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Conflict Detection in Peer-to-Peer Replication

Peer-to-peer transactional replication lets you insert, update, or delete data at any node in a topology and have data changes propagated to the other nodes. Because you can change data at any node, data changes at different nodes could conflict with each other. If a row is modified at more than one node, it can cause a conflict or even a lost update when the row is propagated to other nodes.

Peer-to-peer replication in SQL Server 2008 introduces the option to enable conflict detection across a peer-to-peer topology. This option would help prevent the issues that are caused by undetected conflicts, including inconsistent application behavior and lost updates. With this option enabled, by default a conflicting change is treated as a critical error that causes the failure of the Distribution Agent. In the event of a conflict, the topology remains in an inconsistent state until the conflict is resolved and the data is made consistent across the topology.

NoteNote

To avoid potential data inconsistency, make sure that you avoid conflicts in a peer-to-peer topology, even with conflict detection enabled. To ensure that write operations for a particular row are performed at only one node, applications that access and change data must partition insert, update, and delete operations. This partitioning ensures that modifications to a given row that is originating at one node are synchronized with all other nodes in the topology before the row is modified by a different node. If an application requires sophisticated conflict detection and resolution capabilities, use merge replication. For more information, see Merge Replication Overview and Detecting and Resolving Merge Replication Conflicts.

In a single database, changes that are made to the same row by different applications do not cause a conflict. This is because transactions are serialized, and locks are used to handle concurrent changes. In an asynchronous distributed system such as peer-to-peer replication, transactions act independently on each node; and there is no mechanism to serialize transactions across multiple nodes. A protocol like two-phase commit could be used, but this affects performance significantly.

In systems such as peer-to-peer replication, conflicts are not detected when changes are committed at individual peers. Instead, they are detected when those changes are replicated and applied at other peers. In peer-to-peer replication, conflicts are detected by the stored procedures that apply changes to each node, based on a hidden column in each published table. This hidden column stores an ID that combines an originator ID that you specify for each node and the version of the row. During synchronization, the Distribution Agent executes procedures for each table. These procedures apply insert, update, and delete operations from other peers. If one of the procedures detects a conflict when it reads the hidden column value, it raises error 22815 that has a severity level of 16:

A conflict of type '%s' was detected at peer %d between peer %d (incoming), transaction id %s and peer %d (on disk), transaction id %s

By default, this error causes the Distribution Agent to stop applying changes to that node. For information about how to handle the conflicts that are detected, see "Handling Conflicts" later in this topic.

NoteNote

The hidden column can be accessed only by a user that is logged in through the Dedicated Administrator Connection (DAC). For information about DAC, see Using a Dedicated Administrator Connection.

Peer-to-peer replication detects the following types of conflicts:

  • Insert-insert

    All rows in each table participating in peer-to-peer replication are uniquely identified by using primary key values. An insert-insert conflict occurs when a row with the same key value was inserted at more than one node.

  • Update-update

    Occurs when the same row was updated at more than one node.

  • Insert-update

    Occurs if a row was updated at one node, but the same row was deleted and then reinserted at another node.

  • Insert-delete

    Occurs if a row was deleted at one node, but the same row was deleted and then reinserted at another node.

  • Update-delete

    Occurs if a row was updated at one node, but the same row was deleted at another node.

  • Delete-delete

    Occurs when a row was deleted at more than one node.

To use conflict detection, all nodes must be running SQL Server 2008 or a later version; and detection must be enabled for all nodes. In SQL Server 2008 and later versions, by default, conflict detection is enabled in SQL Server Management Studio. We recommend that you have detection enabled, even in scenarios in which you do not expect any conflicts. Conflict detection can be enabled and disabled by using Management Studio or Transact-SQL stored procedures: 

When a conflict occurs in peer-to-peer replication, the Peer-to-peer conflict detection alert is raised. We recommend that you configure this alert so that you are notified when a conflict occurs. For more information about alerts, see Using Alerts for Replication Agent Events.

After the Distribution Agent stops and the alert is raised, use one of the following approaches to handle the conflicts that occurred:

  • Reinitialize the node where the conflict was detected from the backup of a node that contains the required data (the recommended approach). This method ensures that data is in a consistent state. For more information, see the procedure to add a node to a topology in How to: Configure Peer-to-Peer Transactional Replication (Replication Transact-SQL Programming).

  • Try to synchronize the node again by enabling the Distribution Agent to continue to apply changes:

    1. Execute sp_changepublication: specify 'p2p_continue_onconflict' for the @property parameter and true for the @value parameter.

    2. Restart the Distribution Agent.

    3. Verify the conflicts that were detected by using the conflict viewer and determine the rows that were involved, the type of conflict, and the winner. The conflict is resolved based on the originator ID value that you specified during configuration: the row that originated at the node with the highest ID wins the conflict. For more information, see How to: View Data Conflicts for Transactional Publications (SQL Server Management Studio).

    4. Run validation to ensure that the conflicting rows converged correctly. For more information, see Validating Replicated Data.

      NoteNote

      If data is inconsistent after this step, you must manually update rows on the node that has the highest priority, and then let the changes propagate from this node. If there are no further conflicting changes in the topology, all nodes will be brought to a consistent state.

    5. Execute sp_changepublication: specify 'p2p_continue_onconflict' for the @property parameter and false for the @value parameter.

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