Fluo Tour: Write Skew

Tour page 11 of 26

The page on collisions showed that if two transactions overlap and write the same data then one will fail. However, in the case where two transactions overlap and one reads data that another is writing then both can succeed. This behavior is called write skew.

The example below shows write skew. In the example, n0 is a node in a tree with two children n01 and n02. In tx2, the sum of n0 is set to the sum of its children. However, tx2 misses the concurrent update from tx3. Both tx2 and tx3 will commit successfully since they write to different keys.

  • Create transaction tx1
  • Using tx1 set n0:data:sum to 0
  • Using tx1 set n01:data:sum to 1
  • Using tx1 set n02:data:sum to 2
  • Commit tx1
  • Create transaction tx2
  • Create transaction tx3
  • Using tx2 set n0:data:sum to the value of n01:data:sum plus n02:data:sum
  • Using tx3 set n01:data:sum to 5
  • Commit tx2
  • Commit tx3
  • Create snapshot and print n0:data:sum, n01:data:sum, and n02:data:sum

The changes made by tx3 will not be seen by tx2. This behavior is OK if the update made by tx3 triggers a later update of n0:data:sum. Later pages in the tour will show that Observers can work this way, so that eventually the changes made by tx3 are incorporated. The Weak Notification Exercise later in the tour shows an example of an Observer that works like this.

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