A phantom lock, sometimes called an anti-insert lock, is placed on a scan position to prevent the subsequent creation of phantom rows by other transactions. When a phantom lock is acquired, it prevents other transactions from inserting a row into a table immediately before the row that is anti-insert locked. A phantom lock is a long-term lock, that is held until the end of the transaction.
Phantom locks are acquired only by transactions operating at isolation level 3; it is the only isolation level that guarantees consistency with phantoms.
For an index scan, phantom locks are acquired on each row read through the index, and one additional phantom lock is acquired at the end of the index scan to prevent insertions into the index at the end of the satisfying index range. Phantom locks with index scans prevent phantoms from being created by the insertion of new rows to the table, or the update of an indexed value that would cause the creation of an index entry at a point covered by a phantom lock.
With a sequential scan, phantom locks are acquired on every row in a table to prevent any insertion from altering the result set. So, isolation level 3 scans often have a negative effect on database concurrency. While one or more phantom locks conflict with an insert lock, and one or more read locks conflict with a write lock, no interaction exists between phantom/insert locks and read/write locks. For example, although a write lock cannot be acquired on a row that contains a read lock, it can be acquired on a row that has only a phantom lock. More options are open to the database server because of this flexible arrangement, but it means that the server must generally take the extra precaution of acquiring a read lock when acquiring a phantom lock. Otherwise, another transaction could delete the row.
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