Last week, when I was working on my jQuery Photo Tagger plugin (for Flickr-style photo annotation), I was using CFLock to create thread-safe cache updates in the ColdFusion aspect of the code. As I was doing that, it occurred to me - I wasn't 100% sure what would happen if the timeout (indicated by the CFLock tag) was exceeded and no error was thrown? In the CFLock tag, you can use the ThrowOnTimeout attribute to determine the action taken by the thread if the a lock cannot be successfully obtained in the allotted time; but, what would that action actually be? Would the paused thread simply enter the CFLock tag body? Or, would it skip it?
I decided to get to the bottom of this by creating two tags that would compete for the same named lock. One thread pauses before the CFLock; one thread pauses whilst inside the CFLock. In this way, they get to it at different times and compete head-to-head for ultimate victory!. Here is the first page (a.cfm) which is the one that will have to wait for the CFLock:
A: Before the CFLock tag.<br /> <!--- Pause this thread to make sure the other thread gets to the CFLock first. ---> <cfthread action="sleep" duration="750" /> <!--- Get an exclusive lock (this named lock is shared with the other thread). Notice that we are asking the page NOT to throw an error if the lock cannot be made within the given timeout. ---> <cflock name="cflockTimeoutTest" type="exclusive" timeout="1" throwontimeout="false"> A: Inside the CFLock tag.<br /> </cflock> A: After the CFLock tag.
Notice that the CFLock tag specifies that no error should be thrown if the lock cannot be gotten. The second page (b.cfm) gets to the CFLock tag first and then pauses, once inside, for a time that is greater than A's specified timeout:
B: Before the CFLock tag.<br /> <!--- Get an exclusive lock (this named lock is shared with the other thread). ---> <cflock name="cflockTimeoutTest" type="exclusive" timeout="1"> B: Inside the CFLock tag.<br /> <!--- Once inside the tag, let's sleep the thread so that the lock will be held for a while (preventing the other page from entering within the given selected timeout). ---> <cfthread action="sleep" duration="#(3 * 1000)#" /> </cflock> B: After the CFLock tag.
Notice that this page pauses its lock for 3 seconds, which is greater than the one second timeout specified in page A.
I then put these two pages head-to-head in a Frameset (I won't bother showing the code for that) to see what would happen. When I ran the two pages at the same time, I got the following output from A:
A: Before the CFLock tag.
A: After the CFLock tag.
... and the following output from B:
B: Before the CFLock tag.
B: Inside the CFLock tag.
B: After the CFLock tag.
As you can see, when page A failed to get a lock in the specified timeout, it simply skipped over the CFLock tag altogether. This is good; this is the outcome that I was hoping for (and one that I have coded against) and it's nice to see that it is what actually happens. At least I don't have to go back and fix my code.
So, why would one not want to throw an error if a lock was not obtained? I think this is definitely a rare case, but one that I have used a few times. Typically, I will use this if I am inserting / mutating large amounts of database records containing very non-critical information. In such a case, I might not care if periods of intense performance fail to insert a few rows here and there.
Another place where I actually use this a lot is within a scheduled task. If I have a scheduled task that might take a while to run, I will typically wrap the entire task in a named CFLock tag with a timeout of one second. This way, if the scheduled task tries to execute while the previous instance is still running, the scheduled task will simply skip over itself.
After you've written a bunch of code under a given assumption, it's always a bit scary to realize that you've never tested to confirm the behavior you were expecting. When it comes to CFLock, it's nice to see that when a thread cannot obtain a lock in the given timeout, it skips over the tag altogether.
Want to use code from this post? Check out the license.