The serializability is a concurrency control property that a transaction system guarantees each transaction is getting executed one by one.

The 2PL or Two-Phase Locking is such method to reach serializability.


The 2PL is straightforward like its name - it has two phases.

  • Phase 1, growing phase.
    • New locks may be acquired.
    • None of them can be released.
  • Phase 2, shrinking phase.
    • Existing locks may be released.
    • No new locks can be acquired.

Notably, a LOCK POINT is at which phase 1 ends, that is, when the transaction acquires the last lock it needs.


  • SQL Server uses 2PL by default.
  • Postgres uses 2PL for the statement BEGIN.
  • MySQL InnoDB uses MVCC as its core, however, it uses 2PL for the serializable isolation level. That says MySQL acquires a shared lock on every row or range of rows that are selected in a SQL query.


Shared Lock v/s Exclusive Lock

2PL handles below two locks.

  • Shared Lock: nobody can write anything if one or more shared locks already exist.
  • Exclusive Lock: nobody can read or write anything if an exclusive lock exists.

Cascading Rollback

The cascading rollback is at when handling multiple transactions a failed transaction leads to all other transaction rollbacked in some cases.

For example, say we have below 3 transactions on 2 resources x and y.

  • Transaction 1: read(x), write(x), read(y), rollback()
  • Transaction 2: read(x), write(x), commit()
  • Transaction 3: read(x), commit()
  • The scheduler proceeds the operations in below sequence: T1 read(x), T1 write(x), T1 read(y), T2 read(x), T2 write(x), T3 read(x), T1 rollback(), T2 rollback(), T3 rollback(). The dirty read in T2 and T3 causes the rollbacks.

Note: T1=Transaction 1, T2=Transaction 2, T3=Transaction 3. And so as below example.

The 2PL cannot avoid the cascading failure.

Deadlocks and Starvation

A deadlock is a state when each operation is waiting for some other operations to take action. However, no operation can proceed at all. When the deadlock happens, the system enters a state called starvation.

For example, say we have below two transactions on two resources x and y.

  • Transaction 1: write(x), write(y)
  • Transaction 2: write(y), write(x)
  • The scheduler proceeds the operations in below sequence: T1 write(x), T2 write(y), T1 write(y), T2 write(x). You might notice that none of T1 write(y) and T2 write(x) can proceed as for T1 resource y has been locked by T2, and T2 resource x has been locked by T1.

The 2PL cannot avoid the deadlock.