Glassfish mysteries #5: transaction recovery

Here are all posts of this serie on Glassfish.

There is little information available on the web about Glassfish transaction recovery. Transaction recovery is indeed something that should be very rare.

Some background

Such a recovery is necessary only if a problem (typically a crash) occurs while the transaction manager is performing the 2-phase commit protocol. If a problem happens before the 2PC protocol starts, the transaction will timeout and be rolled back automatically. If the problem appears during the 2PC protocol, the situation is a bit more complicated: one branch may be prepared the other not, or even worse, one branch may be comitted and the other not. A distributed transaction in such a state is frequently called “in-doubt” in the litterature.

The 2PC is supposed to be a fast operation, so the probability of in-doubt transaction is supposed to be also very low. It nevertheless can happen, and in this case, the distributed transaction must be recovered. This means that the transaction manager will attempt to complete the 2PC protocol based on his own transaction log. In some case, the transaction manager doesn’t know exactly what was done or not, and it must then “heuristically” rollback or commit the pending branches. This is generally really bad as it may leave the system in an inconsistent state, with some operations having been committed in one branch (e.g: the database) and rolled back
in another one (e.g: the JMS broker).

Glassfish admin console

First of all, we’ve never been able to recover any in-doubt transaction from the Admin>Transaction page. The “recover transaction” button didn’t produce any visible effect. We were however able to force the recovery at startup by enabling the appropriate option in the transaction service configuration page.

Oracle transaction recovery

If you are using Oracle, youre database connection will need some advanced privileges to have the recovery working. Glassfish will indeed execute either a “commit force” or “rollback force” on the database, which
is usually performed by a DBA with system rights. The privileges we found were necessary are the following:

GRANT SELECT ON dba_2pc_pending TO <db_conn>;
GRANT EXECUTE ON sys.dbms_system TO <db_conn>;
CREATE PUBLIC SYNONYM dbms_system FOR dbms_system;

Before the recovery,  the view dba_2pc_pending shows one pending transaction, whereas after the recovery the view is empty.

The is also little information about the property oracle-xa-recovery-workaround of the transaction service. It seems like there is a bug with Oracle and the view dba_2pc_pending. This view is sometimes not correctly refreshed by Oracle. The workaround’s purpose is apparently to force the view to be updated so that Glassfish can use it to identify the in-doubt transactions. This is unfortunately only a suppositon as we never found a clear explanation of the exact impact of this property.

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