Last Updated: January 4, 2017

Definition - What does Transaction mean?

A transaction, in the context of a database, is a logical unit that is independently executed for data retrieval or updates. In relational databases, database transactions must be atomic, consistent, isolated and durable--summarized as the ACID acronym.

Techopedia explains Transaction

Transactions are completed by COMMIT or ROLLBACK SQL statements, which indicate a transaction’s beginning or end. The ACID acronym defines the properties of a database transaction, as follows:

  • Atomicity: A transaction must be fully complete, saved (committed) or completely undone (rolled back). A sale in a retail store database illustrates a scenario which explains atomicity, e.g., the sale consists of an inventory reduction and a record of incoming cash. Both either happen together or do not happen - it's all or nothing.
  • Consistency: The transaction must be fully compliant with the state of the database as it was prior to the transaction. In other words, the transaction cannot break the database’s constraints. For example, if a database table’s Phone Number column can only contain numerals, then consistency dictates that any transaction attempting to enter an alphabetical letter may not commit.
  • Isolation: Transaction data must not be available to other transactions until the original transaction is committed or rolled back.
  • Durability: Transaction data changes must be available, even in the event of database failure.
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