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Leveraging System.Transactions 

The .NET Framework version 2.0 includes a new transaction framework, accessible through the System.Transactions namespace. This framework exposes transactions in a way that is fully integrated in the .NET Framework, including ADO.NET.

In addition to the programmability enhancements, System.Transactions and ADO.NET can work together to coordinate optimizations when working with transactions. A promotable transaction is a lightweight (local) transaction that can be automatically promoted to a fully distributed transaction on an as-needed basis.

In ADO.NET 2.0, System.Data.SqlClient adds support for promotable transactions when working with SQL Server 2005. A promotable transaction does not invoke the added overhead of a distributed transaction unless the added overhead is required. Promotable transactions are automatic require no intervention from the developer.

Promotable transactions are only available when using the .NET Framework Data Provider for SQL Server (SqlClient) with SQL Server 2005.

Creating Promotable Transactions

The .NET Framework Provider for SQL Server provides support for promotable transactions, which are handled through the classes in the .NET Framework System.Transactions namespace. Promotable transactions optimize distributed transactions by deferring the creation of a distributed transaction until it is needed. If only one resource manager is required, no distributed transaction occurs.

Promotable Transaction Scenarios

Distributed transactions typically consume significant system resources, being managed by Microsoft Distributed Transaction Coordinator (MS DTC), which integrates all of the resource managers accessed in the transaction. A promotable transaction is a special form of a System.Transactions transaction that effectively delegates the work to a simple SQL Server 2005 transaction. System.Transactions, System.Data.SqlClient, and SQL Server 2005 coordinate the work involved in handling the transaction, promoting it to a full distributed transaction as needed.

The benefit of using promotable transactions is that when a connection is opened with an active TransactionScope transaction, and no other connections are opened, the transaction commits as a lightweight transaction, rather than incurring the additional overhead of a full distributed transaction.


The ConnectionString property supports a keyword, Enlist, which indicates whether System.Data.SqlClient will detect transactional contexts and automatically enlist the connection in a distributed transaction. If Enlist=true, the connection is automatically enlisted in the opening thread's current transaction context. If Enlist=false, the SqlClient connection does not interact with a distributed transaction. The default value for Enlist is true. If Enlist is not specified in the connection string, the connection is automatically enlisted in a distributed transaction if one is detected at the time the connection is opened.

Using TransactionScope

The TransactionScope class makes a code block transactional by implicitly enlisting connections in a distributed transaction. You must call the Complete method at the end of the TransactionScope block before leaving it. Leaving the block invokes the Dispose method. If an exception has been thrown that causes the code to leave scope, the transaction is considered aborted.

We recommend that you employ a using block to ensure that Dispose is called on the TransactionScope object when the using block is exited. Failure to commit or roll back pending transactions can seriously hurt performance because the default time-out for the TransactionScope is 1 minute. If you do not use a using statement, you must perform all work in a Try block and explicitly call the Dispose method in the Finally block.

If an exception occurs within the TransactionScope, the transaction is marked as inconsistent and is abandoned. It will be rolled back when the TransactionScope is disposed. If no exception occurs, participating transactions commit.


The TransactionScope class creates a transaction with a IsolationLevel of Serializable by default. Depending on your application, you might want to consider lowering the isolation level to avoid high contention in your application.


We recommend that you perform only updates, inserts, and deletes within distributed transactions because they consume significant database resources. Select statements may lock database resources unnecessarily, and in some scenarios it may be necessary to use transactions for selects. Any non-database work should be done outside of the scope of the transaction, unless it involves other transacted resource managers. Although an exception within the scope of the transaction prevents the transaction from committing, the TransactionScope class has no provision for rolling back any changes your code has made outside of the scope of the transaction itself. If you need to take some action when the transaction is rolled back, you must write your own implementation of the IEnlistmentNotification interface and explicitly enlist in the transaction.


Working with System.Transactions requires you to have a reference to System.Transactions.dll.

The following function demonstrates how to create a promotable transaction against two different SQL Server instances, represented by two different SqlConnection objects, which are wrapped in a TransactionScope block. The code creates the TransactionScope block with a using statement and opens the first connection, which automatically enlists it in the TransactionScope. The transaction is initially enlisted as a lightweight transaction, not a full distributed transaction. The second connection is enlisted in the TransactionScope only if the command in the first connection does not throw an exception. When the second connection is opened, the transaction is automatically promoted to a full distributed transaction. The Complete method is invoked, which commits the transaction only if no exceptions have been thrown. If an exception has been thrown at any point in the TransactionScope block, Complete will not get called, and the distributed transaction will roll back when the TransactionScope is disposed at the end of its using block.

// This function takes arguments for the 2 connection strings and commands in order
// to create a transaction involving two SQL Servers. It returns a value > 0 if the
// transaction committed, 0 if the transaction rolled back. To test this code, you can 
// connect to two different databases on the same server by altering the connection string,
// or to another RDBMS such as Oracle by altering the code in the connection2 code block.
static public int CreateTransactionScope(
    string connectString1, string connectString2,
    string commandText1, string commandText2)
    // Initialize the return value to zero and create a StringWriter to display results.
    int returnValue = 0;
    System.IO.StringWriter writer = new System.IO.StringWriter();

    // Create the TransactionScope in which to execute the commands, guaranteeing
    // that both commands will commit or roll back as a single unit of work.
    using (TransactionScope scope = new TransactionScope())
        using (SqlConnection connection1 = new SqlConnection(connectString1))
                // Opening the connection automatically enlists it in the 
                // TransactionScope as a lightweight transaction.

                // Create the SqlCommand object and execute the first command.
                SqlCommand command1 = new SqlCommand(commandText1, connection1);
                returnValue = command1.ExecuteNonQuery();
                writer.WriteLine("Rows to be affected by command1: {0}", returnValue);

                // if you get here, this means that command1 succeeded. By nesting
                // the using block for connection2 inside that of connection1, you
                // conserve server and network resources by opening connection2 
                // only when there is a chance that the transaction can commit.   
                using (SqlConnection connection2 = new SqlConnection(connectString2))
                        // The transaction is promoted to a full distributed
                        // transaction when connection2 is opened.

                        // Execute the second command in the second database.
                        returnValue = 0;
                        SqlCommand command2 = new SqlCommand(commandText2, connection2);
                        returnValue = command2.ExecuteNonQuery();
                        writer.WriteLine("Rows to be affected by command2: {0}", returnValue);
                    catch (Exception ex)
                        // Display information that command2 failed.
                        writer.WriteLine("returnValue for command2: {0}", returnValue);
                        writer.WriteLine("Exception Message2: {0}", ex.Message);
            catch (Exception ex)
                // Display information that command1 failed.
                writer.WriteLine("returnValue for command1: {0}", returnValue);
                writer.WriteLine("Exception Message1: {0}", ex.Message);

        // The Complete method commits the transaction. If an exception has been thrown,
        // Complete will not be called and the transaction is rolled back.

    // The returnValue is greater than 0 if the transaction committed.
    if (returnValue > 0)
        writer.WriteLine("Transaction was committed.");
        // You could write additional business logic here, notify the caller by
        // throwing a TransactionAbortedException, or log the failure.
        writer.WriteLine("Transaction rolled back.");

    // Display messages.

    return returnValue;

See Also

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