Troubleshooting Transactional Replication – part 1

The common way to replicate data and objects from one server to another is using transactional replication. As you know, SQL Server processes all actions within the database using Transact-SQL statements. Each completed statement is called a transaction. In transactional replication, each committed transaction is replicated to the subscriber as it occurs.

“Sometimes” can occur a problem and the process don’t work accordingly. The fist step I like to do is run sp_whoisactive in the servers (Publisher, Distributor and Subscriber), you can see if there are any process blocking the replication.

Next, is to see the publisher and subscriber agents, if there is any issue they will show, like for example login locked.

To have more information what’s happening I like to query the system view MSrepl_Transactions in the distribution database, this view contains one row for each replicated transaction and with that information run the procedure sp_browsereplcmds specifying the seqno start @xact_seqno_start = N’0x0000014F000034B0001C’ for example.

The procedure sp_browserreplcmds returns a record set with the commands stored in the distribution database. It show like a table like below.


Locks everywhere

LOCKSIn this post I’m going to talk about locks on SQL Server. Locks are necessary, they are used in all operations in the database. Don’t get confused about blocking, locking and blocking are totally different.

When we talk about lock, doing something in the database, like an update and select though will cause a type of lock. The select stantement has a lock operation called shared lock. This means you can share reads with someone else and that may not cause blocks.

SQL Server has different kinds of lock modes, such as (S) Shared, (U) Update, (X) Exclusive, (I) Intent (Sch) Schema, Bulk Update and Key-Range.

  • (S) Shared lock is used in read operations.
  • (U) Update to avoid potential deadlock problem.
  • (X) Exclusive prevent access to a resource by concurrent transactions.
  • (I) Intent prevent other transactions from modifying the higher-level resource and improve the efficiency of the Database Engine in detecting lock conflicts at the higher level.
  • (Sch) Schema uses schema modification (Sch-M) locks during a table data definition language (DDL) operation.

The following table shows the compatibility of the most commonly encountered lock modes.

Existing granted mode
Requested mode IS S U IX SIX X
Intent shared (IS) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Shared (S) Yes Yes Yes No No No
Update (U) Yes Yes No No No No
Intent exclusive (IX) Yes No No Yes No No
Shared with intent exclusive (SIX) Yes No No No No No
Exclusive (X) No No No No No No


Simple way to understand transaction isolation levels

I was talking with a friend about how a database works and she asked me to explain transaction isolation levels to her. So let’s try…

My first intent was to create an analogy with something simple, for example, a book. Two people trying to read/write on the same book. They can read at the same time and it won’t cause any conflict. (shared lock). However, if one tries to write while the other one is reading, depending on the level of isolation that is being used, one of them may be blocked.

Imagine the situation where a person A finished writing page 1 of a book, so person B can read that page. The transaction was open when person A started writing and closed when page 1 was finished. This situation is called READ COMMITTED, because the person B can only read the page 1 after the person A finish writing and closes the transaction. This is SQL Server default isolation level.

Another situation is when the person B is reading the page 1 while the person A is writing, it is called READ UNCOMMITTED. The person A didn’t close the transaction and while the person B is reading something may be changed by person A. If the person B tries to read it again, it might be different because the transaction is still opened for person A.

Next case is when the person B starts to read the page first and person A tries to change what the person B is reading. The isolation level REPEATABLE READ will maintain what the person B is reading until the transaction is finished. That means if the person B tries to read again he will see the same data and nobody can change it. In this case person A will still be able to read and add new pages.

The last level is SERIALIZABLE and this scenario the person B is reading and the person A tries to write a new page, but in this case, the person A will only be able to insert/delete/update any page after person B closes his transaction. Both person A and B can read because the shared lock is compatible. It’s similar to the REPEATABLE READ, however the difference here is that you can’t do any changes in the book.