How to obtain the start and commit timestamps of transactions in MongoDB?


We are working on a lightweight white-box checking algorithm of Snapshot Isolation (SI): given an execution of a database, to check whether it satisfies SI.

The SI checking problem is NP-hard for general executions. So it is desirable to make use of the knowledge of how SI is actually implemented in databases.

The insight is that most databases, especially distributed databases, implement SI following the generic protocol using start-timestamps and commit-timestamps. With these timestamps of transactions in an execution, the SI checking problem becomes solvable in polynomial time. Therefore, we want to obtain these timestamps when generating executions.

It is crucial for us to really understand the meaning and roles of the start-timestamps and commit-timestamps in the database under testing. We must be very sure that we have obtained the right timestamps in the right way.

That is why we ask for help here.


We are digging into the implementation of snapshot isolation of MongoDB, especially into the use of timestamps in transactions.

Consider the classic description of start-timestamp and commit-timestamp in implementing Snapshot Isolation, quoted from the paper; Section 4.2:

For start-timestamp: A transaction executing with Snapshot Isolation always reads data from a snapshot of the (committed) data as of the time the transaction started, called its Start-Timestamp. This time may be any time before the transaction’s first Read.

For commit-timestamp: When the transaction T1 is ready to commit, it gets a Commit-Timestamp, which is larger than any existing Start-Timestamp or Commit-Timestamp.
When T1 commits, its changes become visible to all
transactions whose Start-Timestamps are larger than T1’s Commit-Timestamp.

For conflict detection:
The transaction T1 successfully commits only if no other transaction T2 with a Commit-Timestamp in T1’s execution interval [Start-Timestamp, Commit-Timestamp] wrote data that T1 also wrote. Otherwise, T1 will abort. This feature, called First-committer-wins prevents lost updates.

Our Problem

How can we obtain such start-timestamp and commit-timestamp of a transaction in MongoDB from, e.g., database logs?

Our Solution


Run transactions in MongoDB

We use a simpler version of the official example which uses the with_transaction API.

from pymongo import MongoClient
from pymongo.read_concern import ReadConcern
from pymongo.write_concern import WriteConcern

client = MongoClient(host="", port=27017)

def callback(session):
    collection_one =
    collection_one.insert_one({"abc": 1}, session=session)

with client.start_session() as session:

To obtain the start-timestamp

According to mongodb-setting-systemLog.verbosity @ docs, we provide the following configure file (srs.conf)

    clusterRole: shardsvr
    replSetName: rs2
  oplogMinRetentionHours: 48
  destination: file
  logAppend: true
      verbosity: 1

when starting a mongod using the command

mongod --fork --logpath /root/mongo-config/mongo-srs.log --config srs.conf

The option systemLog.component.transaction.verbosity enables MongoDB to log the start-timestamp into the log file /root/mongo-config/mongo-srs.log which looks like:

        "readTimestamp":"Timestamp(1696995553, 2)",

readTimestamp (Timestamp(1696995553, 2)) is the start-timestamp of the transaction with lsid and txnNumber.

Question 1

  • Have we obtained the start-timestamp correctly?
  • Furthermore, what is the meaning of atClusterTime in the log above? Is it always the same with readTimestamp for multi-document transactions?

To obtain the commit-timestamp

The commit-timestamp of transactions are in the collection of the local database managed by MongoDB.

    lsid: {
        id: new UUID("d25844f9-b25b-4ed3-8734-cccf8a4c584a"),
        uid: Binary(Buffer.from("e3b0c44298fc1c149afbf4c8996fb92427ae41e4649b934ca495991b7852b855", "hex"), 0)
    txnNumber: Long("1"),
    op: 'c',
    ns: 'admin.$cmd',
    o: {
        applyOps: [
                op: 'i',
                ns: '',
                ui: new UUID("d9490802-b1bc-431d-90ac-db2a535ecc91"),
                o: { _id: ObjectId("652618e4b4c5bae6e2da451c"), abc: 1 },
                o2: { abc: 1, _id: ObjectId("652618e4b4c5bae6e2da451c") }
    ts: Timestamp({ t: 1696995556, i: 3 }),
    t: Long("15"),
    v: Long("2"),
    wall: ISODate("2023-10-11T03:39:16.566Z"),
    prevOpTime: { ts: Timestamp({ t: 0, i: 0 }), t: Long("-1") }

ts (Timestamp({ t: 1696995556, i: 3 })) is the commit-timestamp of the transaction with lsid and txnNumber.

Question 2

  • Have we obtained the commit-timestamp correctly?

About Read-Only Transactions

We can obtain the start-timestamp of read-only transactions in the way as described above. We do not find commit-timestamp of read-only transactions in

Question 3

Do read-only transactions have commit-timestamps in MongoDB? If so, how to obtain them?