Orleans transactions

Orleans supports distributed ACID transactions against persistent grain state. Transactions are implemented using the Microsoft.Orleans.Transactions NuGet package. The source code for the sample app in this article is comprised of four projects:

  • Abstractions: A class library containing the grain interfaces and shared classes.
  • Grains: A class library containing the grain implementations.
  • Server: A console app that consumes the abstractions and grains class libraries and acts as the Orleans silo.
  • Client: A console app that consumes the abstractions class library that represents the Orleans client.


Orleans transactions are opt-in. A silo and client both must be configured to use transactions. If they aren't configured, any calls to transactional methods on a grain implementation will receive the OrleansTransactionsDisabledException. To enable transactions on a silo, call SiloBuilderExtensions.UseTransactions on the silo host builder:

var builder = Host.CreateDefaultBuilder(args)
    UseOrleans((context, siloBuilder) =>

Likewise, to enable transactions on the client, call UseTransactions on the client host builder:

var builder = Host.CreateDefaultBuilder(args)
    UseOrleansClient((context, clientBuilder) =>

Transactional state storage

To use transactions, you need to configure a data store. To support various data stores with transactions, the storage abstraction ITransactionalStateStorage<TState> is used. This abstraction is specific to the needs of transactions, unlike generic grain storage (IGrainStorage). To use transaction-specific storage, configure the silo using any implementation of ITransactionalStateStorage, such as Azure (AddAzureTableTransactionalStateStorage).

For example, consider the following host builder configuration:

await Host.CreateDefaultBuilder(args)
    .UseOrleans((_, silo) =>

        if (Environment.GetEnvironmentVariable(
                "ORLEANS_STORAGE_CONNECTION_STRING") is { } connectionString)
                options => options.ConfigureTableServiceClient(connectionString));


For development purposes, if transaction-specific storage is not available for the datastore you need, you can use an IGrainStorage implementation instead. For any transactional state that doesn't have a store configured, transactions will attempt to fail over to the grain storage using a bridge. Accessing a transactional state via a bridge to grain storage is less efficient and may not be supported in the future. Hence, the recommendation is to only use this for development purposes.

Grain interfaces

For a grain to support transactions, transactional methods on a grain interface must be marked as being part of a transaction using the TransactionAttribute. The attribute needs to indicate how the grain call behaves in a transactional environment as detailed with the following TransactionOption values:

  • TransactionOption.Create: Call is transactional and will always create a new transaction context (it starts a new transaction), even if called within an existing transaction context.
  • TransactionOption.Join: Call is transactional but can only be called within the context of an existing transaction.
  • TransactionOption.CreateOrJoin: Call is transactional. If called within the context of a transaction, it will use that context, else it will create a new context.
  • TransactionOption.Suppress: Call is not transactional but can be called from within a transaction. If called within the context of a transaction, the context will not be passed to the call.
  • TransactionOption.Supported: Call is not transactional but supports transactions. If called within the context of a transaction, the context will be passed to the call.
  • TransactionOption.NotAllowed: Call is not transactional and cannot be called from within a transaction. If called within the context of a transaction, it will throw the NotSupportedException.

Calls can be marked as TransactionOption.Create, meaning the call will always start its transaction. For example, the Transfer operation in the ATM grain below will always start a new transaction that involves the two referenced accounts.

namespace TransactionalExample.Abstractions;

public interface IAtmGrain : IGrainWithIntegerKey
    Task Transfer(string fromId, string toId, decimal amountToTransfer);

The transactional operations Withdraw and Deposit on the account grain are marked TransactionOption.Join, indicating that they can only be called within the context of an existing transaction, which would be the case if they were called during IAtmGrain.Transfer. The GetBalance call is marked CreateOrJoin so it can be called from within an existing transaction, like via IAtmGrain.Transfer, or on its own.

namespace TransactionalExample.Abstractions;

public interface IAccountGrain : IGrainWithStringKey
    Task Withdraw(decimal amount);

    Task Deposit(decimal amount);

    Task<decimal> GetBalance();

Important considerations

The OnActivateAsync couldn't be marked as transactional as any such call requires a proper setup before the call. It exists only for the grain application API. This means that an attempt to read transactional state as part of these methods will throw an exception in the runtime.

Grain implementations

A grain implementation needs to use an ITransactionalState<TState> facet to manage grain state via ACID transactions.

public interface ITransactionalState<TState>
    where TState : class, new()
    Task<TResult> PerformRead<TResult>(
        Func<TState, TResult> readFunction);

    Task<TResult> PerformUpdate<TResult>(
        Func<TState, TResult> updateFunction);

All read or write access to the persisted state must be performed via synchronous functions passed to the transactional state facet. This allows the transaction system to perform or cancel these operations transactionally. To use a transactional state within a grain, you define a serializable state class to be persisted and declare the transactional state in the grain's constructor with a TransactionalStateAttribute. The latter declares the state name and, optionally, which transactional state storage to use. For more information, see Setup.

public class TransactionalStateAttribute : Attribute
    public TransactionalStateAttribute(string stateName, string storageName = null)
        // ...

As an example, the Balance state object is defined as follows:

namespace TransactionalExample.Abstractions;

public record class Balance
    public decimal Value { get; set; } = 1_000;

The preceding state object:

  • Is decorated with the GenerateSerializerAttribute to instruct the Orleans code generator to generate a serializer.
  • Has a Value property that's decorated with the IdAttribute to uniquely identify the member.

The Balance state object is then used in the AccountGrain implementation as follows:

namespace TransactionalExample.Grains;

public class AccountGrain : Grain, IAccountGrain
    private readonly ITransactionalState<Balance> _balance;

    public AccountGrain(
        ITransactionalState<Balance> balance) =>
        _balance = balance ?? throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(balance));

    public Task Deposit(decimal amount) =>
            balance => balance.Value += amount);

    public Task Withdraw(decimal amount) =>
        _balance.PerformUpdate(balance =>
            if (balance.Value < amount)
                throw new InvalidOperationException(
                    $"Withdrawing {amount} credits from account " +
                    $"\"{this.GetPrimaryKeyString()}\" would overdraw it." +
                    $" This account has {balance.Value} credits.");

            balance.Value -= amount;

    public Task<decimal> GetBalance() =>
        _balance.PerformRead(balance => balance.Value);


A transactional grain must be marked with the ReentrantAttribute to ensure that the transaction context is correctly passed to the grain call.

In the preceding example, the TransactionalStateAttribute is used to declare that the balance constructor parameter should be associated with a transactional state named "balance". With this declaration, Orleans will inject an ITransactionalState<TState> instance with a state loaded from the transactional state storage named "TransactionStore". The state can be modified via PerformUpdate or read via PerformRead. The transaction infrastructure will ensure that any such changes performed as part of a transaction, even among multiple grains distributed over an Orleans cluster, will either all be committed or all be undone upon completion of the grain call that created the transaction (IAtmGrain.Transfer in the preceding example).

Call transaction methods from a client

The recommended way to call a transaction grain method is to use the ITransactionClient. The ITransactionClient is automatically registered with the dependency injection service provider when the Orleans client is configured. The ITransactionClient is used to create a transaction context and to call transactional grain methods within that context. The following example shows how to use the ITransactionClient to call transactional grain methods.

using IHost host = Host.CreateDefaultBuilder(args)
    .UseOrleansClient((_, client) =>

await host.StartAsync();

var client = host.Services.GetRequiredService<IClusterClient>();
var transactionClient= host.Services.GetRequiredService<ITransactionClient>();

var accountNames = new[] { "Xaawo", "Pasqualino", "Derick", "Ida", "Stacy", "Xiao" };
var random = Random.Shared;

while (!Console.KeyAvailable)
    // Choose some random accounts to exchange money
    var fromIndex = random.Next(accountNames.Length);
    var toIndex = random.Next(accountNames.Length);
    while (toIndex == fromIndex)
        // Avoid transferring to/from the same account, since it would be meaningless
        toIndex = (toIndex + 1) % accountNames.Length;

    var fromKey = accountNames[fromIndex];
    var toKey = accountNames[toIndex];
    var fromAccount = client.GetGrain<IAccountGrain>(fromKey);
    var toAccount = client.GetGrain<IAccountGrain>(toKey);

    // Perform the transfer and query the results
        var transferAmount = random.Next(200);

        await transactionClient.RunTransaction(
            async () =>
                await fromAccount.Withdraw(transferAmount);
                await toAccount.Deposit(transferAmount);

        var fromBalance = await fromAccount.GetBalance();
        var toBalance = await toAccount.GetBalance();

            $"We transferred {transferAmount} credits from {fromKey} to " +
            $"{toKey}.\n{fromKey} balance: {fromBalance}\n{toKey} balance: {toBalance}\n");
    catch (Exception exception)
            $"Error transferring credits from " +
            $"{fromKey} to {toKey}: {exception.Message}");

        if (exception.InnerException is { } inner)
            Console.WriteLine($"\tInnerException: {inner.Message}\n");


    // Sleep and run again
    await Task.Delay(TimeSpan.FromMilliseconds(200));

In the preceding client code:

  • The IHostBuilder is configured with UseOrleansClient.
    • The IClientBuilder uses localhost clustering and transactions.
  • The IClusterClient and ITransactionClient interfaces are retrieved from the service provider.
  • The from and to variables are assigned their IAccountGrain references.
  • The ITransactionClient is used to create a transaction, calling:
    • Withdraw on the from account grain reference.
    • Deposit on the to account grain reference.

Transactions are always committed unless there is an exception that is thrown in the transactionDelegate or a contradictory transactionOption specified. While the recommended way to call transactional grain methods is to use the ITransactionClient, you can also call transactional grain methods directly from another grain.

Call transaction methods from another grain

Transactional methods on a grain interface are called like any other grain method. As an alternative approach using the ITransactionClient, the AtmGrain implementation below calls the Transfer method (which is transactional) on the IAccountGrain interface.

Consider the AtmGrain implementation, which resolves the two referenced account grains and makes the appropriate calls to Withdraw and Deposit:

namespace TransactionalExample.Grains;

public class AtmGrain : Grain, IAtmGrain
    public Task Transfer(
        string fromId,
        string toId,
        decimal amount) =>

Your client app code can call AtmGrain.Transfer in a transactional manner as follows:

IAtmGrain atmOne = client.GetGrain<IAtmGrain>(0);

Guid from = Guid.NewGuid();
Guid to = Guid.NewGuid();

await atmOne.Transfer(from, to, 100);

uint fromBalance = await client.GetGrain<IAccountGrain>(from).GetBalance();
uint toBalance = await client.GetGrain<IAccountGrain>(to).GetBalance();

In the preceding calls, an IAtmGrain is used to transfer 100 units of currency from one account to another. After the transfer is complete, both accounts are queried to get their current balance. The currency transfer, as well as both account queries, are performed as ACID transactions.

As shown in the preceding example, transactions can return values within a Task, like other grain calls. But upon call failure, they will not throw application exceptions but rather an OrleansTransactionException or TimeoutException. If the application throws an exception during the transaction and that exception causes the transaction to fail (as opposed to failing because of other system failures), the application exception will be the inner exception of the OrleansTransactionException.

If a transaction exception is thrown of type OrleansTransactionAbortedException, the transaction failed and can be retried. Any other exception thrown indicates that the transaction terminated with an unknown state. Since transactions are distributed operations, a transaction in an unknown state could have succeeded, failed, or still be in progress. For this reason, it's advisable to allow a call timeout period (SiloMessagingOptions.SystemResponseTimeout) to pass, to avoid cascading aborts, before verifying the state or retrying the operation.