Locking mechanism in Pega


In this post we will see in detail about locking mechanism in Pega.

What is locking?

Let’s take a simple example.  2 clerks working in a bank tried to update the same bank account for two different transactions. They both retrieved the bank account at the same time and started applying the transactions. Clerk 1 applied transaction 1 details and Clerk 2 applied transaction 2 details on their saved copy. This may result in data loss. Since Clerk 2 entered the details in his saved copy, it overrides the transaction details entered by Clerk 1 as if transaction 1 never happened.

This data loss can be prevented by introducing Locking mechanism.

So when Clerk 1 needs to update the bank account, he can acquire lock on the case and starts updating the transaction details. Clerk 2 cannot work on the case, when it is locked by someone else. He has to wait until the lock is released by Clerk 1.

Releasing lock – Once clerk 1 completed updating the transaction details, he can release the lock. This will enable other users to work on the case.

Locking mechanism is not only specific to Pega. You can see many softwares support locking mechanism.

Note: Databases support different levels of locking. Locking can be on a database tables or table columns or table rows.

Now let’s come to our Pega. We know  all the case details can be persisted to database tables.

Say, you have a sales case and you open the case and update the customer name. When you save the case, the customer name value gets persisted to database.

Here internally we acquired the database table (work table) row locking on the case and updated the customer details value.

Only database locking is enough to work in Pega?!….. No.

  • We know how a Pega application saves the data. Data can be saved in memory ( clipboard) and can be persisted in the database at later point of time.  So you need some additional locking mechanism.
  • Locking mechanism in Pega is different from database locking mechanism.

We will deep dive 🙂

How to implement locking mechanism in Pega?

Here I will walk you with my Sales case application.

  1. Configure locking in the class instance or class group

Some basics – Only concrete classes can have instances.  Sales case belongs to a concrete class.

Classes can belong to a class group. We will see about classes and class groups in a separate post!!

a) When a class belongs to a class group / is a class group – Configure locking in the class group rule instance.

b) When a class does not belong to a class group – Configure locking in the class rule instance. You get a new locking tab in the class instance :).

So what is there in the locking tab?

Lock definition – you can specify array of properties that can be used to form a lock key.

Why do we need a lock key?

  • This is similar to keys in a class instance. It helps in identifying unique class instance to lock.
  • It means say you got 2 sales cases – S-1 & S-2. Both cannot have same lock key. If they have same lock key, we may end up locking both the cases when we update a single case.

Note: In some complex requirement, two or more cases are related and cannot be updated parallel. In such cases, you can add your own complex lock properties.

If you leave blank, then the lock keys will be the same as class keys.

For work classes – we have ‘pyID’ as the default key. You can use the same as lock key to distinguish different cases.

Note: default the locking array will be blank.

pxLockHandle – property holds the lock key for this case instance.

pxLockHandle – pxObjClass + Lock key array ( if null , class key)


Allow locking – Mostly we select this option. If selected, user can  save/delete the instance only when he holds a lock on the instance.

Note: when a class does not belong to a class group, you can configure the same in locking tab in the class instance rule.

What are the ways you can acquire lock in Pega?

a) Using activity methods

  • Obj-Open, Obj-Open-By-Handle & Obj-Refresh and Lock

b) Use standard OOTB activities

  • Work-.WorkLock , Work-.AcquireWorkObject, Assign-.AcquireWorkObject  used in requesting a lock on a work item

Note: Whenever you try to perform any action on a assignment, Pega tries to obtain the lock using standard activities.

What really happens when you acquire a lock?

Step 1: Create a test activity and use Obj-Open method.

Step 2: Trace open the rule. Check DB query.

Step 3: Run the activity. You will see an insert query on pr_sys_locks table.

  • Click on the SQL updates, you will get the query.

  • Let’s check the database table pr_sys_locks

  • You can see a corresponding entry in the database table.

So, whenever you obtain a lock, you can see an entry in the pr_sys_locks table.

  • You can also see all locks by clicking on the class on the left panel.

Note: for specific case related locks you can navigate Designer studio -> Case management -> tools -> Work admin -> All locks / My locks and check the locks.

Open the ‘System-Locks’ class rule form.

  • You can see pxLockHandle as the keys. It means System-Locks cannot have more than one instance with the same lock handle :).
  • So when the other user (different requestor) tries to obtain a lock on the same case, insert query fails and throws error.
  • Also lock is exclusive to one Pega thread. When the same requestor tries to same object through different pega thread, then you will be presented with the release lock button.

What are the ways you can release lock in Pega?

a) Use activity methods

Normally locks are released, when you commit the changes to database. This can be controlled using activity methods

In the Obj-Open, Obj-Open-By-Handle methods, you can check ‘ReleaseOnCommit’ option to release the lock when the instance is committed.

Note: Always enable this option, when you open the case. In some rare situation, we uncheck this option.

Page-Unlock method can be used to release a lock on an object.

b) When the requestor logs out / system restart

Whenever the requestor logs out or the system restarts ( obviously it wipes out all requestors) locks are released.

c) Use standard OOTB activity

  • ReleaseLock to unlock a work item

d) Locks return to ‘Soft lock’ state, when the lock expires. This is controlled by locking timeout

What is locking timeout?

  • If the lock is not released – may be user didn’t log off /closed the browser directly, then the lock stays with the requestor ID.
  • So other users cannot work on the case. In order to avoid this, Pega provides a locking timeout.
  • After this locking timeout, the acquired lock will be treated as expired lock or soft lock.

How to configure locking timeout in Pega?

a) System wide locking timeout

System Locking timeout can be configured in system data instance.

Designer studio -> System -> General -> System, Nodes, Requestors

  • You can click on the edit icon in line with system name drop down, to open the system data instance.

The lock timeout is default 30 minutes.

If the lock is not released after 30 minutes, then it goes to soft lock.

b) Case wide locking timeout

You can have specific locking timeout for individual cases.

Case designer -> Settings -> locking

I updated the locking timeout to 5 minutes. Let’s test it.

Step 1: Create a new case and acquire the lock.

Step 2: Check the pr_sys_locks table.

pxExpireDateTime – holds the locking expiring time. You can see the time is set to only +5 minutes.

Let’s wait for some time and try to acquire the lock for S-2 from different user.

  •  I acquired the lock and able to update the case. No locking error. Check in the database table.

What are the types of locking?

a) Default locking – Only one operator can work on a case at the same time. The other operator can work on the case only when the first operator completes updating the case.

b) Optimistic locking – This is introduced in Pega 7. Two or more operators can open and work on the case at the same time.

Say Operator 1 & operator 2 opened the case and started updating it. When Operator 1 commits the case, then Operator 2 gets a modal dialog to refresh. On refresh, the data is retrieved fresh with operator 1 changes 🙂

We will test how optimistic locking works.

Step 1: Configure optimistic locking in Sales case.

Step 2: login using operator 1 – Create a new case S-3. Login using operator 2 and open the same assignment. It means both operators are working on the case at the same time.

Step 3: Operator  1 submits the case first. When operator 2 submits he will get a conflict message with refresh button.

You can explore the activity ‘pzShowConflicts’ which is responsible to support optimistic locking functionality.

Locking strategy for sub cases

  • Locking strategy for a sub case is inherited from parent case ( default or optimistic)
  • You also have an option to control locking on the parent case when the child case is opened.

a) When it is checked – Parent case is not locked. Parent and child cases can be worked individually.

b) When it is not checked – Parent case is locked when you work on child case.

  • You can explore Work-.DetermineLockString activity which determines the pxLockhandle.

For Parent case – pxLockHandle – pzInsKey

For Child case – pxLockHandle – pxCoverInsKey.

So when you lock the child case, then both the parent case is locked

Parent case pxLockHandle = Child case pxLockHandle

Let me end this post here :). Hope I covered all the basics about locking mechanism in Pega !!

See ya soon in my next post.

46 thoughts on “Locking mechanism in Pega

  1. Very Nice Post Prem. Thanks for giving locking mechanism in detail.
    Can you explain more about how the locking is done using standard OOTB activites.. work-.WorkLock,Work-.AcquireWorkObject and Assign-.AcquireWorkObject with examples/scenario

  2. Hi Prem,

    could you please tell this….How many records are inserted into the locks table if two operators open the same case in Optimistic locking approach ? or how does optimistic locking work internally ?

    Thanks in advance

    1. Hi Mohit,
      Nice question, I will update the post.

      When you use Optimistic locking, you wont have any entries in the pr_sys_locks table. 😀
      So anyone can work on the case.
      Only when someone commits their changes – ‘pzShowConflicts’called from FinishAsssignment checks if the changes are commited recently and provide a option to refresh

      Thanks again 🙂

  3. Hi Prem,

    I understood the concept, but when i tried changing the default time from 30 to 5 min in a case designer settings tab, during runtime, created a new case and checked in pr_sys_lock table but the pxexpiredatetime is still showing difference of 30 min when compared with pxcreatedatetime, my change is not reflecting. Could you please tell me where might be the issue?

    1. Hi Raju,
      You can always extend the ‘DetermineLockString’activity in the corresponding classes and customize the activity to set ‘pxLockHandle’

  4. Nice post well explained…..

    Here I have one query…..

    If two users get lock on a single work item and both have updated some info and submitted at same time. Then whose changes will update ?

    1. Hi Sanjukta,
      I think you are confused a bit.

      In default locking, no two users can acquire the lock on the single work item.
      In Optimistic locking, technically both users can work on the case at the same time ( without locks), but when anyone commits, then the other users get an refresh option before committing. ( First commit first served :D)


    1. Dear Purushotham Duddela,

      Ha ha ha 😀 You are praising me quite a lot. 😀
      But anyway thank you so much for your appreciation. 😀

      Premkumar G

  5. AS Usual awesome bro…The gap b/w new postings are bit high. Could you please post the topics asap and i am waiting for SSO topic posting……Once again you are doing Awesome job….:)

    1. Thank you so much for your appreciation, Azzu. 🙂
      Yeah bro, I am not posting new stuffs often these days due to hectic work bro. I’ll try my best to post often for sure.
      I’ll post about it soon. Stay tuned. 🙂
      Thank you once again. 🙂

  6. @PRem :- In case of Optimistic locking, when operator 2 get Refresh option. After he click on Refresh. Is operator 2 changes will be present or it will be change.

    1. Hi Satyvir,
      Operator 2 changes will be present. No one wants their updates to get lost. On click of submit, new changes are updated. 😊

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