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13.5. Serialization Failure Handling

Both Repeatable Read and Serializable isolation levels can produce errors that are designed to prevent serialization anomalies. As previously stated, applications using these levels must be prepared to retry transactions that fail due to serialization errors. Such an error's message text will vary according to the precise circumstances, but it will always have the SQLSTATE code 40001 (serialization_failure).

It may also be advisable to retry deadlock failures. These have the SQLSTATE code 40P01 (deadlock_detected).

In some cases it is also appropriate to retry unique-key failures, which have SQLSTATE code 23505 (unique_violation), and exclusion constraint failures, which have SQLSTATE code 23P01 (exclusion_violation). For example, if the application selects a new value for a primary key column after inspecting the currently stored keys, it could get a unique-key failure because another application instance selected the same new key concurrently. This is effectively a serialization failure, but the server will not detect it as such because it cannot see the connection between the inserted value and the previous reads. There are also some corner cases in which the server will issue a unique-key or exclusion constraint error even though in principle it has enough information to determine that a serialization problem is the underlying cause. While it's recommendable to just retry serialization_failure errors unconditionally, more care is needed when retrying these other error codes, since they might represent persistent error conditions rather than transient failures.

It is important to retry the complete transaction, including all logic that decides which SQL to issue and/or which values to use. Therefore, PostgreSQL does not offer an automatic retry facility, since it cannot do so with any guarantee of correctness.

Transaction retry does not guarantee that the retried transaction will complete; multiple retries may be needed. In cases with very high contention, it is possible that completion of a transaction may take many attempts. In cases involving a conflicting prepared transaction, it may not be possible to make progress until the prepared transaction commits or rolls back.