Recently, I stumbled upon an interesting problem related to NServiceBus Saga concurrency and coarse-grained locks when using NHibernate Persistence.

With NServiceBus, concurrent access to an existing saga instance works out of the box. This is because it relies on the underlying database system. With NHibernate, it relies on optimistic concurrency, by adding a Version column to your Saga Data. But there is a catch: NHibernate doesn’t support Coarse-Grained Locks. Let’s first explore this general problem and then we’ll get back to the NServiceBus Saga.

Coarse-Grained Locks

With a coarse-grained lock you basically lock a group of entities together. If you’re familiar with DDD, then you know that an aggregate should be a consistency boundary. When I save an aggregate, I want to save the entire aggregate, to ensure it’s consistent. Why would you need this? Here’s an example:

Let’s take the already familiar example of an Order with OrderLines, Order being the aggregate root. We’re using optimistic concurrency control for each of our aggregate parts. In our domain there is an invariant that dictates that the total number of items  in an order can’t be more than 10. Two commands that would increase the quantity could be processed in parallel and break the invariant. This is because in each transaction, the invariant would hold and each transaction would commit, since they update different lines. Now you’re in an inconsistent state.

If we could lock the entire aggregate (order and order lines), then the second transaction would fail and rollback, maintaining a consistent state. One way to achieve this when using optimistic concurrency is to update the root’s version whenever an aggregate part is updated.

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