Isolation levels are how SQL Server decides what
level of locking to take when working with data. There are five
isolation levels available for your transactions in SQL Server 2008:
READ UNCOMMITED, READ COMMITED, REPEATABLE READ, SNAPSHOT, and
SERIALIZABLE. Only one isolation level can be set for your connection,
and that isolation level persists until the connection to SQL Server is
broken or the isolation level is explicitly changed by using the SET TRANSACTION ISOLATION LEVEL statement.
If a stored procedure has a SET TRANSACTION ISOLATION LEVEL
statement within it and the calling code uses a different isolation
level, then the isolation level will be changed, and will revert back
to the calling code isolation level upon completion of the stored
procedure. If table locking hints are included within a query, those
locking hints will override the default locking hints of the isolation
READ UNCOMMITTED isolation level is similar to the WITH (NOLOCK) hint
in that it allows you to perform dirty reads of the tables and pages
that you are reading even if other transactions have modified those
records. This is the least restrictive of the isolation levels. You can
protect yourself from locking contention while preventing dirty reads
by setting the READ_COMMITTED_SNAPSHOT option of the database to true, and using the READ COMMITTED isolation level, or by using the SNAPSHOT isolation level.
READ COMMITTED isolation level protects the transactions from dirty
reads. This is the default isolation level of SQL Server. The behavior
of this isolation level will depend on the value of the READ_COMMITTED_SNAPSHOT
setting of the database. If this setting is disabled then this
isolation level will not allow statements to read pages that are locked
for update by other transactions. If this setting is enabled then this
isolation level will allow statements to read the prior version of the
pages that are locked since backup pages will be written to the TEMPDB
database while they are locked for update. If the setting is enabled
and you wish to revert to the disabled locking behavior then you can
use the WITH(READCOMMITTEDLOCK) table hint within your command.
REPEATABLE READ isolation level is the next restrictive isolation level
within SQL Server. When using this isolation level statements cannot
read data that has been modified but not committed by other
transactions. It also prevents data that has been selected by other
transactions from being updated. The prevention of other transactions’
reading data is controlled by shared locks on the rows or data pages
that are read, which prevents an update statement from being able to
take its locks on those rows or data pages.
SNAPSHOT that is the newest isolation level in SQL Server requires that
all data used by the transaction will be the same version of the
transaction at the beginning of the transaction as it is at the end of
the transaction. This is done by SQL Server taking copies of the data
it needs to work with and placing those copies of the data into the
TEMPDB database so that other transactions using the READ COMMITTED
isolation level can read them instead of the original data pages from
within the user database. Before you can use the SNAPSHOT isolation
level you must enable the ALLOW_SNAPSHOT_ISOLATION
setting on the database. If your transaction will span more than one
database, then this setting must be enabled on all the databases within
the transaction or the transaction will return an error message. This
isolation level was introduced with Microsoft SQL Server 2005 and
cannot be used on SQL Server 2000 and below.
snapshot isolation isn’t new in SQL Server 2008, but it was new in SQL
Server 2005. The addition of a new isolation level is a very large
event. Microsoft has had only four transaction isolation levels since
the Microsoft code base broke from the Sybase code base back in SQL
Server 4.2 days. To this day Sybase still has only four transaction
SERIALIZABLE isolation level is the most restrictive of the isolation
levels. When using this isolation level no access to the data being
used by this transaction is allowed, no matter the isolation level of
the other transaction. No transaction may insert a value into the table
that falls within the key range of the values being locked by the
SERIALIZABLE transaction. This guarantees that any select statements
that are performed within the database will return the exact same data
every time they are run within the context of the transaction.
Use the SET TRANSACTION ISOLATION LEVEL statement to change the isolation level between the various isolation levels.
is important to note that user-defined functions (UDFs) and CLR
user-defined types (UDTs) cannot change the isolation of the current
session via the SET TRANSACTION ISOLATION LEVEL
command. In order to change the isolation level for the scope of these
commands you must set the isolation level, then call the UDF or UDT,
and then set the isolation level back.
If you are using the BULK INSERT
statement, the BCP command-line command, and you are using the .NET
bulk data loading methods, these commands will block and be blocked by
transactions that are using SNAPSHOT, READ UNCOMMITTED, and READ
COMMITTED (when row versioning is being used).
In addition to changing the isolation level through SET TRANSACTION ISOLATION LEVEL
you can edit the query options within SQL Server Management Studio. You
can do this by right–clicking on the white space in the query window
and selecting Query Options from the context menu. On the Execution | Advanced page you can adjust the Transaction Isolation Level as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Query Options
should be very careful when adjusting this setting. When you change
this setting it affects only the current session, which could change
the way the locks are done when running the statements in this state,
and in other states.