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In my post on Simple Persistence for Seaside, I claimed that with the recent enhancements to the Seaside framework in GLASS, it is perfectly okay to use an unprotected class variable to persist shared state. The use of an unprotected class variable will result in occasional commit conflicts, but when a conflict occurs, the framework does an abort and retries the original HTTP request.

So, just how occasional are these commit conflicts and what if I don’t like the idea of using anything uprotecteced. In the last two posts (Ready… and …Aim…), I introduced the tools that you need to answer the question for yourself. In the end it is the behavior of your application that matters the most.

As targets examples, I have written three very simple Seaside examples. Each of the applications is a variation on the theme of shared counters:

  • WATally – counter using a class variable, expect retries due to commit conflicts.
  • WARcTally – conflict free RcCounter, no commit conflicts.
  • WASerial – use an object lock for the production of a unique value, expect retries due to busy/dirty lock.

WATally

With WATally, when a user clicks on the tally link, the current value of the Tally class variable is incremented and the result is stored back intoTally. This is a sure-fire formula for commit conflicts. The following diagram depicts the timeline for three overlapping tally requests:

tline6.png

Request 2 begins before Request 1 is finished, so its commit fails. After a short delay, the request is retried and succeeds. Request 3 also begins before Request 1 is finished, waits a bit and retries, but its retry attempt starts before Request 2 is finished, so the request fails again. Finally on the second retry, the commit for Request 3 succeeds.

If you run jcrawler against WaTally, you can expect to get a handful of Commit failures in the object log (http://localhost/seaside/tools/objectLogin an appliance). I found that using an interval of 1 is best for scaring up Commit failures. Click on the graphic below to see a full width log entry.

objlog7.png

If you want to delve into the causes of the commit failure, you can inspect the object log using the following expression:

    System abortTransaction.
    OTRemoteDebugger objectLog asArray inspect.

In this case you’ll find that the commits failed because of a Write-Write conflict on an ‘Association (#Tally->3864)’, which is expected.

It’s worth noting that jcrawler ran at about 12 requests/second for 2 minutes to generate the 38 ‘Commit failures’ and the retry limit was not exceeded. This is validation that ‘retrying requests on commit failure’ is a perfectly safe technique.

WARcTally

With WARcTally, when a user clicks on the tally link, a shared RcCounter instance is incremented. RcCounter is designed to allow concurrent, conflict free increments and decrements. The following diagram depicts the timeline for three overlapping HTTP requests.

tline7.png

Since RcCounters are desinged to be conflict free, each request completes without the need for retries.

If you run jcrawler against WaRcTally, you can expect an empty object log:).

objlog4.png

Reduced conflict classes are still the best way to go, as they are designed to prevent commit failures and have undergone a ton of testing.

WASerialNumber

With WASerialNumber, when a user clicks on the tally link, an object lock is obtained on the shared instance of SerialNumber and the value instance variable is incremented and returned. If the lock is either changed or denied a WARetryHTTPRequest is signalled and the HTTP request is retried, much like the retry after a commit conflict for WATally. Object locks are not transactional, so an object lock can be acquired in the middle of a transaction. In this particular example, the lock (once acquired) is kept for the duration of the transaction.

The following diagram depicts the timeline for three overlapping HTTP requests:

tline10.png

Shortly after the processing for Request 1 begins, the SerialNumber object lock is acquired and when Request 1 finishes processing the lock is released.

Request 2 makes its first attempt to acquire the lock, while the lock is held by Request 1, so the lock request is denied. Request 2 signals a WARetryHTTPReqeuest. On the second retry attempt, Request 2 successfully acquires the lock and completes normally.

Request 3 makes its first attempt to acquire the lock after the lock is released by Request 1, so the lock is granted, however, since the transaction for Requst 3 started during the transaction for Request 1 and the SerialNumber instance is dirtied (the value instance variable has a new value), the lock is granted, but with a changed status. In a generic GemStone/S application, an abort would be performed and processing would continue, however, in GLASS/Seaside aborts are not allowed, so a changed lock is treated the same as a denied lock – a WARetryHTTPReqeuest is signalled. On the second attempt to acquire the lock the request is denied, because the lock is held by Request 2. A WARetryHTTPReqeuest is signalled again. Finally, on the second retry, the the lock is granted and the request is completed.

The GLASS/Seaside framework drops an entry in the object log whenever a WARetryHTTPReqeuest is signalled, so you can see the frequency of failed lock attempts. Click in the following image to see the full width log.

objlog9.png

If you look closely at the full-eidth image, you will see the two different kinds of ‘Lock not acquired’ messages. ‘SerialNumber lock changed’ and ‘SerialNumber lock denied.’

jcrawler ran at about 10 requests/second for 2 minutes to generate the 72 ‘Lock not acquired’ entries.

Object locking as a technique for avoiding commit conflicts shares the ‘retry on failure’ model of WATally, so it isn’t necessarily superior to ‘retry on commit failure’. It is a superior technique, if you need to protect logical updates where a physical conflict cannot be guaranteed (i.e., updates to different portions of an object graph).

Summary

It certainly looks like the Simple Persistence model of retrying a request on commit failure will stand up under a moderate load. 10 requests/second without retry failures is a pretty good clip. In a real web site, the potential for conflicts is much lower than in these examples since most web page hits are read only, so you can expect to withstand an even higher overall request rate without too much trouble.

It is still a good idea to use reduced conflict classes or object locks in places where you know that concurrent updates can occur, but I think is important to realize that you you don’t have to protect every shared variable from concurrent updates.

Have fun.

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