One may think changing PHP session handler from file based to database driven is fully transparent. In many cases it is, sometimes however it may cause some unexpected problems as happened to one of our customers.
If you use file based sessions PHP will lock session file for whole script execution duration, which means all requests from the same sessions will be serialized on PHP level, which means they also will be serialized for single user on database level. If you change to store PHP sessions in MySQL instead this effect may be no more true and you may have number of requests executing for the same session at the same time. First of course means you may have your session data damaged because you will have lost session variables update from one of the script, in addition however you may run into database related issues of modifying user profile or other user/session related data in parallel, if you do not use transactions or lock tables.
So how you can get back your old file based session behavior with MySQL Sessions ?
If you have dedicated connection to session database and use Innodb tables for your session storage you can start transaction on the session start and use SELECT … FOR UPDATE to lock the session row in the session table for whole request length. On the end of the session the same row is updated and transaction is committed.
If you share session connection with other modules or do not use transactional tables for session you can use GET_LOCK to get same behavior. In the start of the session you can do SELECT GET_LOCK(‘
This approach assumes you do not use GET_LOCK in other places in your application as as soon as it is called second time previous lock is automatically released. The good thing about it however – you can use it as an extra to your current MySQL Sessions system without need to change how it works internally. If you do not use persistent connections you even do not have to release lock – as soon as connection is closed the lock is automatically released.
The value 10 in GET_LOCK is timeout in seconds – if lock can’t be granted for this amount of time it will return “0” indicating lock was not granted in this case you can select to continue without session or may do something else, like logging error as this generally should not happen in well tuned applications.