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We have a large application running, that requires cleanup for performance reasons. This was however not forseen when designing the application.

Basically, the delete is executed from a stored procedure, which first does a couple of selects to define the data to be deleted, after which it starts deleting from different tables. As the link between this data is essential for the deletion, it has to be avoided to delete for example and order without deleting some dependencies. Therefore it has to run in one transaction.

Problem is, whenever the script is running, the application itself become not unusable: timeouts when getting data from the web, or trying to update a certain record. Al those queries are blocked by the sessions that runs the transaction

The data being deleted is not relevant anymore, and should thus not be updated by the application.

I've tried running the transaction in different isolation levels, including snapshot, but it still doesn't work.

How can I avoid these locks? Should I use READ_COMMITTED_SNAPSHOT?

Thanks in advance...

share|improve this question
READ_COMMITTED_SNAPSHOT would let the app still read the data while you are deleting, but updates will still be blocked as writes still block writes in Snapshot Isolation. –  Ali Razeghi Sep 4 '13 at 17:49

1 Answer 1

I don't think you have to force all of your deletes to occur within a single, monolithic transaction. Instead of having a transaction that does:

  DELETE all the things from child table 1;
  DELETE all the things from child table 2;
  DELETE all the things from child table N;
  DELETE all the things from parent table;

Why not delete in chunks? You can play around with the TOP (?) parameter based on how many rows lead to what kind of duration of transaction (there is no magic formula for this, even if we did have a lot more information about your schema). Pseudo-code:


SELECT @rc = 1;

WHILE @rc > 0
  DELETE @p;

  INSERT @p SELECT TOP (?) primary_key FROM parent table 
    WHERE (clause that defines the data to be deleted);

  SET @rc = @@ROWCOUNT;

    DELETE child table 1 WHERE parentID IN (SELECT p FROM @p);
    DELETE child table 2 WHERE parentID IN (SELECT p FROM @p);
    DELETE child table N WHERE parentID IN (SELECT p FROM @p);

    DELETE parent table WHERE parentID IN (SELECT p FROM @p);
  -- to minimize log impact you may want to CHECKPOINT
  -- or backup the log here, every loop or every N loops

This may extend the total amount of time that the operation takes (especially if you backup or checkpoint on each loop, or add an artificial delay using WAITFOR, or both), but should allow other transactions to sneak in between chunks, waiting for shorter transactions instead of the whole process.

I wrote a lot more about this technique here.

share|improve this answer
The problem is that one row of the parent table contains a lot of child elements, and I am already deleting the parent record per record. Most dependencies are deleted on cascade. I suppose I could go on level deeper, delete from there and after that delete the top record. Is there no way to run this transaction is some kind of rowlocking mode, because theoretically, the data which is being deleted is no longer accessed by the application? Thanks for your extensive answer btw. –  user196124 Sep 5 '13 at 6:58
You need smaller chunks to help avoid lock escalation, i.e. page or table locks which is what is causing the contention with other queries. By default lock escalation occurs after 5000 locks are taken on a table within a transaction. –  Ted Elliott Jan 23 '14 at 4:52

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