The code above is a implementation of a lock-free queue that makes the assumption that there is exactly one Consumer thread and one Producer thread. This works as intended? The memory barriers is used in the right place? The code has race points?

PS: I know about the existence of lock-free queue implementation in .NET 4.0+.

using System;
using System.Threading;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using Nohros.Resources;

namespace Nohros.Concurrent
  /// <summary>
  /// <see cref="YQueue{T}"/> is an efficient queue implementation ported from
  /// the zeromq library. <see cref="YQueue{T}"/> allows one thread to use the
  /// <see cref="Enqueue"/> function while another one use the
  /// <see cref="Dequeue(out T)"/> function without locking.
  /// <typeparam name="T">
  /// The type of the objects in the queue.
  /// </typeparam>
  /// </summary>
  public class YQueue<T>
    class Chunk
      public long distance;
      public volatile int head_pos;
      public volatile Chunk next;
      public volatile int tail_pos;
      public T[] values;

      #region .ctor
      /// <summary>
      /// Initializes a new instance of the <see cref="Chunk"/> class by using
      /// the specified capacity.
      /// </summary>
      /// <param name="capacity">
      /// The number of elements that the chunk can hold.
      /// </param>
      public Chunk(int capacity) {
        values = new T[capacity];
        head_pos = 0;
        tail_pos = 0;
        next = null;
        distance = 0;

    const int kDefaultCapacity = 32;
    volatile Chunk divider_;
    readonly int granularity_;
    volatile Chunk tail_chunk_;

    #region .ctor
    /// <summary>
    /// Initializes a new instance of the <see cref="YQueue{T}"/> class
    /// that has the default capacity.
    /// </summary>
    public YQueue() : this(kDefaultCapacity) {

    /// <summary>
    /// Initializes a new instance of the <see cref="YQueue{T}"/> class
    /// by using the specified granularity.
    /// </summary>
    /// <param name="granularity">
    /// A number that defines the granularity of the queue(how many pushes
    /// have to be done till actual memory allocation is required).
    /// </param>
    public YQueue(int granularity) {
      granularity_ = granularity;
      divider_ = new Chunk(granularity);

      // make sure that the divider will not be used to store elements.
      divider_.tail_pos = granularity - 1;
      divider_.head_pos = granularity;

      tail_chunk_ = divider_;

    /// <summary>
    /// Adds an element to the back end of the queue.
    /// </summary>
    /// <param name="element">
    /// The element to be added to the back end of the queue.
    /// </param>
    public void Enqueue(T element) {
      int tail_pos = tail_chunk_.tail_pos;

      // If either the queue is not empty or the tail chunk is not full, adds
      // the specified element to the back end of the current tail chunk.
      if (tail_chunk_ != divider_ && ++tail_pos < granularity_) {
        tail_chunk_.values[tail_pos] = element;

        // Prevents any kind of instruction reorderring or caching.

        // "Commit" the newly added item and "publish" it atomically
        // to the consumer thread.
        tail_chunk_.tail_pos = tail_pos;

      // Create a new chunk if a cached one does not exists and links it
      // to the current last node.
      Chunk chunk = new Chunk(granularity_);
      tail_chunk_.next = chunk;

      // Reset the chunk and append the specified element to the first slot.
      chunk.tail_pos = 0; // An unconsumed element is added to the first slot.
      chunk.head_pos = 0;
      chunk.next = null;
      chunk.values[0] = element;
      chunk.distance = tail_chunk_.distance + 1;

      // Make sure that the new chunk is fully initialized before it is
      // assigned to the tail chunk.

      // At this point the newly created chunk(or the last cached chunk) is
      // not yet shared, but still private to the producer; the consumer will
      // not follow the linked chunk unless the value of |tail_chunk_| says
      // it may follow. The line above "commit" the update and publish it
      // atomically to the consumer thread.
      tail_chunk_ = tail_chunk_.next;

    /// <summary>
    /// Removes all elements from the <see cref="YQueue{T}"/>.
    /// </summary>
    /// <remarks>
    /// <para>
    /// <see cref="Clear"/> removes the elements that are not currently
    /// present in the queue. Elements added to the queue after
    /// <see cref="Clear"/> is called and while <see cref="Clear"/> is running,
    /// will not be cleared.
    /// </para>
    /// This operation should be sychronized with the <see cref="Dequeue()"/>
    /// and <see cref="Dequeue(out T)"/> operations.
    /// </remarks>
    public void Clear() {
      // Save the current tail chunk to ensure that the future elements are
      // not cleared.
      Chunk current_tail_chunk = tail_chunk_;
      while (divider_ != current_tail_chunk) {
        divider_ = divider_.next;

    /// <summary>
    /// Removes and returns the object at the beginning of the
    /// <see cref="YQueue{T}"/>.
    /// </summary>
    /// <returns><typeparamref name="T"/> The object that is removed from the
    /// <see cref="YQueue{T}"/></returns>
    /// <exception cref="InvalidOperationException">The
    /// <see cref="YQueue{T}"/> is empty.</exception>
    public T Dequeue() {
      T t;
      bool ok = Dequeue(out t);
      if (!ok) {
        throw new InvalidOperationException(
      return t;

    /// <summary>
    /// Removes and returns the object at the beginning of the
    /// <see cref="YQueue&lt;T&gt;"/>.
    /// </summary>
    /// <param name="t">When this method returns, contains the object that was
    /// removed from the beginning of the <see cref="YQueue&lt;T&gt;"/>, if
    /// the object was successfully removed; otherwise the default value
    /// of the type <typeparamref name="T"/>.</param>
    /// <returns><c>true</c> if the queue is not empty and the object at the
    /// beginning of it was successfully removed; otherwise, false.
    /// </returns>
    public bool Dequeue(out T t) {
      // checks if the queue is empty
      while (divider_ != tail_chunk_) {
        // The chunks that sits between the |divider_| and the |tail_chunk_|,
        // excluding the |divider_| and including the |tail_chunk_|, are
        // unconsumed.
        Chunk current_chunk = divider_.next;

        // We need to compare the current chunk |tail_pos| with the |head_pos|
        // and |granularity|. Since, the |tail_pos| can be modified by the
        // producer thread we need to cache it instantaneous value.
        int tail_pos;
        tail_pos = current_chunk.tail_pos;

        if (current_chunk.head_pos > tail_pos) {
          if (tail_pos == granularity_ - 1) {
            // we have reached the end of the chunk, go to the next chunk and
            // frees the unused chunk.
            divider_ = current_chunk;
            //head_chunk_ = head_chunk_.next;
          } else {
            // we already consume all the available itens.
            t = default(T);
            return false;
        } else {
          // Ensure that we are reading the freshness value from the chunk
          // values array.

          // Here the |head_pos| is less than or equals to |tail_pos|, get
          // the first unconsumed element and increments |head_pos| to publish
          // the queue item removal.
          t = current_chunk.values[current_chunk.head_pos];

          // keep the order between assignment and publish operations.

          return true;
      t = default(T);
      return false;

    /// <summary>
    /// Gets a value indicating whether the <see cref="YQueue{T}"/> is empty.
    /// </summary>
    /// <remarks>
    /// Since this collection is intended to be accessed concurrently by two
    /// threads in a producer/consumer pattern, it may be the case that another
    /// thread will modify the collection after <see cref="IsEmpty"/> returns,
    /// thus invalidatind the result.
    /// </remarks>
    public bool IsEmpty {
      get {
        Chunk divider = divider_;
        Chunk tail = tail_chunk_;

        return (divider.next == tail || divider == tail) &&
          tail.head_pos > tail.tail_pos;

1 Answer 1

  1. I've never see a naming convention that would use _ suffix for private fields in C#. The most often used conventions use m_, _ as a prefix, or nothing at all.

    Similarly, the k prefix is not usual for constants in C#.

    Also, using underscore_names is not usual in C#.

  2. It's usually better if an expression is used for its value or its side-effects, but not both. So, you should avoid using ++ inside an if expression.

  3. I don't see any reason why you would want to set the fields of a new Chunk twice to the same values. Especially since 0 and null are the default values anyway.

  4. The comments about “cached chunks” are confusing, since you don't seem to cache chunks at all.

  5. I don't understand the existence of divider_. Why do you need an empty chunk at the start of the list? Considering that everything else is commented extensively, this seems like a weird oversight.

  6. What is the reason for the distance field? You don't seem to use it anywhere.

  7. Clear() can easily clear items that were added while it was executing, if they were added to the last chunk (and not a new one). You can see this by adding Thread.Sleep(1) before the while and enqueueing some items while calling Clear() on another thread. (You should also add some logging for this, so you can see the order of events.)

  8. t is not a very good variable name. Something like result would be much better.

  9. I'm not sure while is necessary in Dequeue() since it will always have at most two iterations. I think getting rid of the while would make your code easier to understand.

Otherwise, I didn't find any threading issues, but that doesn't mean there aren't any. Lock-free programming can be very tricky.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Agree with all points, I didn't find threading issues here as well. Just to add that thread safety in this code heavily relies on the fact of single consumer and producer \$\endgroup\$
    – almaz
    Commented Dec 24, 2012 at 8:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ The divider exists to ensure that producer and consumer is not using the same node at the same time; otherwise read/write operations on head and tail should be synchronized. \$\endgroup\$
    – nohros
    Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 12:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ The while is necessary because the divider should be advanced to the next chunk if all the slots of the current chunk is already consumed. \$\endgroup\$
    – nohros
    Commented Jan 3, 2013 at 12:12

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