Transactions and Versioning

Committing and Aborting

Changes made during a transaction don’t appear in the database until the transaction commits. This is done by calling the commit() method of the current Transaction object, where the latter is obtained from the get() method of the current transaction manager. If the default thread transaction manager is being used, then transaction.commit() suffices.

Similarly, a transaction can be explicitly aborted (all changes within the transaction thrown away) by invoking the abort() method of the current Transaction object, or simply transaction.abort() if using the default thread transaction manager.

Prior to ZODB 3.3, if a commit failed (meaning the commit() call raised an exception), the transaction was implicitly aborted and a new transaction was implicitly started. This could be very surprising if the exception was suppressed, and especially if the failing commit was one in a sequence of subtransaction commits.

So, starting with ZODB 3.3, if a commit fails, all further attempts to commit, join, or register with the transaction raise ZODB.POSException.TransactionFailedError. You must explicitly start a new transaction then, either by calling the abort() method of the current transaction, or by calling the begin() method of the current transaction’s transaction manager.


Subtransactions can be created within a transaction. Each subtransaction can be individually committed and aborted, but the changes within a subtransaction are not truly committed until the containing transaction is committed.

The primary purpose of subtransactions is to decrease the memory usage of transactions that touch a very large number of objects. Consider a transaction during which 200,000 objects are modified. All the objects that are modified in a single transaction have to remain in memory until the transaction is committed, because the ZODB can’t discard them from the object cache. This can potentially make the memory usage quite large. With subtransactions, a commit can be be performed at intervals, say, every 10,000 objects. Those 10,000 objects are then written to permanent storage and can be purged from the cache to free more space.

To commit a subtransaction instead of a full transaction, pass a true value to the commit() or abort() method of the Transaction object.

# Commit a subtransaction

# Abort a subtransaction

A new subtransaction is automatically started upon successful committing or aborting the previous subtransaction.

Undoing Changes

Some types of Storage support undoing a transaction even after it’s been committed. You can tell if this is the case by calling the supportsUndo() method of the DB instance, which returns true if the underlying storage supports undo. Alternatively you can call the supportsUndo() method on the underlying storage instance.

If a database supports undo, then the undoLog(start, end[, func])() method on the DB instance returns the log of past transactions, returning transactions between the times start and end, measured in seconds from the epoch. If present, func is a function that acts as a filter on the transactions to be returned; it’s passed a dictionary representing each transaction, and only transactions for which func returns true will be included in the list of transactions returned to the caller of undoLog(). The dictionary contains keys for various properties of the transaction. The most important keys are id, for the transaction ID, and time, for the time at which the transaction was committed.

>>> print storage.undoLog(0, sys.maxint)
[{'description': '',
  'time': 981126744.98,
  'user_name': ''},
 {'description': '',
  'time': 981126478.202,
  'user_name': ''}

To store a description and a user name on a commit, get the current transaction and call the note(text)() method to store a description, and the setUser(user_name)() method to store the user name. While setUser() overwrites the current user name and replaces it with the new value, the note() method always adds the text to the transaction’s description, so it can be called several times to log several different changes made in the course of a single transaction.

transaction.get().note('Change ownership')

To undo a transaction, call the DB.undo(id)() method, passing it the ID of the transaction to undo. If the transaction can’t be undone, a ZODB.POSException.UndoError exception will be raised, with the message “non-undoable transaction”. Usually this will happen because later transactions modified the objects affected by the transaction you’re trying to undo.

After you call undo() you must commit the transaction for the undo to actually be applied. [1] There is one glitch in the undo process. The thread that calls undo may not see the changes to the object until it calls Connection.sync() or commits another transaction.



Versions should be avoided. They’re going to be deprecated, replaced by better approaches to long-running transactions.

While many subtransactions can be contained within a single regular transaction, it’s also possible to contain many regular transactions within a long-running transaction, called a version in ZODB terminology. Inside a version, any number of transactions can be created and committed or rolled back, but the changes within a version are not made visible to other connections to the same ZODB.

Not all storages support versions, but you can test for versioning ability by calling supportsVersions() method of the DB instance, which returns true if the underlying storage supports versioning.

A version can be selected when creating the Connection instance using the[*version*])() method. The version argument must be a string that will be used as the name of the version.

vers_conn ='Working version')

Transactions can then be committed and aborted using this versioned connection. Other connections that don’t specify a version, or provide a different version name, will not see changes committed within the version named Working version. To commit or abort a version, which will either make the changes visible to all clients or roll them back, call the DB.commitVersion() or DB.abortVersion() methods. XXX what are the source and dest arguments for?

The ZODB makes no attempt to reconcile changes between different versions. Instead, the first version which modifies an object will gain a lock on that object. Attempting to modify the object from a different version or from an unversioned connection will cause a ZODB.POSException.VersionLockError to be raised:

from ZODB.POSException import VersionLockError

except VersionLockError, (obj_id, version):
    print ('Cannot commit; object %s '
           'locked by version %s' % (obj_id, version))

The exception provides the ID of the locked object, and the name of the version having a lock on it.

Multithreaded ZODB Programs

ZODB databases can be accessed from multithreaded Python programs. The Storage and DB instances can be shared among several threads, as long as individual Connection instances are created for each thread.


[1]There are actually two different ways a storage can implement the undo feature. Most of the storages that ship with ZODB use the transactional form of undo described in the main text. Some storages may use a non-transactional undo makes changes visible immediately.