[Neo] Read Transactions? Really?

Ryan Levering rrlevering at gmail.com
Tue Jan 12 06:41:55 CET 2010

I know this has come up a couple of times and that transactions are  
being worked on it Traversers, but I just can't get my head around how  
people use neo4j transactions in general.  When I started writing  
neo4j code a couple days ago, I was amazed at two things: 1) how  
efficient and fast it was and 2) how easy it was to write.  It  
remained that way until I started writing more interesting, deep, and  
large models.

Now, after several days of working with it, I am fed up with  
transaction management in Neo.  I feel that the implementation and  
strict reliance on transactions ruins those two things that I loved  
about it.  I understand transaction management in general and have  
implemented several systems that relied on SQL transaction management,  
but when the simplest read requires a transaction, it makes the code  
very cumbersome.  In addition, my profiling shows that a lot of  
program time is being spent on transaction management in very simple  
reading code.

I'm hoping that the reason is that I just haven't figured out the  
correct usage pattern for working on nodes and, very importantly,  
encapsulating the transaction management in my model.  I'm really  
looking for a solution here, not just criticizing neo4j.  Let's say I  
have a User object, for purposes of example.  Here are two basic  
things I want to do:

1. User.getName()

I want a property off the node.  I assume I encapsulate the single  
internal getProperty call in a transaction?  My accessor code has just  
quadrupled in size, even if I am ok with this silly, time-consuming  
transaction.  Leaving it out means every piece of code in my system  
has to understand to start a neo4j transaction just to get the user's  

2: for (User user : getUsers())

I want to do something to all the users in the system.  There are A  
LOT of them and they are all linked to a UserFactory or whatever.  I  
can't create an internal list, because they won't all fit in memory.   
So I wrap the Iterable<Relationship/Node> in an Iterable that wraps  
the nodes in POJOs.  Only there is no way to do this without enclosing  
that loop in a transaction.

Do people just create giant transactions that wrap their entire  
programs since they don't work with large graphs/models? Or is your  
code entirely littered with transaction = service.beginTx();  
transaction.success(); transaction.finish()?

I've looked around on the wiki and site and I can't find good answers  
to these questions.   The IMDB example transactionalizes things at a  
very high level.  In a sense, wrapping the entire program (web  
request) in a single transaction.  I guess that's fine if you have  
small operations and use Spring injection, but what if you don't?

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