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A Billion Dollar Go Mistake - Part 2

This is the second part of the A Billion Dollar Go Mistake post. If you haven't read the first part of the post, I would recommend you to read it first.

In the first part, we saw how to handle the DB transaction at the service level. What if we still miss the Rollback call? To handle such cases, we could build another layer of safety.

There are two approaches I thought of to handle such cases::

  • Using a context
  • Server side timeout

Using a context

We could use a cancel context to release the lock at the end of the transaction. Context is very helpful in many use cases.

Let’s see how to do things with context

func (s *service) CancelSubscription(ctx context.Context, id uuid.UUID) (*model.Subscription, error) {
    ctx, cancel := context.WithCancel(ctx)
    defer cancel()
    tx, err := s.db.BeginTxx(ctx, nil)
    if err != nil {
        return nil, err
    defer func() {
        if err != nil {
    subscription, err := s.fetcher.GetSubscription(ctx, tx, id)
    if err != nil {
        return nil, err

    if subscription.CancelledAt != nil {
        return subscription, nil
    subscription.CancelledAt = time.Now()

    err = s.updater.UpdateSubscription(ctx, tx, subscription)
    if err != nil {
        return nil, err

    err = tx.Commit()
    if err != nil {
        return nil, err

    return subscription, nil

In the above code, we create a new cancel context from the parent context. If the DB transaction is not released either using Rollback or Commit. A defer cancel() happens at the end when the call returns.

The cancel call will notify the transaction that the operation is complete. The go runtime will close the transaction.

The defer cancel() call is important. If you miss that then the problem will still persist

At the go source code level transaction begin call starts a background go routine. The go routine monitors context Done signal. Let's see how it happens using context as shown here

func (db *DB) beginDC(ctx context.Context, dc *driverConn, release func(error), opts *TxOptions) (tx *Tx, err error) {
     var txi driver.Tx
     keepConnOnRollback := false
     withLock(dc, func() {
      _, hasSessionResetter :=
      _, hasConnectionValidator :=
      keepConnOnRollback = hasSessionResetter && hasConnectionValidator
      txi, err = ctxDriverBegin(ctx, opts,
     if err != nil {
      return nil, err

     ctx, cancel := context.WithCancel(ctx)
     tx = &Tx{
      db:                 db,
      dc:                 dc,
      releaseConn:        release,
      txi:                txi,
      cancel:             cancel,
      keepConnOnRollback: keepConnOnRollback,
      ctx:                ctx,
     go tx.awaitDone() // GO WAITS FOR THE CONTEXT TO DONE
     return tx, nil

And inside the tx.awaitDone

  func (tx *Tx) awaitDone() {
   // Wait for either the transaction to be committed or rolled
   // back, or for the associated context to be closed.
   // Discard and close the connection used to ensure the
   // transaction is closed and the resources are released.  This
   // rollback does nothing if the transaction has already been
   // committed or rolled back.
   // Do not discard the connection if the connection knows
   // how to reset the session.
   discardConnection := !tx.keepConnOnRollback
   tx.rollback(discardConnection)  // AT THE END THE TX WILL BE ROLLBACKED

So transactions with a cancel context make more sense. Do not use the context coming from the HTTP request. HTTP context works like a client-side timeout. The service layer has no control over cancelling the HTTP context.

A timeout context could also work but that will not be that reliable. Finding the right timeout value is a difficult task in itself.

Server-side timeout

You set an optimal timeout for the request to complete and if the request is not completed within that time, you cancel the operation and return an error.

server := &http.Server{
    Addr:         ":8080",
    Handler:      router,
    WriteTimeout: 2 * time.Second,

In the above code, we are setting a server-side timeout of 2 seconds. If the entire request processing is not completed within 2 seconds, we cancel the operation and return an error to the client. With this approach, you don't need to create a timeout context for each request. But, you would still need to fine-tune the timeout value based on the traces and load testing.


I hope you found this second part of the post useful. Adding a layer of safety is always a good idea, but it comes with a cost. In this case, I would recommend using the context approach along with the defer tx.Rollback() after initiating the transaction.

Cancel context is the best approach for most application types. And would serve most of the cases. The context in general has a lot of use cases and I would recommend you read more about it.

Also, for an extra layer of safety, I would recommend keeping a Server side timeout for HTTP services.

You would be also thinking about the client-side timeout. Those are not reliable enough. For example, a client could keep the timeout for a long duration and with a high load, the server could keep the connection open for a long time. This could again lead to the same problem we are trying to solve.