Microservice Architecture
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Transaction Boundaries in Monolithic and Microservices Systems

By Hari KrishnaNov. 29, 2022, 3 p.m. Application development company
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In a traditional monolithic application, data consistency is handled by a shared relational database. However, in microservices architecture, different techniques have to be used to ensure data consistency.

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Typically, for monolithic applications that have a single database, it is possible to guarantee their ACID properties. You can also guarantee their ability to perform the transaction by maintaining locks on rows. Also, using transaction managers can help to provide ACID properties on the database.

Simply put, transactional boundaries ensure that transactions are atomic, consistent, isolated and durable and that all the operations within a logical unit of a transaction either succeed or fail.

What is a Database Transaction

A database transaction is a logical unit independently executed for data retrieval or updates. A logical unit may consist of more than one or multiple tasks.

What is ACID

ACID refers to properties of database transactions that are intended to guarantee validity even if errors or power failures occur. ACID stands for Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability. They are defined as:

Atomicity: All operations in a transaction succeed, or every operation can be rolled back.

Consistency: On completion of a transaction, the database is structurally sound.

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Isolation: Transactions appear to run sequentially because of moderation by the database so that they do not contend with one another. 

Durability: The transaction results are permanent, even if failures occur.

To maintain strong data consistency RDBMS support ACID properties. 

Sample Sequence Diagram Of Monolithic Application

Monolithic Database Design – Problems

You can design an application as a single monolithic application when it is simple. If you want to scale the application, you can run more than one instance of the application behind a load balancer if you want to scale up. However, when the application becomes big and the team size increases, this system develops several difficulties.

  • The traditional monolithic database (for multiple services) enforces tight coupling and therefore results in an inability to deploy service changes independently. When many services are accessing one single database, any schema changes have to be coordinated amongst all these services. In real-life scenarios, this can cause additional work and delay in deploying the changes.
  • It is difficult to scale individual services using this design, as only the option to scale out the entire monolithic database is available.
  • Trying to improve the performance of an application becomes a challenge when using a single shared database, and, over time, you could end up having huge tables. Data retrieval becomes difficult because you have to join multiple large tables to fetch the required data.
  •  In a majority of cases, a relational database is used in the monolith database. This forces all the services to use a relational database. When scenarios where a No-SQL data store may be the solution for your services to perform better, it is disadvantageous to be tightly coupled to a centralized data store.

Transactional Boundaries for Microservices Systems

Data Consistency In Microservices Architecture

When moving from service-oriented architecture to microservices architecture, the concept of database per service leads to a few challenges because of distributed transactions. Given below are the best ways to deal with distributed transactions.

Two-Phase Commit Protocol

The two-phase commit protocol is also known as 2PC, a mechanism that helps to implement a transaction across different software components such as multiple databases, message queues, etc.

2PC Architecture

The important participant in a distributed transaction is the transaction coordinator and in any distributed transaction, there are two steps.

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Step 1: Prepare phase

In this phase, all the participants of the transaction prepare for the ‘commit’ and notify the coordinator that they are now ready to complete the transaction.

Step 2: Commit or Rollback phase

In this phase, a ‘commit’ or a ‘rollback’ command is issued by the transaction coordinator to all the participants.

2PC has a problem that it is quite slow when compared to the time that a single microservice takes to operate. Coordinating the transaction amongst different microservices, even when on the same network, can slow down the system. Therefore, this approach is typically not used when the load is heavy. 

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XA Standard

The XA standard is a specification that helps to conduct 2PC distributed transactions across supporting resources. A JTA-compliant application server, such as JBoss, GlassFish etc., can support it out of the box.

As an example, the resources that participate in a distributed transaction could be two databases of two different microservices. To use this mechanism to your advantage, the resources have to be deployed on a single JTA platform. This may not always be possible for a microservice architecture system.

Distributed Transactions - Benefits.

  • Data consistency is strong

  • Supports ACID features

Distributed Transactions - Drawbacks

  • Complex process and very difficult to maintain

  • A blocking process leads to high latency and low throughput 

  • Deadlocks can occur between transactions

  • Transaction coordinator may become a single point of failure

Eventual Consistency

This is a model used to achieve high availability in distributed systems. In an eventually consistent system, inconsistencies may take place till the problem of distributed data is solved. This model cannot be applied to distributed ACID transactions across microservices. The BASE database model is used for eventual consistency. Whereas the ACID model provides a consistent system, the BASE model provides high availability.

BASE acronym (Basically Available, Soft-state, Eventual consistency)

  • ‘Available’ ensures the availability by replicating data across the database cluster nodes
  • ‘Soft-state’ may occur due to a lack of strong consistency of data, which may change over time. Responsibility for consistency is delegated to the developers.
  • ‘Eventual consistency’ happens in a short while, though immediate consistency does not occur with BASE. 

SAGA is a common pattern that helps to operate the eventual consistency model.

Based on a series of services, the SAGA pattern is an asynchronous model. In the SAGA pattern, the distributed transaction is performed by local transactions that are asynchronous on all related microservices. Each service updates its data in a local transaction. SAGA is designed to manage the execution of the sequence of different services.

Two Common Implementations of SAGA Transactions

    1. Choreography-Based SAGA

There is no central coordinator in this case. Each service, after completion of its task, produces an event and each service listens to these events to take an action. This pattern requires a mature event-driven architecture.

Event sourcing stores the state of event changes by using an Event Store. The event store is a message broker that acts as an event database. This SAGA pattern works well when there are only a few steps in a transaction (say, 2 to 4 steps). 

    2. Orchestration-Based SAGA

A coordinator service (Saga Execution Orchestrator or SEG) sequences transactions according to the business logic. The orchestrator decides which operation should be performed. When an operation fails, the orchestrator undoes the previous steps. 

Points to keep in mind

  • It is not possible to undo changes when data has been changed by a different transaction.
  • Compensations must not cause additional side effects when called more than once within the retry mechanism.
  • Compensations should be carefully designed.
  • SAGA orchestration pattern can be implemented with frameworks such as Camunda and Apache Camel.

Benefits of SAGA

  • Performs non-blocking operations by running on local atomic transactions
  • It offers no deadlocks between transactions
  • It offers no single point of failure

Drawbacks of SAGA

  • Eventual data consistency
  • Does not have read isolation and requires extra effort 
  • Difficult to debug
  • Increased development 
  • Complex Design

Which Solution to Choose

The solution chosen depends on the use case and consistency requirements.

It is better to avoid using distributed transactions across microservices if possible. For this, you can identify transaction boundaries by identifying operations in the same unit of work. Also, it is vital to identify operations that can tolerate possible latencies for consistency. 


Though microservices architecture offers advantages such as high availability, automation, and scalability, many changes from traditional methods have to be to obtain maximum efficiency of this architectural style.

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At SayOne, we offer independent and stable services that have separate development aspects as well as maintenance advantages. We build microservices especially suited for individuals' businesses in different industry verticals. In the longer term, this would allow your organization/business to enjoy a sizeable increase in both growth and efficiency. We create microservices as APIs with security and the application built in. We provide SDKs that allow for the automatic creation of microservices.

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Our comprehensive services in microservices development for start-ups, SMBs, and enterprises start with extensive microservices feasibility analysis to provide our clients with the best services. We use powerful frameworks for our custom-built microservices for different organizations. Our APIs are designed to enable fast iteration, easy deployment, and significantly less time to market. In short, our microservices are dexterous and resilient and deliver the security and reliability required for the different functions.

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