Book Image

Parallel Programming and Concurrency with C# 10 and .NET 6

By : Alvin Ashcraft
Book Image

Parallel Programming and Concurrency with C# 10 and .NET 6

By: Alvin Ashcraft

Overview of this book

.NET has included managed threading capabilities since the beginning, but early techniques had inherent risks: memory leaks, thread synchronization issues, and deadlocks. This book will help you avoid those pitfalls and leverage the modern constructs available in .NET 6 and C# 10, while providing recommendations on patterns and best practices for parallelism and concurrency. Parallel, concurrent, and asynchronous programming are part of every .NET application today, and it becomes imperative for modern developers to understand how to effectively use these techniques. This book will teach intermediate-level .NET developers how to make their applications faster and more responsive with parallel programming and concurrency in .NET and C# with practical examples. The book starts with the essentials of multi-threaded .NET development and explores how the language and framework constructs have evolved along with .NET. You will later get to grips with the different options available today in .NET 6, followed by insights into best practices, debugging, and unit testing. By the end of this book, you will have a deep understanding of why, when, and how to employ parallelism and concurrency in any .NET application.
Table of Contents (18 chapters)
Part 1:Introduction to Threading in .NET
Part 2: Parallel Programming and Concurrency with C#
Part 3: Advanced Concurrency Concepts

Synchronizing data across threads

In this section, we will look at some of the methods that are available in .NET for synchronizing data across multiple threads. Shared data across threads can be one of the primary pain points of multithreaded development if not handled properly. Classes in .NET that have protections in place for threading are said to be thread-safe.

Data in multithreaded applications can be synchronized in several different ways:

  • Synchronized code regions: Only synchronize the block of code that is necessary using the Monitor class or with some help from the .NET compiler.
  • Manual synchronization: There are several synchronization primitives in .NET that can be used to manually synchronize data.
  • Synchronized context: This is only available in .NET Framework and Xamarin applications.
  • System.Collections.Concurrent classes: There are specialized .NET collections to handle concurrency. We will examine these in Chapter 9.

In this section, we’ll look at the first two methods. Let’s start by discussing how to synchronize code regions in your application.

Synchronizing code regions

There are several techniques you can use to synchronize regions of your code. The first one we will discuss is the Monitor class. You can surround a block of code that can be accessed by multiple threads with calls to Monitor.Enter and Monitor.Exit:


In this example, imagine you have an order object that is being updated by multiple threads in parallel. The Monitor class will lock access from other threads while the current thread adds an orderDetail item to the order object. The key to minimizing the chance of introducing wait time to other threads is by only locking the lines of code that need to be synchronized.


The Interlocked class, as discussed in this section, performs atomic operations in user mode rather than kernel mode. If you want to read more about this distinction, I recommend checking out this blog post by Nguyen Thai Duong:

The Interlocked class provides several methods for performing atomic operations on objects shared across multiple threads. The following list of methods is part of the Interlocked class:

  • Add: This adds two integers, replacing the first one with the sum of the two
  • And: This is a bitwise and operation for two integers
  • CompareExchange: This compares two objects for equality and replaces the first if they are equal
  • Decrement: This decrements an integer
  • Exchange: This sets a variable to a new value
  • Increment: This increments an integer
  • Or: This is a bitwise or operation for two integers

These Interlocked operations will lock access to the target object only for the duration of that operation.

Additionally, the lock statement in C# can be used to lock access to a block of code to only a single thread. The lock statement is a language construct implemented using the .NET Monitor.Enter and Monitor.Exit operations.

There is some built-in compiler support for the lock and Monitor blocks. If an exception is thrown inside one of these blocks, the lock is automatically released. The C# compiler generates a try/finally block around the synchronized code and makes a call to Monitor.Exit in the finally block.

Let’s finish up this section on synchronization by looking at some other .NET classes that provide support for manual data synchronization.

Manual synchronization

The use of manual synchronization is common when synchronizing data across multiple threads. Some types of data cannot be protected in other ways, such as these:

  • Global fields: These are variables that can be accessed globally across the application.
  • Static fields: These are static variables in a class.
  • Instance fields: These are instance variables in a class.

These fields do not have method bodies, so there is no way to put a synchronized code region around them. With manual synchronization, you can protect all the areas where these objects are used. These regions can be protected with lock statements in C#, but some other synchronization primitives provide access to shared data and can coordinate the interactions between threads on a more granular level. The first construct we will examine is the System.Threading.Mutex class.

The Mutex class is similar to the Monitor class in that it blocks access to a region of code, but it can also provide the ability to grant access to other processes. When using the Mutex class, use the WaitOne() and ReleaseMutex() methods to acquire and release the lock. Let’s look at the same order/order details example. This time, we’ll use a Mutex class declared at the class level:

private static Mutex orderMutex = new Mutex();

If you want to enforce a timeout period on the Mutex class, you can call the WaitOne overload with a timeout value:


It is important to note that Mutex is a disposable type. You should always call Dispose() on the object when you are finished using it. Additionally, you can also enclose a disposable type within a using block to have it disposed of indirectly.

In this section, the last .NET manual locking construct we are going to examine is the ReaderWriterLockSlim class. You can use this type if you have an object that is used across multiple threads, but most of the code is reading data from the object. You don’t want to lock access to the object in the blocks of code that are reading data, but you do want to prevent reading while the object is being updated or simultaneously written. This is referred to as "multiple readers, single writer."

This ContactListManager class contains a list of contacts that can be added to or retrieved by a phone number. The class assumes that these operations can be called from multiple threads and uses the ReaderWriterLockSlim class to apply a read lock in the GetContactByPhoneNumber method and a write lock in the AddContact method. The locks are released in a finally block to ensure they are always released, even when exceptions are encountered:

public class ContactListManager
    private readonly List<Contact> contacts;
    private readonly ReaderWriterLockSlim contactLock = 
        new ReaderWriterLockSlim();
    public ContactListManager(
        List<Contact> initialContacts)
        contacts = initialContacts;
    public void AddContact(Contact newContact)
    public Contact GetContactByPhoneNumber(string 
            return contacts.FirstOrDefault(x => 
                x.PhoneNumber == phoneNumber);

If you were to add a DeleteContact method to the ContactListManager class, you would leverage the same EnterWriteLock method to prevent any conflicts with the other operations in the class. If a lock is forgotten in one usage of contacts, it can cause any of the other operations to fail. Additionally, it is possible to apply a timeout to the ReaderWriterLockSlim locks:


There are several other synchronization primitives that we have not covered in this section, but we have discussed some of the most common types that you will use. To read more about the available types for manual synchronization, you can visit Microsoft Docs at

Now that we have examined different ways of synchronizing data when working with managed threads, let’s cover two more important topics before wrapping up this first chapter. We are going to discuss techniques to schedule work on threads and how to cancel managed threads cooperatively.