e-Book - Redis in Action

This book covers the use of Redis, an in-memory database/data structure server.
  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • About this Book
  • About the Cover Illustration
  • Part 1: Getting Started
  • Part 2: Core concepts
  • Part 3: Next steps
  • Appendix A
  • Appendix B
  • Buy the paperback

    6.2.3 Building a lock in Redis

    Building a mostly correct lock in Redis is easy. Building a completely correct lock in Redis
    isn’t much more difficult, but requires being extra careful about the operations we
    use to build it. In this first version, we’re not going to handle the case where a lock
    times out, or the case where the holder of the lock crashes and doesn’t release the
    lock. Don’t worry; we’ll get to those cases in the next section, but for now, let’s just get
    basic locking correct.

    The first part of making sure that no other code can run is to acquire the lock. The
    natural building block to use for acquiring a lock is the SETNX command, which will
    only set a value if the key doesn’t already exist. We’ll set the value to be a unique identifier
    to ensure that no other process can get the lock, and the unique identifier we’ll
    use is a 128-bit randomly generated UUID.

    If we fail to acquire the lock initially, we’ll retry until we acquire the lock, or until a
    specified timeout has passed, whichever comes first, as shown here.

    Listing 6.8The acquire_lock() function
    def acquire_lock(conn, lockname, acquire_timeout=10):
       identifier = str(uuid.uuid4())

    A 128-bit random identifier.

       end = time.time() + acquire_timeout
       while time.time() < end:
          if conn.setnx('lock:' + lockname, identifier):

    Get the lock.

             return identifier
       return False

    As described, we’ll attempt to acquire the lock by using SETNX to set the value of the
    lock’s key only if it doesn’t already exist. On failure, we’ll continue to attempt this
    until we’ve run out of time (which defaults to 10 seconds).

    Now that we have the lock, we can perform our buying or selling without WATCH
    errors getting in our way. We’ll acquire the lock and, just like before, check the price
    of the item, make sure that the buyer has enough money, and if so, transfer the money
    and item. When completed, we release the lock. The code for this can be seen next.

    Listing 6.9The purchase_item_with_lock() function
    def purchase_item_with_lock(conn, buyerid, itemid, sellerid):
       buyer = "users:%s"%buyerid
       seller = "users:%s"%sellerid
       item = "%s.%s"%(itemid, sellerid)
       inventory = "inventory:%s"%buyerid
       end = time.time() + 30
       locked = acquire_lock(conn, market)

    Get the lock.

          return False
       pipe = conn.pipeline(True)
          while time.time() < end:
                pipe.zscore("market:", item)
                pipe.hget(buyer, 'funds')
                price, funds = pipe.execute()
                if price is None or price > funds:
                   return None

    Check for a sold item or insufficient funds.

                pipe.hincrby(seller, int(price))
                pipe.hincrby(buyerid, int(-price))
                pipe.sadd(inventory, itemid)
                pipe.zrem("market:", item)

    Transfer funds from the buyer to the seller, and transfer the item to the buyer.

                return True
             except redis.exceptions.WatchError:
          release_lock(conn, market, locked)

    Release the lock.

    Looking through the code listing, it almost seems like we’re locking the operation. But
    don’t be fooled—we’re locking the market data, and the lock must exist while we’re
    operating on the data, which is why it surrounds the code performing the operation.
    To release the lock, we have to be at least as careful as when acquiring the lock.

    Between the time when we acquired the lock and when we’re trying to release it,
    someone may have done bad things to the lock. To release the lock, we need to WATCH
    the lock key, and then check to make sure that the value is still the same as what we set
    it to before we delete it. This also prevents us from releasing a lock multiple times.
    The release_lock() function is shown next.

    Listing 6.10The release_lock() function
    def release_lock(conn, lockname, identifier):
       pipe = conn.pipeline(True)
       lockname = 'lock:' + lockname
       while True:
             if pipe.get(lockname) == identifier:

    Check and verify that we still have the lock.

                return True

    Release the lock.



          except redis.exceptions.WatchError:

    Someone else did something with the lock; retry.

       return False

    We lost the lock.

    We take many of the same steps to ensure that our lock hasn’t changed as we did with
    our money transfer in the first place. But if you think about our release lock function
    for long enough, you’ll (reasonably) come to the conclusion that, except in very rare
    situations, we don’t need to repeatedly loop. But the next version of the acquire lock
    function that supports timeouts, if accidentally mixed with earlier versions (also
    unlikely, but anything is possible with code), could cause the release lock transaction
    to fail and could leave the lock in the acquired state for longer than necessary. So, just
    to be extra careful, and to guarantee correctness in as many situations as possible,
    we’ll err on the side of caution.

    After we’ve wrapped our calls with locks, we can perform the same simulation of
    buying and selling as we did before. In table 6.2, we have new rows that use the lockbased
    buying and selling code, which are shown below our earlier rows.

    Though we generally have lower total number of items that finished being listed,
    we never retry, and our number of listed items compared to our number of purchased

    Table 6.2Performance of locking over 60 seconds

    Listed items

    Bought items

    Purchase retries

    Average wait per purchase

    1 lister, 1 buyer, no lock





    1 lister, 1 buyer, with lock





    5 listers, 1 buyer, no lock





    5 listers, 1 buyer, with lock





    5 listers, 5 buyers, no lock





    5 listers, 5 buyers, with lock





    items is close to the ratio of number of listers to buyers. At this point, we’re running at
    the limit of contention between the different listing and buying processes.

    1 Having tested a few available Redis lock implementations that include support for timeouts, I was able to
    induce lock duplication on at least half of the lock implementations with just five clients acquiring and releasing
    the same lock over 10 seconds.