Transactions with Spring 4 and JPA

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1. Overview

This tutorial will discuss the right way to configure Spring Transactions, how to use the @Transactional annotation and common pitfalls.

For a more in depth discussion on the core persistence configuration, check out the Spring with JPA tutorial.

There are two distinct ways to configure Transactions – annotations and AOP – each with their own advantages – we’re going to discuss the more common annotation config here.

2. Configure Transactions without XML

Spring 3.1 introduces the @EnableTransactionManagement annotation to be used in on @Configuration classes and enable transactional support:

public class PersistenceJPAConfig{

   public LocalContainerEntityManagerFactoryBean entityManagerFactoryBean(){

   public PlatformTransactionManager transactionManager(){
      JpaTransactionManager transactionManager = new JpaTransactionManager();
       entityManagerFactoryBean().getObject() );
      return transactionManager;

3. Configure Transactions with XML

Before 3.1 or if Java is not an option, here is the XML configuration, using annotation-driven and the namespace support:

<bean id="txManager" class="org.springframework.orm.jpa.JpaTransactionManager">
   <property name="entityManagerFactory" ref="myEmf" />
<tx:annotation-driven transaction-manager="txManager" />

4. The @Transactional Annotation

With transactions configured, a bean can now be annotated with @Transactional either at the class or method level:

public class FooService {

The annotation supports further configuration as well:

  • the Propagation Type of the transaction
  • the Isolation Level of the transaction
  • a Timeout for the operation wrapped by the transaction
  • a readOnly flag – a hint for the persistence provider that the transaction should be read only
  • the Rollback rules for the transaction

Note that – by default, rollback happens for runtime, unchecked exceptions only. Checked exception do not trigger a rollback of the transaction; the behavior can of course be configured with the rollbackFor and noRollbackFor annotation parameters.

5. Potential Pitfalls

5.1. Transactions and Proxies

At a high level, Spring creates proxies for all the classes annotated with @Transactional – either on the class or on any of the methods. The proxy allows the framework to inject transactional logic before and after the method being invoked – mainly for starting and committing the transaction.

What is important to keep in mind is that, if the transactional bean is implementing an interface, by default the proxy will be a Java Dynamic Proxy. This means that only external method calls that come in through the proxy will be intercepted – any self-invocation calls will not start any transaction – even if the method is annotated with @Transactional.

Another caveat of using proxies is that only public methods should be annotated with @Transactional – methods of any other visibilities will simply ignore the annotation silently as these are not proxied.

This article discusses further proxying pitfals in great detail here.

5.2. Changing the Isolation level

One of the major pitfalls when configuring Spring to work with JPA is that changing the isolation of the transaction semantics will not work – JPA does not support custom isolation levels. This is a limitation of JPA, not Spring; nevertheless changing the @Transactional isolation property will result in:

org.springframework.transaction.InvalidIsolationLevelException: Standard JPA does not support custom isolation levels – use a special JpaDialect for your JPA implementation

5.3. Read Only Transactions

The readOnly flag usually generates confusion, especially when working with JPA; from the javadoc:

This just serves as a hint for the actual transaction subsystem; it will not necessarily cause failure of write access attempts. A transaction manager which cannot interpret the read-only hint will not throw an exception when asked for a read-only transaction.

The fact is that it cannot be guaranteed that an insert or update will not occur when the readOnly flag is set – its behavior is vendor dependent whereas JPA is vendor agnostic.

It is also important to understand that the readOnly flag is only relevant inside a transaction; if an operation occurs outside of a transactional context, the flag is simply ignored. A simple example of that would calling a method annotated with:

@Transactional( propagation = Propagation.SUPPORTS,readOnly = true )

from a non-transactional context – a transaction will not be created and the readOnly flag will be ignored.

5.4. Transaction Logging

Transactional related issues can also be better understood by fine-tuning logging in the transactional packages; the relevant package in Spring is “org.springframework.transaction”, which should be configured with a logging level of TRACE.

6. Conclusion

We covered the basic configuration of transactional semantics using both java and XML, how to use @Transactional and best practices of a Transactional Strategy. The Spring support for transactional testing as well as some common JPA pitfalls were also discussed.

The implementation of this Spring Transaction Tutorial can be downloaded as a working sample project.

This is an Eclipse based project, so it should be easy to import and run as it is.

I usually post about Persistence on Twitter - you can follow me there:

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  • Łukasz Bachman

    Nice one here, my friend. I wanted to dig into transaction management for a long time and this is great post to help me get started Thanks!

  • Russell

    Nice one. Very useful. One important question. How to change default transaction isolation level in JPA/Hibernate environment. The “hibernate.connection.isolation” only works if you use DriverManager which is not a option in most JEE container.

    • Eugen Paraschiv

      Yeah, isolation has always been a bit of a problem with JPA – I’ve seen solutions that were doing low level hacks in the JDBC Driver but nothing that worked well unfortunately.

  • Rahul

    Getting the exception:

    javax.persistence.TransactionRequiredException: no transaction is in progress
    at org.hibernate.ejb.AbstractEntityManagerImpl.flush( ~[hibernate-entitymanager-3.6.10.Final.jar:3.6.10.Final]
    at sun.reflect.NativeMethodAccessorImpl.invoke0(Native Method) ~[na:1.6.0_21]
    at sun.reflect.NativeMethodAccessorImpl.invoke( ~[na:1.6.0_21]

    I have used @Transactional at DAO layer but still getting this error.

    • Eugen Paraschiv

      Hi Rahul,
      Sorry for the late reply – if you’re seeing problems with the example project on github, please raise an issue over there and I’ll take a look at the problem.

  • Il Bianconiglio

    Hi! Is there a way to share a common superclass among different PersistenceJPAConfig subclasses? My use case is I have 3 different datasource, right now I have to redefine the Bean transactionManager() in each subclass so that the transaction is open. If I leave that method on the superclass flush won’t work because no transaction is active. Thank you very much.

    • Eugen Paraschiv

      You can use the @ImportResource for this – please see this as an example..

  • Thiruppathy.R

    Very Useful. Thank you!

  • Stephane

    Hi Eugen,

    Thanks for the article. too bad I don’t have Tweeter nor G+ :-) Waiting for the LinkedIn share button…

    By the way, I do use the @Transactional annotation but never used the @EnableTransactionManagement and it seems to work just fine. My two cents here…

    Kind Regards,

    Stephane Eybert

    • Eugen Paraschiv

      Hey Stephane – yeah, the Linkedin button is probably not going to be here to soon :). There are many ways ot enable transaction management – in XML for example or even registering the necessary low level beans by hand, so you don’t have to necessarily use @EnableTransactionManagement. It’s just a quick and useful shortcut. Cheers,

  • karthik

    @Eugen Can i apply @Transactional annotation to a private method like


    private Long assetDetails(AssetDTO assetDto){

    vehicle =;
    vehicleLoan =assetDto.getVehicleLoan();


    Is it a right way of doing ? Before i work with hibernate There i used Transaction rollback() and commit();
    Here rollback() functionality not working

    • Eugen Paraschiv

      Private methods will not be proxied – so no, that won’t work. The rollback semantics don’t work because the method isn’t transactional. Hope it helps. Cheers,

  • Murali

    Hi Eugen,

    I have recently implemented this in my project and I had some observation which I would like to share with you, to see if you have overcome such a scenario.

    If you have appContext.xml and dispatcher-servlet.xml – having this transaction (xml) configuration in say dispatcher-servlet.xml registers the @Transactional with MVC context only. Whereas if I have a service which is not invoked through MVC controller then the @Transactional wouldn’t work or gets intercepted.

    To overcome this I have to include the transaction manager and annotation driven entries in appContext.xml as well.

    Does this sound familiar to you?

    • Eugen Paraschiv

      Hi Murali – that’s a common problem in Spring web apps – having something live in a different context than where you need it. You need to make sure that you have your transaction configuration live in the same context you’re trying to use it in. If you want to use the annotation at the service level – make sure that the context in which your services are bootstrapped is the same that actually enables the transactional semantics in Spring.
      Hope that helps. Cheers,

    • Artur

      Ohh Man, this post realy saved my life after few hours of looking for the answer why I’m getting “No transactional entityManager exception”. Great knowledge, hard to find this answer even in stactoverflow. Many thanks and good luck

      • Eugen Paraschiv

        Glad the article helped. Cheers,

  • Bill


    Great article as usual, however, you missed one of your bullet points:

    detailed Rollback configuration

    This is the real point of the transaction, rollback on failure. So when does this happen, what is the default behavior and how can we control that? What are the gotchas?


    • Eugen Paraschiv

      I added a clarification to the article. Now – the best practices with rollback are not a black and white kind of decision. The play into your particular architecture and transactional strategy you’re using – which is something I plan to write about in future articles. Cheers,

  • eugen

    Thanks for pointing out the missing “un”, good catch. Yes, rollback does only happen automatically for runtime exceptions.
    I have updated the article.