SQLite Shared-Cache Mode

1. SQLite Shared-Cache Mode

Starting with version 3.3.0 (2006-01-11), SQLite includes a special "shared-cache" mode (disabled by default) intended for use in embedded servers. If shared-cache mode is enabled and a thread establishes multiple connections to the same database, the connections share a single data and schema cache. This can significantly reduce the quantity of memory and IO required by the system.

In version 3.5.0 (2007-09-04), shared-cache mode was modified so that the same cache can be shared across an entire process rather than just within a single thread. Prior to this change, there were restrictions on passing database connections between threads. Those restrictions were dropped in 3.5.0 update. This document describes shared-cache mode as of version 3.5.0.

Shared-cache mode changes the semantics of the locking model in some cases. The details are described by this document. A basic understanding of the normal SQLite locking model (see File Locking And Concurrency In SQLite Version 3 for details) is assumed.

2. Shared-Cache Locking Model

Externally, from the point of view of another process or thread, two or more database connections using a shared-cache appear as a single connection. The locking protocol used to arbitrate between multiple shared-caches or regular database users is described elsewhere.

Figure 1

Figure 1 depicts an example runtime configuration where three database connections have been established. Connection 1 is a normal SQLite database connection. Connections 2 and 3 share a cache The normal locking protocol is used to serialize database access between connection 1 and the shared cache. The internal protocol used to serialize (or not, see "Read-Uncommitted Isolation Mode" below) access to the shared-cache by connections 2 and 3 is described in the remainder of this section.

There are three levels to the shared-cache locking model, transaction level locking, table level locking and schema level locking. They are described in the following three sub-sections.

2.1. Transaction Level Locking

SQLite connections can open two kinds of transactions, read and write transactions. This is not done explicitly, a transaction is implicitly a read-transaction until it first writes to a database table, at which point it becomes a write-transaction.

At most one connection to a single shared cache may open a write transaction at any one time. This may co-exist with any number of read transactions.

2.2. Table Level Locking

When two or more connections use a shared-cache, locks are used to serialize concurrent access attempts on a per-table basis. Tables support two types of locks, "read-locks" and "write-locks". Locks are granted to connections - at any one time, each database connection has either a read-lock, write-lock or no lock on each database table.

At any one time, a single table may have any number of active read-locks or a single active write lock. To read data a table, a connection must first obtain a read-lock. To write to a table, a connection must obtain a write-lock on that table. If a required table lock cannot be obtained, the query fails and SQLITE_LOCKED is returned to the caller.

Once a connection obtains a table lock, it is not released until the current transaction (read or write) is concluded.

2.2.1. Read-Uncommitted Isolation Mode

The behaviour described above may be modified slightly by using the read_uncommitted pragma to change the isolation level from serialized (the default), to read-uncommitted.

A database connection in read-uncommitted mode does not attempt to obtain read-locks before reading from database tables as described above. This can lead to inconsistent query results if another database connection modifies a table while it is being read, but it also means that a read-transaction opened by a connection in read-uncommitted mode can neither block nor be blocked by any other connection.

Read-uncommitted mode has no effect on the locks required to write to database tables (i.e. read-uncommitted connections must still obtain write-locks and hence database writes may still block or be blocked). Also, read-uncommitted mode has no effect on the sqlite_master locks required by the rules enumerated below (see section "Schema (sqlite_master) Level Locking").

  /* Set the value of the read-uncommitted flag:
  **   True  -> Set the connection to read-uncommitted mode.
  **   False -> Set the connection to serialized (the default) mode.
  PRAGMA read_uncommitted = <boolean>;

  /* Retrieve the current value of the read-uncommitted flag */
  PRAGMA read_uncommitted;

2.3. Schema (sqlite_master) Level Locking

The sqlite_master table supports shared-cache read and write locks in the same way as all other database tables (see description above). The following special rules also apply:

  • A connection must obtain a read-lock on sqlite_master before accessing any database tables or obtaining any other read or write locks.
  • Before executing a statement that modifies the database schema (i.e. a CREATE or DROP TABLE statement), a connection must obtain a write-lock on sqlite_master.
  • A connection may not compile an SQL statement if any other connection is holding a write-lock on the sqlite_master table of any attached database (including the default database, "main").

3. Thread Related Issues

In SQLite versions 3.3.0 through 3.4.2 when shared-cache mode is enabled, a database connection may only be used by the thread that called sqlite3_open() to create it. And a connection could only share cache with another connection in the same thread. These restrictions were dropped beginning with SQLite version 3.5.0 (2007-09-04).

4. Shared Cache And Virtual Tables

In older versions of SQLite, shared cache mode could not be used together with virtual tables. This restriction was removed in SQLite version 3.6.17 (2009-08-10).

5. Enabling Shared-Cache Mode

Shared-cache mode is enabled on a per-process basis. Using the C interface, the following API can be used to globally enable or disable shared-cache mode:

int sqlite3_enable_shared_cache(int);

Each call to sqlite3_enable_shared_cache() affects subsequent database connections created using sqlite3_open(), sqlite3_open16(), or sqlite3_open_v2(). Database connections that already exist are unaffected. Each call to sqlite3_enable_shared_cache() overrides all previous calls within the same process.

Individual database connections created using sqlite3_open_v2() can choose to participate or not participate in shared cache mode by using the SQLITE_OPEN_SHAREDCACHE or SQLITE_OPEN_PRIVATECACHE flags the third parameter. The use of either of these flags overrides the global shared cache mode setting established by sqlite3_enable_shared_cache(). No more than one of the flags should be used; if both SQLITE_OPEN_SHAREDCACHE and SQLITE_OPEN_PRIVATECACHE flags are used in the third argument to sqlite3_open_v2() then the behavior is undefined.

When URI filenames are used, the "cache" query parameter can be used to specify whether or not the database will use shared cache. Use "cache=shared" to enable shared cache and "cache=private" to disable shared cache. The ability to use URI query parameters to specify the cache sharing behavior of a database connection allows cache sharing to be controlled in ATTACH statements. For example:

ATTACH 'file:aux.db?cache=shared' AS aux;

6. Shared Cache And In-Memory Databases

Beginning with SQLite version 3.7.13 (2012-06-11), shared cache can be used on in-memory databases, provided that the database is created using a URI filename. For backwards compatibility, shared cache is always disable for in-memory databases if the unadorned name ":memory:" is used to open the database. Prior to version 3.7.13, shared cache was always disabled for in-memory databases regardless of the database name used, current system shared cache setting, or query parameters or flags.

Enabling shared-cache for an in-memory database allows two or more database connections in the same process to have access to the same in-memory database. An in-memory database in shared cache is automatically deleted and memory is reclaimed when the last connection to that database closes.

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