Testing Database Locks with PHPUnit and Gearman

For the Beta 2 release of Doctrine 2 we plan to integrate pessimistic Database-level locks across all the supported vendors (MySQL, Oracle, PostgreSql, IBM DB2 so far). This means row-level locking as defined in the ANSI SQL Standard using “SELECT .. FOR UPDATE” will be available optionally in DQL Queries and Finder methods. The Implementation of this extension to SELECT statements is rather trivial, however functional testing of this feature is not.

A general approach would look like this:

  1. Run Query 1 and 2 with FOR UPDATE into the background
  2. Have both queries lock the row for a specified time x (using sleep)
  3. Verify that one of the two processes/threads runs approximately 2*x the lock time.

Since PHP does not support process forking or threads naturally you run into a serious problem. How do you execute two database queries in parallel and verify that indeed one query is locking read access for the second one?

Side note: There are some drawbacks to this testing approach. It could be that one background threads finishes the lock sleep already when the second just starts. The locking would work in these cases, however the lock time would not nearly be 2*x seconds, producing a test-failure. We are talking about a functional test though and I will accept a failure from time to time just to be 99% sure that locking works.

Solving this problem with Gearman provides a pretty nice “real-world” example for the Job-Server that I wanted to share. This blog post contains a stripped down code-example from the Doctrine 2 testsuite. If you are interested, you can see the complete Gearman Locking Tests in on GitHub.

Gearman allows to register worker processes with the job-server and offers clients to execute jobs on those workers in parallel. After installing the Gearman job-server and PHP pecl/gearman extension (Rasmus Lerdorf has a post on installation) we can go on writing our locking tests with Gearman.

The first bit is the worker, a PHP script that tries to acquire a database lock and then sleeps for a second. The return value of this script is the total time required for acquiring the lock and sleeping.

class LockAgentWorker
    public function findWithLock($job)
        $fixture = $this->processWorkload($job); // setup doctrine in here

        $s = microtime(true);

        $entity = $this->em->find($fixture['entityName'], $fixture['entityId'], $fixture['lockMode']);

        $this->em->rollback(); // clean up doctrine

        return (microtime(true) - $s);

The glue-code for the worker script contains of the registering of the worker method with the job-server and a simple infinite loop:

$lockAgent = new LockAgentWorker();

$worker = new \GearmanWorker();
$worker->addFunction("findWithLock", array($lockAgent, "findWithLock"));

while($worker->work()) {
    if ($worker->returnCode() != GEARMAN_SUCCESS) {

We need two running workers for this to work, since one worker only processes one task at a time. Just open up two terminals and launch the php scripts. They will wait for their first task to process.

Now we need to write our PHPUnit TestCase, which will contain a GearmanClient to execute two of the “findWithLock” in parallel. Our locking assertion will work like this:

  1. Register two tasks for the “findWithLock” method that access the same database row.
  2. Register a completed callback using “GearmanClient::setCompleteCallback()” that collects the run-time of the individual workers.
  3. Execute this tasks in parallel using “GearmanClient::runTasks()”.
  4. Assert that the maximum run-time is around 2 seconds (since each worker sleeps 1 second)

The code for this steps could look like:

class GearmanLockTest extends \Doctrine\Tests\OrmFunctionalTestCase
    private $gearman = null;
    private $maxRunTime = 0;
    private $articleId;

    public function testLockIsAcquired()
        // .. write fixture data into the database

        $gearman = new \GearmanClient();
        $gearman->setCompleteCallback(array($this, "gearmanTaskCompleted"));

        $workload = array(); // necessary workload data to configure workers
        $gearman->addTask("findWithLock", serialize($workload));
        $gearman->addTask("findWithLock", serialize($workload));


        $this->assertTrue($this->maxRunTime >= 2);

    public function gearmanTaskCompleted($task)
        $this->maxRunTime = max($this->maxRunTime, $task->data());

Now if both workers are waiting for processing the task we can run this test and get a green bar for a working lock support.

More about: Testing

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