Killing me softly with Service Broker…

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A few days ago, I found a very interesting behavior regarding Service Broker on a customer system. The main thing is that your activation stored procedure is not allowed to block for a very long time, otherwise you will impact the health of your whole SQL Server instance. In this blog posting I want to demonstrate this behavior to you. In the first step I have to create the whole necessary Service Broker infrastructure objects, nothing special with this – I’ve just stolen that code from Chapter 4 of my Service Broker book:

As you can see from this listing, the target queue is enabled for activation, means that the ProcessRequestMessages stored procedure automatically started by a Queue Monitor as soon as a new message arrives on that queue. The stored procedure itself just inserts the received message in the table ProcessesMessages. Now imagine that this table has a lock from some other query that is executing inside your database:

I know that TABLOCKX is a little bit too much, but I just want to demonstrate the problem to you. When you afterwards send a new message, the activation stored procedure gets started, and finally blocks because the necessary IX lock for the INSERT statement can’t be acquired:

You can now check very easily that your activated stored procedure just blocks and is doing nothing inside SQL Server:

The crazy thing about that behavior is, that you can’t just stop SQL Server, you have to do a SHUTDOWN WITH NOWAIT, otherwise SQL Server will not stop anymore…:

Moral of the story: make sure that you release your locks as fast as possible. The other problem with locking in Service Broker is that it yields to high LOCK_HASH spinlocks, which will burn down a lot of CPU cycles without doing anything in SQL Server – it’s a very crazy scenario and in the first step very hard to explain. You can also crosscheck this with sys.dm_os_spinlock_stats. In that scenario the CPU is up to 100% but doesn’t do any work regarding Service Broker – very contraprodutive! Thanks to Thomas Kejser for that tip regarding the LOCK_HASH spinlock.

Thanks for reading


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  1. Interesting problem. In your customers case what caused the lock to be held in the first place? I would have expected use of the RECIEVE command which should row lock (I haven’t tested but would expect this). Therefore the entire table should never lock.
    Regarding the shutdown I assume this was just a side effect and that you could just kill the blocking spid?
    I’m doing a lot of work with service broker right now, hopefully I won’t see this issue!

  2. Hello Simon,

    The root cause was an uncommitted transactions. The transaction logic in the activated stored procedure was written wrong.