Select Page

Real-time vs. Non-real-time Database Systems

Like conventional database systems, real-time database systems are data repositories and provide services for storage, retrieval and manipulation of data. The differences between conventional and real-time database systems lie in the temporal requirements of the managed data, timing constraints on transactions, and performance goals. The following aspects are often considered:

a) internal versus external consistency constraints and,
b) transaction schedules and performance metrics.

The design principles of conventional (i.e., non-real-time) database systems always guarantee strong internal data consistency — a consistent view from all components of the database, avoiding contradictory data in the same database. To guarantee internal consistency, database systems ensure transactions’ ACIDAtomicity, Consistency, Isolation and Durability properties.  Real-time database system designers sometimes argue that, for real-time databases, external consistency (the requirement for a transaction to reflect the current physical environment), is preferable. Indeed, external consistency may be more important than internal consistency for certain applications. However, as a practical matter, most applications require preserving their databases’ internal consistency.

Performance metrics

The common performance metric for all database systems is response time. For conventional database systems, the metric comes down to a number of transactions per time unit; this measurement – the average number of transactions per second (TPS) –  is used heavily in optimizing the responsiveness of traditional database applications. In contrast, real-time database systems often use firm deadline semantics for transactions — transactions can “meet” (successfully commit) or “miss” (successfully abort) their deadlines, but cannot be “late” (go over their allotted time slot) to commit or abort their execution. A late commit of a real-time transaction can lead to a system’s state being incoherent. Thus, a typical performance metric for real-time databases is the number of transactions that miss their deadline.

eXtremeDB/rt implementation of deterministic ACID real-time transactions

eXtremeDB/rt provides semantics for passing a transaction’s deadline and priority to the database scheduler. Transactions are then scheduled either through the Earliest Deadline First (EDF) or Priority Inheritance (PI) algorithms (the schedule is serializable — “read-write” transactions are executed sequentially, “read-only” in parallel). Once scheduled, the eXtremeDB/rt transaction manager implementation enforces firm deadlines through utilizing a deterministic rollback policy. Data modifications or retrieval are allowed only if they are able to finish the within the transaction’s set deadline. “Late” transactions are identified, interrupted and forced to initiate rollback in time to satisfy set deadlines. The key is to ensure that all database runtime internals are in a “recoverable” condition. The database kernel reserves enough time out of the given transaction deadline to rollback modifications made to the point of interruption. We can prove that, at the control point, a transaction’s rollback time is less than the time the transaction has spent modifying the database, or searching through the database.

The eXtremeDB/rt transaction manager

The database transaction manager has a number of verification checkpoints in the code at which the transaction elapsed time is tested against the deadline. The frequency of the verifications eliminates the possibility of executing the database code long enough to miss the set deadline. If the control point is reached (the transaction ran out of the allotted time slice), the transaction is assigned a special “transaction interrupted” status and the control is returned back to the application. The application is then expected to rollback (abort) the transaction. The transaction manager ensures that all database runtime internals are in a “recoverable” condition. The subsequent transaction rollback will restore the database to the consistent state that existed prior to the start of the transaction. Crucially, the transaction manager guarantees that the rollback will be completed within the deadline, provided that the application initiates the rollback when signaled to do so by the database runtime. Thus, the transaction would miss the deadline, but not be “late” and the internal consistency of the database is preserved.

Chart of the eXtremeDB/rt database transaction scheduler

Related Resources

Documentation & Collateral


Review the eXtremeDB/rt data sheet


Learn more about eXtremeDB/rt in our on-line documentation


eXtremeDB/rt Q & A: what distinguishes a true real-time database?

In the News

McObject Announces Availability of eXtremeDB/rt for QNX Neutrino RTOSElectronic Engineering Journal, July 7, 2022

"Embedded Databases in Real-Time Systems", March 14, 2022

"Embedded Executive: Steve Graves, President and CEO, McObject", January, 2022 An interview reviewing key concepts in real-time computing.

"Databases in Hard Real Time" McObject Launches True Real-Time Deterministic Database for embOS Real-time Operating System Applications,, October 15, 2021

"Keeping A Mission-Critical Deterministic DBMS On Time" by McObject CTO Andrei Gorine, September 20, 2021

"Real time tasks need real time data" Read the Wind River blog, September 7, 2021

eXtremeDB/rt offers deterministic ACID-compliant transactions

Tailored to your needs

The nature of eXtremeDB/rt’s tight integration with the RTOS and target hardware requires that each evaluation package be assembled uniquely for your needs.  Please contact us so that we can gather information on your RTOS vendor, version, target hardware, tool chain, and so on.

View the ever-expanding list of supported real-time operating systems.

Send us an email

Give us a call


Desktop distributions

Free desktop evaluation packages of eXtremeDB/rt for Linux, MacOS, QNX and Windows platforms are available for immediate no-hassle download. Learn more about the programming interface and various real-time and non-real-time features of eXtremeDB/rt. After you have tried the desktop version, we hope you’ll contact us for a free trial of eXtremeDB/rt tailored to the needs of your RTOS.

You are also welcome to contact us, and we will send you a download of eXtremeDB/rt running in the FreeRTOS simulator.

To Err is Human

The Case for Buy Over Build in Hard Real-time Database Management Systems