I know there are similar questions here but they are either telling me to switch back to regular RDBMS systems if I need transactions or use atomic operations or two-phase commit. The second solution seems the best choice. The third I don't wish to follow because it seems that many things could go wrong and I can't test it in every aspect. I'm having a hard time refactoring my project to perform atomic operations. I don't know whether this comes from my limited viewpoint (I have only worked with SQL databases so far), or whether it actually can't be done.

We would like to pilot test MongoDB at our company. We have chosen a relatively simple project - an SMS gateway. It allows our software to send SMS messages to the cellular network and the gateway does the dirty work: actually communicating with the providers via different communication protocols. The gateway also manages the billing of the messages. Every customer who applies for the service has to buy some credits. The system automatically decreases the user's balance when a message is sent and denies the access if the balance is insufficient. Also because we are customers of third party SMS providers, we may also have our own balances with them. We have to keep track of those as well.

I started thinking about how I can store the required data with MongoDB if I cut down some complexity (external billing, queued SMS sending). Coming from the SQL world, I would create a separate table for users, another one for SMS messages, and one for storing the transactions regarding the users' balance. Let's say I create separate collections for all of those in MongoDB.

Imagine an SMS sending task with the following steps in this simplified system:

  1. check if the user has sufficient balance; deny access if there's not enough credit

  2. send and store the message in the SMS collection with the details and cost (in the live system the message would have a status attribute and a task would pick up it for delivery and set the price of the SMS according to its current state)

  3. decrease the users's balance by the cost of the sent message

  4. log the transaction in the transaction collection

Now what's the problem with that? MongoDB can do atomic updates only on one document. In the previous flow it could happen that some kind of error creeps in and the message gets stored in the database but the user's balance is not updated and/or the transaction is not logged.

I came up with two ideas:

  • Create a single collection for the users, and store the balance as a field, user related transactions and messages as sub documents in the user's document. Because we can update documents atomically, this actually solves the transaction problem. Disadvantages: if the user sends many SMS messages, the size of the document could become large and the 4MB document limit could be reached. Maybe I can create history documents in such scenarios, but I don't think this would be a good idea. Also I don't know how fast the system would be if I push more and more data to the same big document.

  • Create one collection for users, and one for transactions. There can be two kinds of transactions: credit purchase with positive balance change and messages sent with negative balance change. Transaction may have a subdocument; for example in messages sent the details of the SMS can be embedded in the transaction. Disadvantages: I don't store the current user balance so I have to calculate it every time a user tries to send a message to tell if the message could go through or not. I'm afraid this calculation can became slow as the number of stored transactions grows.

I'm a little bit confused about which method to pick. Are there other solutions? I couldn't find any best practices online about how to work around these kinds of problems. I guess many programmers who are trying to become familiar with the NoSQL world are facing similar problems in the beginning.

Solution 1

As of 4.0, MongoDB will have multi-document ACID transactions. The plan is to enable those in replica set deployments first, followed by the sharded clusters. Transactions in MongoDB will feel just like transactions developers are familiar with from relational databases - they'll be multi-statement, with similar semantics and syntax (like start_transaction and commit_transaction). Importantly, the changes to MongoDB that enable transactions do not impact performance for workloads that do not require them.

For more details see here.

Having distributed transactions, doesn't mean that you should model your data like in tabular relational databases. Embrace the power of the document model and follow the good and recommended practices of data modeling.

Solution 2

Check this out, by Tokutek. They develop a plugin for Mongo that promises not only transactions but also a boosting in performance.

Solution 3

Bring it to the point: if transactional integrity is a must then don't use MongoDB but use only components in the system supporting transactions. It is extremely hard to build something on top of component in order to provide ACID-similar functionality for non-ACID compliant components. Depending on the individual usecases it may make sense to separate actions into transactional and non-transactional actions in some way...

Solution 4

Now what's the problem with that? MongoDB can do atomic updates only on one document. In the previous flow it could happen that some kind of error creeps in and the message gets stored in the database but the user's balance is not gets reduced and/or the transaction is not gets logged.

This is not really a problem. The error you mentioned is either a logical (bug) or IO error (network, disk failure). Such kind of error can leave both transactionless and transactional stores in non-consistent state. For example, if it has already sent SMS but while storing message error occurred - it can't rollback SMS sending, which means it won't be logged, user balance won't be reduced etc.

The real problem here is the user can take advantage of race condition and send more messages than his balance allows. This also applies to RDBMS, unless you do SMS sending inside transaction with balance field locking (which would be a great bottleneck). As a possible solution for MongoDB would be using findAndModify first to reduce the balance and check it, if it's negative disallow sending and refund the amount (atomic increment). If positive, continue sending and in case it fails refund the amount. The balance history collection can be also maintained to help fix/verify balance field.

Solution 5

The project is simple, but you have to support transactions for payment, which makes the whole thing difficult. So, for example, a complex portal system with hundreds of collections (forum, chat, ads, etc...) is in some respect simpler, because if you lose a forum or chat entry, nobody really cares. If you, on the otherhand, lose a payment transaction that's a serious issue.

So, if you really want a pilot project for MongoDB, choose one which is simple in that respect.

Solution 6

Transactions are absent in MongoDB for valid reasons. This is one of those things that make MongoDB faster.

In your case, if transaction is a must, mongo seems not a good fit.

May be RDMBS + MongoDB, but that will add complexities and will make it harder to manage and support application.

Solution 7

This is probably the best blog I found regarding implementing transaction like feature for mongodb .!

Syncing Flag: best for just copying data over from a master document

Job Queue: very general purpose, solves 95% of cases. Most systems need to have at least one job queue around anyway!

Two Phase Commit: this technique ensure that each entity always has all information needed to get to a consistent state

Log Reconciliation: the most robust technique, ideal for financial systems

Versioning: provides isolation and supports complex structures

Read this for more info: https://dzone.com/articles/how-implement-robust-and

Solution 8

This is late but think this will help in future. I use Redis for make a queue to solve this problem.

  • Requirement:
    Image below show 2 actions need execute concurrently but phase 2 and phase 3 of action 1 need finish before start phase 2 of action 2 or opposite (A phase can be a request REST api, a database request or execute javascript code...).

  • How a queue help you
    Queue make sure that every block code between lock() and release() in many function will not run as the same time, make them isolate.

    function action1() {
      phase1();
      queue.lock("action_domain");
      phase2();
      phase3();
      queue.release("action_domain");
    }
    
    function action2() {
      phase1();
      queue.lock("action_domain");
      phase2();
      queue.release("action_domain");
    }
    
  • How to build a queue
    I will only focus on how avoid race conditon part when building a queue on backend site. If you don't know the basic idea of queue, come here.
    The code below only show the concept, you need implement in correct way.

    function lock() {
      if(isRunning()) {
        addIsolateCodeToQueue(); //use callback, delegate, function pointer... depend on your language
      } else {
        setStateToRunning();
        pickOneAndExecute();
      }
    }
    
    function release() {
      setStateToRelease();
      pickOneAndExecute();
    }
    

But you need isRunning() setStateToRelease() setStateToRunning() isolate it's self or else you face race condition again. To do this I choose Redis for ACID purpose and scalable.
Redis document talk about it's transaction:

All the commands in a transaction are serialized and executed sequentially. It can never happen that a request issued by another client is served in the middle of the execution of a Redis transaction. This guarantees that the commands are executed as a single isolated operation.

P/s:
I use Redis because my service already use it, you can use any other way support isolation to do that.
The action_domain in my code is above for when you need only action 1 call by user A block action 2 of user A, don't block other user. The idea is put a unique key for lock of each user.

Solution 9

Transactions are available now in MongoDB 4.0. Sample here

// Runs the txnFunc and retries if TransientTransactionError encountered

function runTransactionWithRetry(txnFunc, session) {
    while (true) {
        try {
            txnFunc(session);  // performs transaction
            break;
        } catch (error) {
            // If transient error, retry the whole transaction
            if ( error.hasOwnProperty("errorLabels") && error.errorLabels.includes("TransientTransactionError")  ) {
                print("TransientTransactionError, retrying transaction ...");
                continue;
            } else {
                throw error;
            }
        }
    }
}

// Retries commit if UnknownTransactionCommitResult encountered

function commitWithRetry(session) {
    while (true) {
        try {
            session.commitTransaction(); // Uses write concern set at transaction start.
            print("Transaction committed.");
            break;
        } catch (error) {
            // Can retry commit
            if (error.hasOwnProperty("errorLabels") && error.errorLabels.includes("UnknownTransactionCommitResult") ) {
                print("UnknownTransactionCommitResult, retrying commit operation ...");
                continue;
            } else {
                print("Error during commit ...");
                throw error;
            }
       }
    }
}

// Updates two collections in a transactions

function updateEmployeeInfo(session) {
    employeesCollection = session.getDatabase("hr").employees;
    eventsCollection = session.getDatabase("reporting").events;

    session.startTransaction( { readConcern: { level: "snapshot" }, writeConcern: { w: "majority" } } );

    try{
        employeesCollection.updateOne( { employee: 3 }, { $set: { status: "Inactive" } } );
        eventsCollection.insertOne( { employee: 3, status: { new: "Inactive", old: "Active" } } );
    } catch (error) {
        print("Caught exception during transaction, aborting.");
        session.abortTransaction();
        throw error;
    }

    commitWithRetry(session);
}

// Start a session.
session = db.getMongo().startSession( { mode: "primary" } );

try{
   runTransactionWithRetry(updateEmployeeInfo, session);
} catch (error) {
   // Do something with error
} finally {
   session.endSession();
}