Using Oracle Locks to Manage Data Concurrency and Consistency

In this article, we shall see how oracle manages data
concurrency and consistency by using Locks.

In multi-user systems, many users
may update the same information at the same time. Locking allows only one user
to update a particular data block; another person cannot modify the same data.

The basic idea of locking is that
when a user modifies data through a transaction, that data is locked by that
transaction until the transaction is committed or rolled back. The lock is held
until the transaction is complete.

When the user commits the first
transaction only then it is made available to other users of the system. The
locks are thus released by Oracle only if the user does a commit or rollback on
a transaction.

There are two basic types of

  1. Row Level Lock
  2. Table Level Lock

The aim of a row level lock is to
lock a particular row or set of rows for the transaction. This enables other
users of the system to update rows in other tables; they cannot modify the
row(s) that are being modified by an earlier transaction.

All the rows of the table can
only be viewed. This includes the row, which is currently being modified. The
original copy of the row is displayed to other users. Once the transaction is
committed the users will be able to see the new values and since the row is now
un-locked, they will also be able to modify the same row.

This type of locking is more
efficient than table level locking. Once you lock a particular table, others
will have to wait to modify any data in any of the rows of that table.

An example of row level or set of
rows level locking is the SELECT…FOR UPDATE statement. This statement
allows you to lock a row or a set of rows that you will be updating. This
statement makes sure that any other users do not update the rows that you will
be updating. Once the transaction is committed, the rows are made available to
other users for modification. You can lock as many rows as you like; there is
no limit.

Note that a table lock is also
acquired when any row-level lock is obtained by the transaction. This is
because no DDL statements can be fired on the table in which the data is
currently being modified. For example if you are updating a value in a row, you
cannot use the ALTER TABLE command or any such DDL statement(s) for that
particular table.


the table below;

SQL> desc room_bookings

Name Null? Type
—————————————– ——– —————-


SQL> Select * from ROOM_BOOKING;

———- —————————————————– ——————-
R0010 Booked for Tele-meeting scheduled on 15/07/2003 B00089
R0020 Booked for Tele-conference scheduled on 16/07/2003 B00090
R0010 Booked for Tele-conference scheduled on 17/07/2003 B00091
R0010 Booked for Tele-meeting scheduled on 18/07/2003 B00092


Example I

We want to change the Schedule
from Tele-meeting to Tele-conference. We will lock such rows for Update so that
other users cannot update them.

v_schedule varchar2(200);
cursor my_cur is
select replace(schedule, ‘Tele-meeting’, ‘Tele-conference’)
from room_bookings
for update of schedule;
open my_cur;
fetch my_cur into v_schedule;
exit when my_cur%NOTFOUND;
update room_bookings set schedule = v_schedule
where current of my_cur;
end loop;
close my_cur;

Example II

Open two SQL
sessions and in each session issue the following

Session I

FROM room_bookings
WHERE booking_code = ‘B00090’
FOR UPDATE OF schedule;

Session II

SQL> update room_bookings
set schedule=’Test’
where booking_code=’B00090′;

The transaction in this session
will fail to move ahead. This is because in Session I, the row has been locked.
The transaction is Session II will move ahead if we issue the COMMIT or ROLLBACK

Session I

FROM room_bookings
WHERE booking_code = ‘B00090’
FOR UPDATE OF schedule;

———- ————————————————— ——————-
R0020 Booked for Tele-conference scheduled on 16/07/2003 B00090

SQL> rollback;

Rollback complete.


Session II

SQL> update room_bookings
set schedule=’Test’
where booking_code=’B00090′;
1 row updated.


Explicit locking can be achieved
on tables by using the LOCK TABLE command. You can use this command to lock the
entire table and unlock it. There are many risks in using this method. For example,
a table can be held in locked mode for more time than is required. Thus, the
users who want to update the values of this table will have to wait until the
lock is released. The application looses the flexibility.

It is better that we let Oracle
handle the locking. It is also better to understand that Oracle will release
the lock on rows once the transaction is committed or roll backed. Since this
entire process is transparent to the users, we have to take care that long
running transactions should be committed or else it will cause problems for the

Dead Lock

When two or more users are
waiting for access to data that has been locked by each other, it is known as
deadlock. When a deadlock occurs, the
transactions fail to go ahead – they are stuck. In such cases, Oracle breaks
the deadlock by forcing one or more transactions to rollback.


If Oracle’s default locking is overridden
at any level, the database administrator or application developer should ensure
that the overriding locking procedures operate correctly. The locking
procedures must satisfy the following criteria: data integrity is guaranteed,
data concurrency is acceptable and deadlocks are not possible or are
appropriately handled.


Locking is a very important part of any database system.
It is in our best interests that we let Oracle use the locking
implicitly. Only if it is very necessary should you use manual locking.
Letting Oracle handle locks will guarantee data concurrency and consistency.

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