SQL Server 2008 error handling best practice

Error handling in SQL Server 2008 needs careful implementation. The Microsoft “Oslo” Repository’s API has the further problem that we cannot mandate the error handling logic in our callers. Thus a stored procedure call could be in a transaction or not and in a try-catch block or not. Below is the pattern we have chosen based on experimentation and best practice guidance from the SQL Server team and other SQL Server experts. A test script for all the interesting cases can be found at http://blogs.msdn.com/cfs-file.ashx/__key/communityserver-components-postattachments/00-09-46-95-77/Error-Handling.sql.

For a good overview of SQL Server error handling see http://www.sommarskog.se/error-handling-I.html and http://www.sommarskog.se/error-handling-II.html. In our design, we had the following main issues and mitigations:

·         A transaction rollback will rollback to the outermost transaction but if there is an outer transaction we would like to only rollback the changes to the module’s inner transaction. The solution is to use SQL Server save points if there is an outer transaction.

·         A sufficiently severe raiserror will terminate a module if there is an outer try-catch block but if there is none then execution will continue in the module. The solution is to always explicitly return after raising an error.

·         Some developers like to use stored procedure return values to encode error states. The solution is to return appropriate error codes.

·         SQL Server will raise warnings if the transaction depth entering and leaving a transaction do not match. The solution is to be careful.

·         Triggers have an implicit transaction. The solution is to use a simplified pattern for triggers where a transaction is never started.

·         Save points need unique names if modules can nest otherwise you can rollback to the wrong save point. The solution is to use a GUID to name the save points.

Here is the pattern for stored procedures (eliding our special error reporting routines):

ifparameter error
begin
raiserror(N'…', 16, 0);

return -1;
end
else
begin
begin try
declare @hasOuterTransaction bit = case when @@trancount > 0 then 1 else 0 end;
declare @rollbackPoint nchar(32) = replace(convert(nchar(36), newid()), N'-', N'');

if @hasOuterTransaction = 1
begin
save transaction @rollbackPoint;
end
else
begin
begin transaction @rollbackPoint;
end;

Do work;

if @hasOuterTransaction = 0
begin
commit transaction;
end;
end try
begin catch
if xact_state() = 1
begin
rollback transaction @rollbackPoint;
end;

execute Standard module error handler;

    return -error_number();
end catch;
end;

Here is the pattern for triggers (eliding our special error reporting routines):

ifparameter error
begin

  rollback transaction;

  raiserror(N'…', 16, 0);

 

  return;
end
else
begin
begin try

Do work;

  end try
begin catch
rollback transaction;

execute Standard module error handler;

    return;
end catch;
end;

 

 

Error Handling.sql