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Re: LISTEN/NOTIFY and notification timing guarantees

From: Tom Lane <tgl(at)sss(dot)pgh(dot)pa(dot)us>
To: Joachim Wieland <joe(at)mcknight(dot)de>
Cc: Kevin Grittner <Kevin(dot)Grittner(at)wicourts(dot)gov>, pgsql-hackers(at)postgresql(dot)org
Subject: Re: LISTEN/NOTIFY and notification timing guarantees
Date: 2010-02-16 15:38:40
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Lists: pgsql-hackers
Joachim Wieland <joe(at)mcknight(dot)de> writes:
> On Tue, Feb 16, 2010 at 1:31 PM, Kevin Grittner
> <Kevin(dot)Grittner(at)wicourts(dot)gov> wrote:
>> Tom Lane wrote:
>>> We could adopt the historical policy of sending self-notifies
>>> pre-commit, but that doesn't seem tremendously appetizing from the
>>> standpoint of transactional integrity.
>> But one traditional aspect of transactional integrity is that a
>> transaction always sees *its own* uncommitted work.

> True but notifications aren't sent until the transaction commits
> anyway. At the time when an application receives its self-notifies, it
> has already committed the transaction so there is no uncommitted work
> anymore.

Right.  The application's view is that it sends COMMIT and gets any
self-notifies back as part of the response to that.  What is worrisome
is that the notifies come out just before the actual commit and so it's
still (barely) possible for the transaction to abort.  In which case it
should not have sent the notifies, and indeed did not send them as far
as any other client is concerned.  We really ought to try to make a
similar guarantee for self-notifies.

After sleeping on it I'm fairly convinced that we should approach it
like this:

1. No special data path for self-notifies; we expect to pull them back
out of the queue just like anything else.

2. Add an extra lock to serialize writers to the queue, so that messages
are guaranteed to be added to the queue in commit order.  As long as
notify-sending is nearly the last thing in the pre-commit sequence,
this doesn't seem to me to be a huge concurrency hit (certainly no worse
than the existing implementation) and the improved semantics guarantee
seems worth it.

3. When a transaction has sent notifies, perform an extra
ProcessIncomingNotifies scan after finishing up post-commit work
(so that an error wouldn't result in PANIC) but before we issue
ReadyForQuery to the frontend.  This will mean that what the client
sees is

	CommandComplete message for COMMIT (or NOTIFY)
	NotificationResponse messages, including self-notifies

where the notifies are guaranteed to arrive in commit order.
This compares to the historical behavior of

	NotificationResponse messages for self-notifies
	CommandComplete message for COMMIT (or NOTIFY)
	NotificationResponse messages for other transactions

where there's no particular guarantee about ordering of notifies
from different transactions.  At least for users of libpq, postponing
the self-notifies till after CommandComplete won't make any difference,
because libpq reads to the ReadyForQuery message before deciding the
query is done.

			regards, tom lane

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