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A database transaction symbolizes a unit of work, performed within a database management system (or similar system) against a database, that is treated in a coherent and reliable way independent of other transactions. A transaction generally represents any change in a database. Transactions in a database environment have two main purposes:
- To provide reliable units of work that allow correct recovery from failures and keep a database consistent even in cases of system failure. For example: when execution prematurely and unexpectedly stops (completely or partially) in which case many operations upon a database remain uncompleted, with unclear status.
- To provide isolation between programs accessing a database concurrently. If this isolation is not provided, the programs' outcomes are possibly erroneous.
In a database management system, a transaction is a single unit of logic or work, sometimes made up of multiple operations. Any logical calculation done in a consistent mode in a database is known as a transaction. One example is a transfer from one bank account to another: the complete transaction requires subtracting the amount to be transferred from one account and adding that same amount to the other.
A database transaction, by definition, must be atomic (it must either be complete in its entirety or have no effect whatsoever), consistent (it must conform to existing constraints in the database), isolated (it must not affect other transactions) and durable (it must get written to persistent storage). Database practitioners often refer to these properties of database transactions using the acronym ACID.