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Index-range locks

Unfortunately, predicate locks do not perform well: if there are many locks by active transactions, checking for matching locks becomes time-consuming. For that reason, most databases with 2PL actually implement index-range locking (also known as next- key locking), which is a simplified approximation of predicate locking [41, 50].

It’s safe to simplify a predicate by making it match a greater set of objects. For example, if you have a predicate lock for bookings of room 123 between noon and 1 p.m., you can approximate it by locking bookings for room 123 at any time, or you can approximate it by locking all rooms (not just room 123) between noon and 1 p.m. This is safe, because any write that matches the original predicate will definitely also match the approximations.

In the room bookings database you would probably have an index on the room_id column, and/or indexes on start_time and end_time (otherwise the preceding query would be very slow on a large database):

  • • Say your index is on room_id, and the database uses this index to find existing bookings for room 123. Now the database can simply attach a shared lock to this index entry, indicating that a transaction has searched for bookings of room 123.
  • • Alternatively, if the database uses a time-based index to find existing bookings, it can attach a shared lock to a range of values in that index, indicating that a transaction has searched for bookings that overlap with the time period of noon to 1 p.m. on January 1, 2018.

Either way, an approximation of the search condition is attached to one of the indexes. Now, if another transaction wants to insert, update, or delete a booking for the same room and/or an overlapping time period, it will have to update the same part of the index. In the process of doing so, it will encounter the shared lock, and it will be forced to wait until the lock is released.

This provides effective protection against phantoms and write skew. Index-range locks are not as precise as predicate locks would be (they may lock a bigger range of objects than is strictly necessary to maintain serializability), but since they have much lower overheads, they are a good compromise.

If there is no suitable index where a range lock can be attached, the database can fall back to a shared lock on the entire table. This will not be good for performance, since it will stop all other transactions writing to the table, but it’s a safe fallback position.

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