Choose Optimstic vs Pessimitic Locking

We got hit by lot of bugs, all because of concurrency.

We had a case where returns are created for cancellations.

It was structured to tell cancelled_qty and a return would be created for that much quantity.

Return Creation will then trigger setting of cancelled_qty for concerned line_item, it will also take responsibility of bumping product inventory and cancel line_item if everything cancelled.

Above is not enough so Return will also decide to refund amount and shipping charge if needed.

Everything was going great and suddenly we started getting lot of reports of ambiguous data from Operations Team.

Reports of

  • Multiple Refunds
  • Less Inventory as Expected
  • More Returns Count than cancelled

On detailed analysis of audits, logs and code flow, it turned out as concurrency issue, validated by very little difference in creation time of returns

As in some cases, returns / refunds are automatically processed and resulted in loss of money both as hard cash and less user’s able to buy due to less calculated inventory :(

Cocurrency issues can be solved:

  • adding extra checks to ensure that invalid returns get a failed signal and abort / revert the execution keeping system intact
  • ensuring concurrent updates are blocked using locking

Extra checks took us a little ahead but turned out not the ultimate savior and we decided to explore options of locking.

As soon as you enter the LOCKS LAND, you are presented with a difficult task of opting out of OPTIMISTIC / PESSIMISTIC LOCKING

Both have their Pros / Cons :)

Our Use Case was more of preventing creation of unwanted returns and if started it should kill itself when diagnosed as unhealthy ( Self Sacrifice for Other’s Wellness )

As we need to Abort the process and all the updates done till diagnosis of unwanted creation / updates, Optimistic Locking came as obvious choice :)

Rule to Decide b/w Pessismitic and Optimistic Locking:

  • Revert the process and all execution till now [^See Note Below]
    • Choose Optimistic Locking
  • Just want to prevent corruption of already present record
  • And, succesive execution of record will keep the record intact
    • Go for Pessimitic Locking

Being in Rails Ecosystem and so much logic / updates implemented using callback pattern, OPTIMISTIC LOCKING seems to be an obvious choice in most of the cases :P

Note : Pessimistic Locking doesn’t abort the execution, it just waits for transaction to finish having the lock and continues with execution when lock released

Written on July 17, 2015