Oct 4, 2012

Lock Escalation Point

This week, at our office we had a discussion over lock escalation.  We were discussing about a large query which returns hundreds of thousands of rows.  The query touches some key tables where critical inserts are happening to those tables.  Even though the numbers of rows are large, the table has millions of rows.

We were worried about the locks it is going to place.  Will it be row lock, page lock or even table lock?
Unfortunately, according to books online couple of key points to be noted:
  • The Database Engine does not escalate row or key-range locks to page locks, but escalates them directly to table locks. Similarly, page locks are always escalated to table locks. 
  • A single Transact-SQL statement acquires at least 5,000 locks on a single table/index or partition for it to get escalated.  (If it uses the maximum memory allocated for locks, it also triggers the lock escalation to happen)

I got this information for SQL Server 2008 R2, as there is no update in SQL Server 2012.  I believe the facts remain same for SQL Server 2012 too.  http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms184286(v=sql.105).aspx

It means whenever we query a table and read around 5000 rows (Actually, when the actual number of rows involved are less than 5000, SQL Server places a intend shared lock on the table and intend shared locks on every page touched. When this total reaches 5000, you can expect a lock escalation.

We were worried.  If our table has millions or billions of rows, and for every few thousand rows SQL server going to escalate the locks into table locks, what will happen to all the inserts and updates?  Do they have to wait for the select to complete? For us the inserts and updates are far more important than the select statements. 

So we went on more testing to see how it happens.  Even though the document says so, these figures are not magical numbers.  It differs from Table to table, and environment to environment.
I tried this on two different tables: Sales.SalesOrderHeader in AdventureWorks and a new table drived from Sales.SalesOrderDetail.  I created a new table for this purpose, as some of the large tables in AdventureWorks database have triggers, calculated columns etc. which in turn started calling other tables.  

This is my script
      DROP TABLE MySales
SELECT * INTO MySales FROM Sales.SalesOrderDetail
DECLARE @i int =1, @Max int
SELECT @Max =MAX(SalesOrderID) FROM Sales.SalesOrderDetail
WHILE @i <= 5
      INSERT INTO MySales (SalesOrderID, CarrierTrackingNumber, OrderQty, ProductID, SpecialOfferID, UnitPrice, UnitPriceDiscount, LineTotal, rowguid, ModifiedDate)
      SELECT @Max +SalesOrderID, CarrierTrackingNumber, OrderQty, ProductID, SpecialOfferID, UnitPrice, UnitPriceDiscount, LineTotal, NEWID(), ModifiedDate
      FROM MySales
      SET @i+=1
      SET @Max*=2

I ran the tests on those tables using different queries

My First test was on selects.  As you may know, under default  READ_COMMITTED isolation level select queries locks will be removed as and when the read is completed.  So I went with REPEATABLE READ isolation level.  In this level, the locks remain until the transaction is committed or rolled back.

SELECT * FROM Sales.SalesOrderHeader WITH (REPEATABLEREAD) WHERE SalesOrderID <=49726

SELECT COUNT(*) as lock_count,
FROM   sys.dm_tran_locks l INNER JOIN
         sys.sysprocesses p ON l.request_session_id = p.spid
WHERE l.request_session_id = @@spid
GROUP BY l.resource_associated_entity_id,

Later I replaced the select statement in line 2 with  


For the updates, I had a the query below

UPDATE MySales SET ModifiedDate = GETDATE() WHERE SalesOrderDetailID<=6166

UPDATE Sales.SalesOrderHeader SET ModifiedDate = GETDATE() WHERE SalesOrderID<=49726

The number at the end of the query is changed (I either increased or decreased the number to increase the number of locks and to find the escalation point)

On my tests, I found that based on the situation, the lock escalation point varied slightly.  In all cases lock escalation happened when I retrieved around 6100  - 6200 rows. There were additional page level intend locks and table level intend lock as well.  

In SQL Server 2008, there was in issue where inserts/updates where even for very high number of updates, the system went with rowlocks.  Adam mechanic has found the issue regarding inserts and has blogged about it too. http://sqlblog.com/blogs/adam_machanic/archive/2009/10/30/sql-server-2008-lock-escalation-inserts-and-a-potential-bug.aspx Interestingly, the connect item he created (This is mentioned in the blog post, and you can see the status here:  https://connect.microsoft.com/SQLServer/feedback/details/506453/lock-escalation-no-longer-kicks-in-for-inserts-in-sql-server-2008) is closed by Microsoft as fixed. 

Sounds like SQL Server 2012 has changed the locking mechanism slightly, where the escalation point is not exactly 5000.  So far it is not mentioned anywhere about the change.

So what is the take home lesson:  Make sure you don’t touch large amount of rows from tables which needs frequent changes, critical updates, or time critical response. Try to work with smaller chunks of data and merge them in your application if needed.  You can also consider using staging tables.