Some people believe that the ability to commit or rollback multiple statements as a single unit is a defining characteristic of the concept of transactions. They draw the -false- conclusion that enabling autocommit is the same as disabling transactions. It is easy to demonstrate why this is not true.
With autocommit enabled, every statement is wrapped within its own transaction. Successful execution of a statement is implicitly followed by a
COMMIT, and the occurrence of an error aborts the transaction, rolling back any changes.
By default, autocommit is enabled in MySQL. You can check the current setting by executing the following statement:
mysql> select @@autocommit; +--------------+ | @@autocommit | +--------------+ | 1 | +--------------+ 1 row in set (0.00 sec)
@@ prefix denotes a server variable. The
1 means that autocommit is currently enabled. Let’s leave it enabled so we can test the difference with not using transactions.
Transactions and Storage Engines
First, we create a table backed by a storage engine that is capable of handling transactions. I’m using the new FALCON engine in these examples, but you can try it with any of the storage engines that is capable of handling tranactions, such as InnoDB, ndbcluster, PBXT or SolidDB. If you want to try with falcon, please download and install MySQL 5.2.
Let’s create that
FALCON table in the
mysql> use test; Database changed mysql> create table test_falcon(i int primary key) -> engine = falcon -> ; Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.70 sec)
A word of warning: be sure to check the message after creating the table. If you accidentally type the name of the storage engine wrong, a table might be created anyway. If you see a warning after creating the table, always check the warning:
mysql> create table t(i int) engine = ferrari; Query OK, 0 rows affected, 1 warning (0.14 sec) mysql> show warnings; +-------+------+--------------------------------+ | Level | Code | Message | +-------+------+--------------------------------+ | Error | 1286 | Unknown table engine 'ferrari' | +-------+------+--------------------------------+ 1 row in set (0.00 sec)
You can completely avoid this problem by including
NO_ENGINE_SUBSTITUTION in the
SQL_MODE. (In fact, I recommend to include it and make sure the proper mode is set when starting the server by including it in the
[mysqld] section of your
my.ini or my.cnf option file)
Now, we execute a single statement that inserts two rows of data into the table:
mysql> insert into test_falcon values (1),(2); Query OK, 2 rows affected (0.05 sec) Records: 2 Duplicates: 0 Warnings: 0
The query executed succesfully, so we can assume the tables are stored in the table. We can of course attempt to roll back to undo these changes:
mysql> rollback; Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)
Of course, when we check, the rows are still there:
mysql> select * from test_falcon; +---+ | i | +---+ | 1 | | 2 | +---+ 2 rows in set (0.02 sec)
This is completely normal and expected behaviour. The rows were automatically committed right after the insert statement was executed: that is the meaning of autocommit.
We will now attempt to add three more rows to the table:
mysql> insert into test_falcon values (3),(4),(1); ERROR 1062 (23000): Duplicate entry '1' for key 'PRIMARY'
Whoops! This statement did not execute succesfully. We attempted to insert three rows, but at least one of them would violate the PRIMARY KEY constraint if it would be inserted. So at least, the violating row is rejected. But what about the other rows? Let’s find out:
mysql> select * from test_falcon; +---+ | i | +---+ | 1 | | 2 | +---+ 2 rows in set (0.00 sec)
Aha! The statement did not execute successfully, and therefore, all changes that would result from executing that statement are undone. With a posh word, we can say that the statement was executed atomically. The property of transactions that allows for atomic execution of statements is called atomicity
To say that the statement was executed atomically just means that the entire statement, and all of the changes it would achieve is executed as one single unit, undividable. If it succeeds, all associated changes on all rows it touches are made permanent. If it fails, none of the changes are made.
So, Atomicity ensures that statement execution is always complete: It either completely succeeds, or it completely fails. How does this compare to not using transactions at all? Well, we can test this with the
MyISAM storage engine. The
MyISAM storage engine does not implement transactions, and has no understanding of the autocommit setting. It is completely ignorant of it, because it can’t commit or rollback anyway.
So, let’s create a table again, this time using the
MyISAM storage engine:
mysql> create table test_myisam (i int primary key) -> engine = myisam -> ; Query OK, 0 rows affected (0.00 sec)
Again, we insert two rows in a single statement.
mysql> insert into test_myisam values (1),(2); Query OK, 2 rows affected (0.00 sec) Records: 2 Duplicates: 0 Warnings: 0
Now for the interesting bit. Again, we execute one statement in order to insert multiple rows, and again, we deliberately construct the statement in a manner to violate the primary key constraint:
mysql> insert into test_myisam values (3),(4),(1),(5); ERROR 1062 (23000): Duplicate entry '1' for key 'PRIMARY'
Like with the
test_falcon table, this statement is not acceptable, because there is again at least one row that would violate the
PRIMARY KEY constraint if it would be inserted. So, how is this different from the previous test? Let’s find out by looking what’s in the table…
mysql> select * from test_myisam; +---+ | i | +---+ | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | | 4 | +---+ 4 rows in set (0.00 sec)
Boom! The last statement attempted to insert no less than four rows, yet it added only two! Why only two? Well, after inserting two rows (3 and 4) succefully, a row was encountered that would violate the primary key constraint if it would be inserted (the value 1 was already present). At that point, an error condition was raised, and execution stopped. The remainder of the rows (5) was not even processed.
It’s impossible give a clear answer to the question whether the statement succeeded or failed. We ordered four rows to be inserted, yet it failed to insert two of them. Clearly, the statement did not succeed completely. It did not fail completely either, because it succeeded in inserting two of the four rows.
This indeterminate state is the consequence of the lack of atomicity. The MyISAM engine does not support atomic execution of statements. The statement may succeed for some of the rows, and fail for others. This is simply impossible for the transactional engines. Statements on transactional statements are always executed atomically, regardless of the setting of autocommit.
So, I hope it’s clear now why autocommit has everything to do with transactions. Still for a lot of people, the added value for using transactions is the ability to execute multiple statements within a single transactions. To do that, one needs to disable autocommit.
Within an application’s session it is pretty easy to disable autocommit. One just needs to execute the proper
However, a lot of people are not really satisfied with this solution. Especially those that are used to Oracle, is seems daft to have to explicitly specify it.
There is a trick one can use to automatically disable autocommit for each newly created session. In the
my.cnf configuration file, you can specify the
init_connect option. This option can be used to automatically execute a statement or sequence of statements at the beginning of each new session.
[mysqld] init_connect='SET autocommit=0'
It’s documented in the manual, and the example happens to use autocommit. Take heed though: the statements specified for the
init_connect option are not executed for users that have the