Locking and Isolation

All collections specified in the collections attribute are locked in the requested mode (read or write) at transaction start. Locking of multiple collections is performed in alphabetical order. When a transaction commits or rolls back, all locks are released in reverse order. The locking order is deterministic to avoid deadlocks.

While locks are held, modifications by other transactions to the collections participating in the transaction are prevented. A transaction will thus see a consistent view of the participating collections' data.

Additionally, a transaction will not be interrupted or interleaved with any other ongoing operations on the same collection. This means each transaction will run in isolation. A transaction should never see uncommitted or rolled back modifications by other transactions. Additionally, reads inside a transaction are repeatable.

Note that the above is true only for all collections that are declared in the collections attribute of the transaction.

Lazily adding collections

There might be situations when declaring all collections a priori is not possible, for example, because further collections are determined by a dynamic AQL query inside the transaction, for example a query using AQL graph traversal.

In this case, it would be impossible to know beforehand which collection to lock, and thus it is legal to not declare collections that will be accessed in the transaction in read-only mode. Accessing a non-declared collection in read-only mode during a transaction will add the collection to the transaction lazily, and fetch data from the collection as usual. However, as the collection is added lazily, there is no isolation from other concurrent operations or transactions. Reads from such collections are potentially non-repeatable.

Examples:

db._executeTransaction({
  collections: { 
    read: "users"
  },
  action: function () {
    const db = require("@arangodb").db;
    /* Execute an AQL query that traverses a graph starting at a "users" vertex.
       It is yet unknown into which other collections the query might traverse */
    db._createStatement({ 
      query: `FOR v IN ANY "users/1234" connections RETURN v`
    }).execute().toArray().forEach(function (d) {
      /* ... */
    });
  }
});

This automatic lazy addition of collections to a transaction also introduces the possibility of deadlocks. Deadlocks may occur if there are concurrent transactions that try to acquire locks on the same collections lazily.

In order to make a transaction fail when a non-declared collection is used inside a transaction for reading, the optional allowImplicit sub-attribute of collections can be set to false:

db._executeTransaction({
  collections: { 
    read: "users",
    allowImplicit: false
  },
  action: function () {
    /* The below query will now fail because the collection "connections" has not
       been specified in the list of collections used by the transaction */
    const db = require("@arangodb").db;
    db._createStatement({ 
      query: `FOR v IN ANY "users/1234" connections RETURN v`
    }).execute().toArray().forEach(function (d) {
      /* ... */
    });
  }
});

The default value for allowImplicit is true. Write-accessing collections that have not been declared in the collections array is never possible, regardless of the value of allowImplicit.

If users/1234 has an edge in connections, linking it to another document in the users collection, then the following explicit declaration will work:

db._executeTransaction({
  collections: { 
    read: ["users", "connections"],
    allowImplicit: false
  },
  /* ... */

If the edge points to a document in another collection however, then the query will fail, unless that other collection is added to the declaration as well.

Note that if a document handle is used as starting point for a traversal, e.g. FOR v IN ANY "users/not_linked" ... or FOR v IN ANY {_id: "users/not_linked"} ..., then no error is raised in the case of the start vertex not having any edges to follow, with allowImplicit: false and users not being declared for read access. AQL only sees a string and does not consider it a read access, unless there are edges connected to it. FOR v IN ANY DOCUMENT("users/not_linked") ... will fail even without edges, as it is always considered to be a read access to the users collection.

Deadlocks and Deadlock detection

A deadlock is a situation in which two or more concurrent operations (user transactions or AQL queries) try to access the same resources (collections, documents) and need to wait for the others to finish, but none of them can make any progress.

A good example for a deadlock is two concurrently executing transactions T1 and T2 that try to access the same collections but that need to wait for each other. In this example, transaction T1 will write to collection c1, but will also read documents from collection c2 without announcing it:

db._executeTransaction({
  collections: { 
    write: "c1"
  },
  action: function () {
    const db = require("@arangodb").db;

    /* write into c1 (announced) */
    db.c1.insert({ foo: "bar" });

    /* some operation here that takes long to execute... */

    /* read from c2 (unannounced) */
    db.c2.toArray();
  }
});

Transaction T2 announces to write into collection c2, but will also read documents from collection c1 without announcing it:

db._executeTransaction({
  collections: { 
    write: "c2"
  },
  action: function () {
    var db = require("@arangodb").db;

    /* write into c2 (announced) */
    db.c2.insert({ bar: "baz" });

    /* some operation here that takes long to execute... */

    /* read from c1 (unannounced) */
    db.c1.toArray();
  }
});

In the above example, a deadlock will occur if transaction T1 and T2 have both acquired their write locks (T1 for collection c1 and T2 for collection c2) and are then trying to read from the other other (T1 will read from c2, T2 will read from c1). T1 will then try to acquire the read lock on collection c2, which is prevented by transaction T2. T2 however will wait for the read lock on collection c1, which is prevented by transaction T1.

In case of such deadlock, there would be no progress for any of the involved transactions, and none of the involved transactions could ever complete. This is completely undesirable, so the automatic deadlock detection mechanism in ArangoDB will automatically abort one of the transactions involved in such deadlock. Aborting means that all changes done by the transaction will be rolled back and error 29 (deadlock detected) will be thrown.

Client code (AQL queries, user transactions) that accesses more than one collection should be aware of the potential of deadlocks and should handle the error 29 (deadlock detected) properly, either by passing the exception to the caller or retrying the operation.

To avoid both deadlocks and non-repeatable reads, all collections used in a transaction should be specified in the collections attribute when known in advance. In case this is not possible because collections are added dynamically inside the transaction, deadlocks may occur and the deadlock detection may kick in and abort the transaction.