Asynchronous programming in .NET 8 — Common Pitfalls and Recommended Practices

Admir Mujkic
7 min readMar 5, 2024

In the world of modern .NET development, the async/await paradigm stands as a cornerstone for efficient asynchronous programming. We should be aware that the .NET framework evolves annually, and accordingly, its components and the mechanisms of asynchronous programming do as well. Therefore, we need to stay updated to maintain our applications efficiency.

Asynchronous programming in .NET 8 — Common Pitfalls and Recommended Practices

Also, note that some of these insights come from experience, while others are gathered from other developers and the community. If you have a hint, please add it in a comment so we can share this knowledge.

This exploration, inspired by the profound insights of Brandon Minnick at the Copenhagen DevFest 2023, delves into the nuanced best practices and common pitfalls associated with async/await in .NET 8.

Each concept is elucidated with a C# code example and a explanation, aiming to provide a comprehensive understanding for both novice and seasoned developers.

The Imperative of Non-Blocking Calls

In asynchronous programming, avoiding blocking calls is paramount to prevent deadlocks and ensure the responsiveness of applications.

The Imperative of Non-Blocking Calls

Utilizing .Result synchronously blocks the calling thread until the task’s completion, potentially leading to deadlocks. In contrast, await asynchronously waits for task completion, thus maintaining application responsiveness and fluidity.

Optimization with ConfigureAwait

The judicious use of ConfigureAwait(false) in non-UI contexts can significantly enhance performance by reducing unnecessary context switching.

Optimization with ConfigureAwait

In later versions, the need for ConfigureAwait(false) is reduced due to more efficient asynchronous handling, especially in server-side applications like ASP.NET Core. However, it remains relevant in library code and certain application types. The default synchronization context is more permissive in .NET Core, reducing deadlocks in server-side code, but awareness of synchronization context is still important in desktop applications and complex threading scenarios.

The impact of these changes varies depending on the type of application. For example server-side applications like ASP.NET Core, less likely to need ConfigureAwait(false) due to the non-restrictive synchronization context. Desktop applications (like Windows Forms, WPF) are more likely to be affected by synchronization context, especially when interacting with UI elements from asynchronous code.

Robust Exception Handling in Async/Await

Implementing effective exception handling in asynchronous C# methods using async/await is key for application stability. Start by enclosing async calls in try-catch blocks to manage potential exceptions.

Always place the await statement within the try block, allowing the capture of exceptions from async methods. Be mindful of AggregateException when dealing with Tasks without awaiting, this exception type is unwrapped automatically when awaiting a Task, revealing the underlying exception. Additionally, log all exceptions for debugging and maintain a robust logging strategy for issue diagnosis in production environments.

Robust Exception Handling in Async/Await

Optionally, include a finally block for necessary code execution regardless of exception occurrence, such as resource cleanup. If your async operations are lengthy, consider adding cancellation support using CancellationToken. This approach ensures a robust, maintainable, and resilient asynchronous operation in your C# applications.

Cancellation Tokens and Enhancing Responsiveness

Implementing cancellation tokens in asynchronous methods is a best practice that provides a mechanism to cancel long-running or unnecessary operations, thus enhancing the dynamism of the application.

Cancellation Tokens and Enhancing Responsiveness

Cancellation tokens offer a responsive way to cancel ongoing async operations, providing greater control over the application’s flow and resource management.

Efficient Streaming with Async Enumerable

Creating an efficient streaming solution with IAsyncEnumerable in C# involves implementing a method that returns an IAsyncEnumerable<T> where T is the type of data you’re streaming. This approach is particularly useful for scenarios where you want to process a stream of data asynchronously as it becomes available, such as reading from a file, database, or network stream.

Here’s a real-world example where we use IAsyncEnumerable to asynchronously stream data. In this example, let’s assume we’re streaming lines from a log file that gets updated over time.

Efficient Streaming with Async Enumerable

IAsyncEnumerable and await foreach facilitate the efficient processing of streamed data, allowing each item to be processed as soon as it becomes available, thus enhancing the efficiency of data handling in asynchronous operations.

ValueTask — A Tool for Quick Operations

The choice between ValueTask and Task can have performance implications, particularly in scenarios where methods frequently complete synchronously.

ValueTask — A Tool for Quick Operations

ValueTask being a struct, offers a more efficient alternative to Task in scenarios where methods often complete synchronously, thereby reducing the overhead associated with task management.

OK, now is question when to choice between using ValueTask and Task in C# is based on performance considerations, especially in scenarios where a method returns a result that might be available synchronously or asynchronously. Here’s a guideline on when to use each:

Use Task when:

  1. The method performs an operation that is inherently asynchronous (like I/O operations). Task is ideal for these cases.
  2. If the result of the asynchronous operation will be awaited multiple times.
  3. If the method involves multiple asynchronous operations that are awaited in a sequence or in a complex manner.

Use ValueTask when:

  1. The method might complete synchronously in some cases but asynchronously in others. ValueTask is more efficient in these scenarios as it reduces allocations when the method completes synchronously.
  2. When performance is critical and you need to minimize memory allocations. ValueTask can be more efficient in terms of allocations, especially if you are able to use ValueTask<TResult> where TResult is a value type.
  3. If the result of the asynchronous operation is awaited only once.

Avoid Multiple Awaits on ValueTask. Awaiting ValueTask more than once can lead to undefined behavior. It’s designed to be awaited only once. ValueTask can be converted to a Task if needed, but this involves allocation and should be avoided in high-performance paths.

The Risks of Async Void

Understanding the implications of async void is essential for error handling and maintaining the stability of applications.

The Risks of Async Void

The use of async Task over async void is recommended for better error handling and predictability. async void methods can lead to unhandled exceptions and should be reserved for specific use cases like event handlers.

Deferred Execution of Tasks

Optimizing task execution by deferring the creation of the async state machine can lead to more efficient and performant code.

Deferred Execution of Tasks

Directly returning a task from a method avoids the unnecessary overhead of an async state machine when no additional await operations are required within the method, thereby optimizing performance.

Proper Management with Async Disposable

Proper management of resources in asynchronous operations is crucial to prevent resource leaks and ensure efficient resource utilization.

Proper Management with Async Disposable

The IAsyncDisposable interface and the await using construct ensure the proper asynchronous disposal of resources, thus preventing resource leaks and enhancing application performance.

The Impact of Ignoring Cancellation

Failing to implement cancellation in async operations can render applications less responsive and more resource-intensive, highlighting the importance of responsive design.

The Impact of Ignoring Cancellation

Not implementing cancellation tokens can make your application less responsive and more resource-intensive, underscoring the importance of incorporating cancellation mechanisms in long-running operations.

The Dangers of Overusing Task.Run

The overuse of Task.Run for unnecessary offloading can lead to thread pool starvation and degraded performance, a scenario that warrants judicious use of resources.

The Dangers of Overusing Task.Run

Unnecessary use of Task.Run can lead to thread pool starvation and degraded performance, emphasizing the need for careful consideration before offloading tasks to the thread pool.

For the end…

The async/await paradigm in .NET is a powerful tool that requires a nuanced understanding to fully harness its capabilities. By adhering to these best practices and avoiding common pitfalls, developers can ensure robust, efficient, and optimized asynchronous code.

Cheers👋

--

--

Admir Mujkic

Admir combined engineering expertise with business acumen to make a positive impact & share knowledge. Dedicated to educating the next generation of leaders.