Application and Transaction Issues

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With the server availability problem tackled, your next job is to examine what, if any, issues can be found with the reservation system and its transactions. Once again, reports range from "hung" programs and browsers to cryptic error messages that flash by before the user had a chance to write them down.

What is known for sure is that somehow the airline's data integrity became badly damaged: The combination of nearly empty departing jumbo jets juxtaposed with the sight of police riot squads clearing mobs of hundreds of people away from oversold airplanes confirms that assertion.


When faced with application or transaction issues, it's natural to want to dive in and start reading code. A better approach is to attempt to take advantage of any diagnostic tools or reports to help narrow your search. In this case, the SHOW INNODB STATUS command will likely provide useful clues. Fortunately, a quick-thinking system administrator repeatedly ran this command during the height of the crisis, and kept copies of its output. You would like to thank her, but she was terminated along with many others, so this will have to wait.


Poring through the output, you notice a pattern. You see the same type of message about transactions and locks:

 ---TRANSACTION 0 1291, ACTIVE 58 sec, OS thread id 3632 starting index read mysql tables in use 1, locked 1 LOCK WAIT 2 lock struct(s), heap size 320 MySQL thread id 16, query id 1150 webserver19 webclient Updating update flight_seats set seat_number = '23B' where reservation_id = 7944 and flight_date = '2006-06-10' ------- TRX HAS BEEN WAITING 58 SEC FOR THIS LOCK TO BE GRANTED: RECORD LOCKS space id 0 page no 52 n bits 456 index `PRIMARY` of table `high_hat /flight_seats` trx id 0 1291 lock_mode X waiting Record lock, heap no 2 PHYSICAL RECORD: n_fields 6; 1-byte offs TRUE; info bits 0  0: len 4; hex 00000001; asc     ;; 1: len 6; hex 000000000508; asc       ;; 2: len 7; hex 800000002d0084; asc     - ?;; 3: len 3; hex 8f9f04; asc  ? ;; 4: len 4; hex 80003cfd; asc   <?;; 5: len 3; hex 30396f; asc 09o;; 

Something is definitely wrong here no transaction should wait 5 seconds, much less 58 seconds for a lock to be granted. Few users will be so patient.

It appears that this transaction originates in the "change your seat" portion of the web application. Reading the code, you observe the following processing sequence, expressed here in pseudocode:

 Start the transaction Display a list of seats to the user Wait for their input Update the flight_seats table with the new seat request Commit the transaction 

You also notice errors like the following sprinkled through the output:

 ------------------------ LATEST FOREIGN KEY ERROR ------------------------ 060604 21:51:23 Transaction: TRANSACTION 0 1061815959, ACTIVE 32 sec, process no 20846, OS thread id 21087876 32 inserting, thread declared inside InnoDB 500 mysql tables in use 1, locked 1 22 lock struct(s), heap size 2496, undo log entries 1 MySQL thread id 73, query id 1584835 hberson update insert into customer_flights(customer_flight_id,customer_id,flight_id)  values(20321,23304,11472) Foreign key constraint fails for table `high_hat/customer_flights`: ,   CONSTRAINT `customer_flights_ibfk_1` FOREIGN KEY (`customer_id`) REFERENCES `c ustomer_master` (`customer_id`) Trying to add in child table, in index `customer_id` tuple: DATA TUPLE: 2 fields;  0: len 4; hex 00005b08; asc   [ ;; 1: len 4; hex 00004f61; asc   Oa;; But in parent table `high_hat/customer_master`, in index `PRIMARY`, the closest match we can find is record: PHYSICAL RECORD: n_fields 15; 1-byte offs TRUE; info bits 0  0: len 4; hex 00005b5a; asc   [Z;; 1: len 6; hex 00003f4a068f; asc   ?J  ;; 2: len 7; hex 800005c00207a2; asc        ;; 3: len 0; hex ; asc ;; 4: len 0; hex ; asc ;; 5: len 30; hex 317a686f756b71787333386a7135373276783273613166373237327473 68; asc 1zhoukqxs38jq572vx2sa1f7272tsh;...(truncated); 6: len 8; hex 683867346d3 73977; asc h8g4m79w;; 7: SQL NULL, size 0 ; 8: len 14; hex 6a367a786e78747838337 0786d76; asc j6zxnxtx83pxmv;; 9: len 19; hex 7a32616933696961306a65346b71727a357 961; asc z2ai3iia0je4kqrz5ya;; 10: len 3; hex 727573; asc rus;; 11: len 3; hex 8 fa243; asc   C;; 12: len 1; hex 01; asc  ;; 13: len 3; hex 8fa110; asc    ;; 14:  len 8; hex 800012356f8be2e0; asc    5o   ;; 

Finally, as part of your normal review of the application, you discern a pattern of frequent, explicit temporary table creation. A statement to build one of these tables typically looks like this:

 CREATE TABLE tmp_customer_master_address AS SELECT cm.*, ca.address1 FROM customer_master cm, customer_address ca WHERE cm.customer_id = ca.customer_id AND cm.last_name = 'Meadows' AND cm.first_name = 'Charles'; 

After being built, these tables can hold large collections of rows, depending on the uniqueness of the name combination. They are then further searched before being dropped. You do notice, however, that most columns in this temporary table go unused.


Using the results from SHOW INNODB STATUS has saved you a tremendous amount of time, helping you hone in on the source of many problems without having to wade through thousands of lines of application code.

Transaction Timeouts

As currently defined, at least two serious problems exist with the transaction you saw earlier:

  1. No transaction should ever be allowed to be open and awaiting input from a user. The user could walk away from the application, meaning that the transaction could remain active indefinitely unless specific timeout behavior was defined.

    As you saw in Chapter 9, "Developing High-Speed Applications," lengthy transactions can wreak havoc in any number of ways. In this case, other transactions are blocked from working with information currently accessed by this transaction. Their applications appear to "freeze," and eventually time out, returning an error similar to the following:

     ERROR 1205 (HY000): Lock wait timeout exceeded; try restarting transaction 

    The scope of the locking problem can be even larger, depending on transaction isolation level and breadth of information access.

    In this case, you recommend the following high-level application processing flow:

     Display a list of seats to the user Wait for their input Start the transaction Make sure that the seat request is still valid (that is, no one else has taken it in    the interim) If it is still valid         Update the flight_seats table with the new seat request         Commit the transaction Else         Warn the user         Roll back the transaction         Redisplay the list End if 

    This tactic protects you from endless transactions that also lock key data resources: This should go a long way toward reducing complaints of "hung" applications.

  2. There is an even more fundamental issue here. Based on what you have seen and heard, you are concerned about the overall quality of the application logic. It appears that developers (many of whom are outsourced and don't really understand the airline's business) have been given wide latitude to implement their solutions in whatever way they want.

    The foreign key errors from SHOW INNODB STATUS provide an additional proof point that something is awry in these applications. A safer, more consistent, and often better-performing approach is to put critical business logic on the server within centrally available, stored procedures.

    As seen in Chapter 9, stored procedures add value in numerous ways. The most appealing benefits in this situation are stored procedures' consistency. A specialized group of professionals could be charged with writing a collection of key business-based, stored procedures. Taking referential integrity and other deep knowledge of the airline's business and database into account, they would likely write well-designed procedures. These procedures would define all relevant transaction isolation settings, as well as be responsible for starting and committing or rolling back the transaction.

    Other developers would simply make invocations against these procedures. The application flow might now look something like this:

     Display a list of seats to the user Wait for their input Invoke the appropriate stored procedure If the stored procedure returns an error         Warn the user         Redisplay the list Else         Notify the user of success End if 

    Although this is not a panacea, it would definitely help standardize and centralize much of the business logic for the airline. Added benefits include improved performance and reduced network traffic.

Given the low quality of the application code you have already reviewed, you recommend a more in-depth study of all the transactional and referential capabilities of the software involved in the ill-fated airfare promotion: It's a necessary step in tracking down the root causes of the over- and underbooking problems.

Temporary Storage

Your investigation showed that temporary tables are being created all the time, and that these tables effectively serve as small subsets of information used for follow-on queries. At least four problems exist with these tables; luckily, all of these issues have solutions.

  • They are not specified as temporary The TEMPORARY keyword is omitted from the CREATE TABLE statement. As Chapter 8, "Advanced SQL Tips," describes, this means that name conflicts with other users are very likely, especially given the widespread usage of these statements. This is an easily implemented change: Simply include this directive when creating these kinds of tables.

  • They are not indexed Just because a table is not meant to be permanent doesn't mean that it doesn't need proper indexes. Depending on data and usage patterns for the temporary tables, it might be necessary to create relevant indexes to help speed their processing. Small, short-lived tables probably don't need indexes, but these tables appear to hold large amounts of data, making a stronger case for indexes.

  • There are better storage engines for them Unless they need the protection afforded by transactions, it might not be necessary to incur the overhead of the InnoDB storage engine for these temporary tables. Perhaps they can be stored in MyISAM or even using the MEMORY engine, assuming enough RAM is available to service the entire user community.

  • There are better ways to get information Ultimately, this is the question that needs to be addressed: Are there better means to obtain a meaningful subset of information, as shown in the table creation query? The answer is definitely yes.

    For example, a view could be created to hold only those columns necessary for the task at hand. The application code would then query against the view, returning a smaller set of information. Alternatively, a stored procedure could exist on the server. Taking last_name and first_name as input parameters, it could do all necessary processing, returning only relevant information to the client. In both of the preceding solutions, the end result is that the client performs much less work; the network also sees less traffic.

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    MySQL Database Design and Tuning
    MySQL Database Design and Tuning
    ISBN: 0672327651
    EAN: 2147483647
    Year: 2005
    Pages: 131

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