Creative Commons License

Prepared statements have all the usual benefits in Go: security, efficiency, convenience. But the way they’re implemented is a little different from what you might be used to, especially with regards to how they interact with some of the internals of database/sql.

Prepared Statements And Connections

At the database level, a prepared statement is bound to a single database connection. The typical flow is that the client sends a SQL statement with placeholders to the server for preparation, the server responds with a statement ID, and then the client executes the statement by sending its ID and parameters.

In Go, however, connections are not exposed directly to the user of the database/sql package. You don’t prepare a statement on a connection. You prepare it on a DB or a Tx. And database/sql has some convenience behaviors such as automatic retries. For these reasons, the underlying association between prepared statements and connections, which exists at the driver level, is hidden from your code.

Here’s how it works:

  1. When you prepare a statement, it’s prepared on a connection in the pool.
  2. The Stmt object remembers which connection was used.
  3. When you execute the Stmt, it tries to use the connection. If it’s not available because it’s closed or busy doing something else, it gets another connection from the pool and re-prepares the statement with the database on another connection.

Because statements will be re-prepared as needed when their original connection is busy, it’s possible for high-concurrency usage of the database, which may keep a lot of connections busy, to create a large number of prepared statements. This can result in apparent leaks of statements, statements being prepared and re-prepared more often than you think, and even running into server-side limits on the number of statements.

Avoiding Prepared Statements

Go creates prepared statements for you under the covers. A simple db.Query(sql, param1, param2), for example, works by preparing the sql, then executing it with the parameters and finally closing the statement.

Sometimes a prepared statement is not what you want, however. There might be several reasons for this:

  1. The database doesn’t support prepared statements. When using the MySQL driver, for example, you can connect to MemSQL and Sphinx, because they support the MySQL wire protocol. But they don’t support the “binary” protocol that includes prepared statements, so they can fail in confusing ways.
  2. The statements aren’t reused enough to make them worthwhile, and security issues are handled in other ways, so performance overhead is undesired. An example of this can be seen at the VividCortex blog.

If you don’t want to use a prepared statement, you need to use fmt.Sprint() or similar to assemble the SQL, and pass this as the only argument to db.Query() or db.QueryRow(). And your driver needs to support plaintext query execution, which is added in Go 1.1 via the Execer and Queryer interfaces, documented here.

Prepared Statements in Transactions

Prepared statements that are created in a Tx are bound exclusively to it, so the earlier cautions about repreparing do not apply. When you operate on a Tx object, your actions map directly to the one and only one connection underlying it.

This also means that prepared statements created inside a Tx can’t be used separately from it. Likewise, prepared statements created on a DB can’t be used within a transaction, because they will be bound to a different connection.

To use a prepared statement prepared outside the transaction in a Tx, you can use Tx.Stmt(), which will create a new transaction-specific statement from the one prepared outside the transaction. It does this by taking an existing prepared statement, setting the connection to that of the transaction and repreparing all statements every time they are executed. This behavior and its implementation are undesirable and there’s even a TODO in the database/sql source code to improve it; we advise against using this.

Caution must be exercised when working with prepared statements in transactions. Consider the following example:

tx, err := db.Begin()
if err != nil {
	log.Fatal(err)
}
defer tx.Rollback()
stmt, err := tx.Prepare("INSERT INTO foo VALUES (?)")
if err != nil {
	log.Fatal(err)
}
defer stmt.Close() // danger!
for i := 0; i < 10; i++ {
	_, err = stmt.Exec(i)
	if err != nil {
		log.Fatal(err)
	}
}
err = tx.Commit()
if err != nil {
	log.Fatal(err)
}
// stmt.Close() runs here!

Before Go 1.4 closing a *sql.Tx released the connection associated with it back into the pool, but the deferred call to Close on the prepared statement was executed after that has happened, which could lead to concurrent access to the underlying connection, rendering the connection state inconsistent. If you use Go 1.4 or older, you should make sure the statement is always closed before the transaction is committed or rolled back. This issue was fixed in Go 1.4 by CR 131650043.

Parameter Placeholder Syntax

The syntax for placeholder parameters in prepared statements is database-specific. For example, comparing MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Oracle:

MySQL               PostgreSQL            Oracle
=====               ==========            ======
WHERE col = ?       WHERE col = $1        WHERE col = :col
VALUES(?, ?, ?)     VALUES($1, $2, $3)    VALUES(:val1, :val2, :val3)

Previous: Modifying Data and Using Transactions Next: Handling Errors