transaction is a unit of work, typically encapsulating a number of operations over a database (e.g., reading a database object, writing, acquiring lock, etc.), an abstraction supported in database and also other systems. Each transaction has well defined boundaries in terms of which program/code executions are included in that transaction (determined by the transaction’s programmer via special transaction commands). Every database transaction obeys the following rules (by support in the database system; i.e., a database system is designed to guarantee them for the transactions it runs):

  • Atomicity – Either the effects of all or none of its operations remain (“all or nothing” semantics) when a transaction is completed (committed or aborted respectively). In other words, to the outside world a committed transaction appears (by its effects on the database) to be indivisible (atomic), and an aborted transaction does not affect the database at all. Either all the operation is done of the transaction or none any other.
  • Consistency – Every transaction must leave the database in a consistent (correct) state, i.e., maintain the predetermined integrity rules of the database (constraints upon and among the database’s objects). A transaction must transform a database from one consistent state to another consistent state (however, it is the responsibility of the transaction’s programmer to make sure that the transaction itself is correct, i.e., performs correctly what it intends to perform (from the application’s point of view) while the predefined integrity rules are enforced by the DBMS). Thus since a database can be normally changed only by transactions, all the database’s states are consistent.
  • Isolation – Transactions cannot interfere with each other (as an end result of their executions). Moreover, usually (depending on concurrency control method) the effects of an incomplete transaction are not even visible to another transaction. Providing isolation is the main goal of concurrency control.
  • Durability – Effects of successful (committed) transactions must persist through crashes (typically by recording the transaction’s effects and its commit event in a non-volatile memory).


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