SKIP LOCKED: One of my favorite 9.5 features

PostgreSQL 9.5 is just around the corner and many cool new features have been added to this wonderful release. One of the most exciting ones is definitely SKIP LOCKED.

To make sure that concurrent operations don’t lead to race conditions, SELECT FOR UPDATE has been supported for many years now and it is essential to many applications. The problem, however, is: If two SELECT FOR UPDATE statements are executed concurrently, it might happen that one has to wait for a long period of time. In case of high-concurrency this can lead to bottlenecks and to subsequent troubles.

In addition to that there is one more thing to consider: Let us assume somebody has locked a line because he wants to book an airline ticket. It makes sense that some other person does not see this seat anymore because it is most likely being booked anyway. Skipping locked rows can therefore make sense from a business point of view.

One more example would be: Give me all trouble tickets, which are still open but which are not currently being worked on (= SELECT FOR UPDATE).

How it works

Here is a simple demo table containing 4 rows:

test=# CREATE TABLE t_demo AS

                        SELECT         *

                        FROM            generate_series(1, 4) AS id;

SELECT 4

The content is not too surprising:

test=# TABLE t_demo;

 id

----

  1

  2

  3

  4

(4 rows)

Now let us assume that one user locks a row:

test=# BEGIN;

BEGIN

test=# SELECT * FROM t_demo WHERE id = 2 FOR UPDATE;

 id

----

  2

(1 row)

If somebody else reads all the data but skips locked rows, one row is missing from the result set:

test=# BEGIN;

BEGIN

test=# SELECT * FROM t_demo FOR UPDATE SKIP LOCKED;

 id

----

  1

  3

  4

(3 rows)

As you can see the second row has been excluded because it is already locked. Note that the second user is NOT blocked – it can proceed concurrently. This is highly important because transactions can co-exist nicely.

Hans-Juergen Schoenig
Hans-Jürgen Schönig has 15 years of experience with PostgreSQL. He is consultant and CEO of the company „Cybertec Schönig & Schönig GmbH“ (www.cybertec.at, www.postgresql-support.de), which has served countless customers around the globe.