Specifying the Processing Order of Merge Articles

Beginning with Microsoft SQL Server 2005, it is possible to override the default order of article processing for merge publications. This is useful, for example, if you define referential integrity through triggers and those triggers must fire in a certain order.

To specify the processing order of articles

How Processing Order is Determined

During merge synchronization, articles are, by default, processed in the order required by the dependencies between objects, including the declarative referential integrity (DRI) constraints defined on the base tables. Processing involves enumerating the changes to a table and then applying those changes. If no DRI is present but join filters or logical records exist between table articles, the articles are processed in the order required by the filters and logical records. Articles not related to any other article through DRI, join filters, logical records, or other dependencies are processed according to the article nickname in the sysmergearticles (Transact-SQL) system table.

Consider a publication that includes the tables SalesOrderHeader and SalesOrderDetail with a primary key column SalesOrderID in the SalesOrderHeader table and a corresponding foreign key column SalesOrderID in the SalesOrderDetail table. During synchronization, merge replication prevents foreign key violations by inserting any new rows in SalesOrderHeader before inserting associated rows in SalesOrderDetail. Similarly, rows are deleted from SalesOrderDetail before the associated row is deleted from SalesOrderHeader.

However, in some applications referential integrity is enforced through database triggers, or at the application level, rather than through DRI. Given the publication described above, instead of DRI, the SalesOrderDetail table could have an insert trigger that ensures the associated row in the SalesOrderHeader table exists before allowing an insert. SalesOrderHeader could have a delete trigger that ensures there are no associated rows in SalesOrderDetail before allowing a delete. Merge replication does not take into account triggers when determining processing order of articles because it cannot determine what the result of the trigger will be until it has fired. Similarly, replication cannot take into account constraints defined at the application level.

When referential integrity is maintained through triggers or at the application level, you should specify the order in which the articles should be processed. In the example with triggers, you would specify that the SalesOrderHeader table should be processed before SalesOrderDetail, because article ordering is based on insert order. Merge replication will automatically reverse the order for deletes. Merge replication will not fail without article ordering, because the Merge Agent continues to process articles if a constraint violation occurs; it then retries any operations that failed after other articles have been processed. Specifying article order simply avoids retries and the additional processing associated with them. If you specify an incorrect order (for example, one that results in detail records being processed before header records), merge replication will retry processing until it succeeds.