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Karan Pratap Singh
Karan Pratap Singh

Posted on • Originally published at github.com

System Design: ACID and BASE consistency models

Let's discuss the ACID and BASE consistency models.

ACID

The term ACID stands for Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability. ACID properties are used for maintaining data integrity during transaction processing.

In order to maintain consistency before and after a transaction relational databases follow ACID properties. Let us understand these terms:

Atomic

All operations in a transaction succeed or every operation is rolled back.

Consistent

On the completion of a transaction, the database is structurally sound.

Isolated

Transactions do not contend with one another. Contentious access to data is moderated by the database so that transactions appear to run sequentially.

Durable

Once the transaction has been completed and the writes and updates have been written to the disk, it will remain in the system even if a system failure occurs.

BASE

With the increasing amount of data and high availability requirements, the approach to database design has also changed dramatically. To increase the ability to scale and at the same time be highly available, we move the logic from the database to separate servers. In this way, the database becomes more independent and focused on the actual process of storing data.

In the NoSQL database world, ACID transactions are less common as some databases have loosened the requirements for immediate consistency, data freshness, and accuracy in order to gain other benefits, like scale and resilience.

BASE properties are much looser than ACID guarantees, but there isn't a direct one-for-one mapping between the two consistency models. Let us understand these terms:

Basic Availability

The database appears to work most of the time.

Soft-state

Stores don't have to be write-consistent, nor do different replicas have to be mutually consistent all the time.

Eventual consistency

The data might not be consistent immediately but eventually, it becomes consistent. Reads in the system are still possible even though they may not give the correct response due to inconsistency.

ACID vs BASE Trade-offs

There's no right answer to whether our application needs an ACID or a BASE consistency model. Both the models have been designed to satisfy different requirements. While choosing a database we need to keep the properties of both the models and the requirements of our application in mind.

Given BASE's loose consistency, developers need to be more knowledgeable and rigorous about consistent data if they choose a BASE store for their application. It's essential to be familiar with the BASE behavior of the chosen database and work within those constraints.

On the other hand, planning around BASE limitations can sometimes be a major disadvantage when compared to the simplicity of ACID transactions. A fully ACID database is the perfect fit for use cases where data reliability and consistency are essential.


This article is part of my open source System Design Course available on Github.

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