Just a Theory

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Database Handle and Transaction Management with DBIx::Connector

As part of my ongoing effort to wrestle Catalyst into working the way that I think it should work, I’ve just uploaded DBIx::Connector to the CPAN. See, I was using Catalyst::Model::DBI, but it turned out that I wanted to use the database handle in places other than the Catalyst parts of my app. I was bitching about this to mst on #catalyst, and he said that Catalyst::Model::DBI was actually a fork of DBIx::Class’s handle caching, and quite out of date. I said, “But this already exists. It’s called connect_cached().” I believe his response was, “OH FUCK OFF!”

So I started digging into what Catalyst::Model::DBI and DBIx::Class do to cache their database handles, and how it differs from connect_cached(). It turns out that they were pretty smart, in terms of checking to see if the process had forked or a new thread had been spawned, and if so, deactivating the old handle and then returning a new one. Otherwise, things are just cached. This approach works well in Web environments, including under mod_perl; in forking applications, like POE apps; and in plain Perl scripts. Matt said he’d always wanted to pull that functionality out of DBIx::Class and then make DBIx::Class depend on the external implementation. That way everyone could take advantage of the functionality, including people like me who don’t want to use an ORM.

So I did it. Maybe it was crazy (mmmmm…yak meat), but I can now use the same database interface in the Catalyst and POE parts of my application without worry:

my $dbh = DBIx::Connector->connect(
    'dbi:Pg:dbname=circle', 'postgres', '', {
        PrintError     => 0,
        RaiseError     => 0,
        AutoCommit     => 1,
        HandleError    => Exception::Class::DBI->handler,
        pg_enable_utf8 => 1,


But it’s not just database handle caching that I’ve included in DBIx::Connector; no, I’ve also stolen some of the transaction management stuff from DBIx::Class. All you have to do is grab the connector object which encapsulates the database handle, and take advantage of its txn_do() method:

my $conn = DBIx::Connector->new(@args);
$conn->txn_do(sub {
    my $dbh = shift;
    $dbh->do($_) for @queries;

The transaction is scoped to the code reference passed to txn_do(). Not only that, it avoids the overhead of calling ping() on the database handle unless something goes wrong. Most of the time, nothing goes wrong, the database is there, so you can proceed accordingly. If it is gone, however, txn_do() will re-connect and execute the code reference again. The cool think is that you will never notice that the connection was dropped – unless it’s still gone after the second execution of the code reference.

And finally, thanks to some pushback from mst, ribasushi, and others, I added savepoint support. It’s a little different than that provided by DBIx::Class; instead of relying on a magical auto_savepoint attribute that subtly changes the behavior of txn_do(), you just use the svp_do() method from within txn_do(). The scoping of subtransactions is thus nicely explicit:

$conn->txn_do(sub {
    my $dbh = shift;
    $dbh->do('INSERT INTO table1 VALUES (1)');
    eval {
        $conn->svp_do(sub {
            shift->do('INSERT INTO table1 VALUES (2)');
            die 'OMGWTF?';
    warn "Savepoint failed\n" if $@;
    $dbh->do('INSERT INTO table1 VALUES (3)');

This transaction will insert the values 1 and 3, but not 2. If you call svp_do() outside of txn_do(), it will call txn_do() for you, with the savepoint scoped to the entire transaction:

$conn->svp_do(sub {
    my $dbh = shift;
    $dbh->do('INSERT INTO table1 VALUES (4)');
    $conn->svp_do(sub {
        shift->do('INSERT INTO table1 VALUES (5)');

This transaction will insert both 3 and 4. And note that you can nest savepoints as deeply as you like. All this is dependent on whether the database supports savepoints; so far, PostgreSQL, MySQL (InnoDB), Oracle, MSSQL, and SQLite do. If you know of others, fork the repository, commit changes to a branch, and send me a pull request!

Overall I’m very happy with this module, and I’ll probably use it in all my Perl database projects from here on in. Perhaps later I’ll build a model class on it (something like Catalyst::Model::DBI, only better!), but next up, I plan to finish documenting Template::Declare and writing some views with it. More on that soon.

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