Sql – Lost Update Anomaly in Sql Server Update Command


I am very much confused.

I have a transaction in ReadCommitted Isolation level. Among other things I am also updating a counter value in it, something similar to below:

Update tblCount set counter = counter + 1

My application is a desktop application and this transaction happens to occur quite frequently and concurrently. We recently noticed an error that sometimes the counter value doesn't get updated or is missed. We also insert one record on each counter update so we are sure that records have been inserted but somehow counter fails to update. This happens once in 2000 simulaneous transactions.

I seriously doubt it is a lost update anomaly I am facing but if you look at the command above, it's just update the counter from its own value: if I have started a transaction and the transaction has reached this statement, it should have locked the row. This should not cause lost update, but it's happening somehow.

Is the thing that this update command works in two parts? Like first it reads the counter value (during which it doesn't get the exclusive lock) and then writes the new calculated value (when it does get an exclusive lock)?

Please help, I have got really confused.

Best Solution

The update command does not work in two parts. It only works in one.

There's something else going on, and my first guess would be that your transaction is rolling back for another reason. Out of those 2,000 transactions, for example, one may be rolling back - especially if you're doing a ton of things concurrently - and it didn't succeed at all.

That update may not have been what caused the problem, either - you may have deadlocks involved due to other transactions, and they may be failing before the update command (or during the update command).

I'd zoom out and ask questions about the transaction's error handling. Are you doing everything in try/catch blocks? Are you capturing error levels when transactions fail? If not, you'll need to capture a trace with Profiler to find out what's going on.