[C#] When should I use Async Controllers in ASP.NET MVC?


Answers

You may find my MSDN article on the subject helpful; I took a lot of space in that article describing when you should use async on ASP.NET, not just how to use async on ASP.NET.

I have some concerns using async actions in ASP.NET MVC. When it improves performance of my apps, and when - not.

First, understand that async/await is all about freeing up threads. On GUI applications, it's mainly about freeing up the GUI thread so the user experience is better. On server applications (including ASP.NET MVC), it's mainly about freeing up the request thread so the server can scale.

In particular, it won't:

  • Make your individual requests complete faster. In fact, they will complete (just a teensy bit) slower.
  • Return to the caller/browser when you hit an await. await only "yields" to the ASP.NET thread pool, not to the browser.

First question is - is it good to use async action everywhere in ASP.NET MVC?

I'd say it's good to use it everywhere you're doing I/O. It may not necessarily be beneficial, though (see below).

However, it's bad to use it for CPU-bound methods. Sometimes devs think they can get the benefits of async by just calling Task.Run in their controllers, and this is a horrible idea. Because that code ends up freeing up the request thread by taking up another thread, so there's no benefit at all (and in fact, they're taking the penalty of extra thread switches)!

Shall I use async/await keywords when I want to query database (via EF/NHibernate/other ORM)?

You could use whatever awaitable methods you have available. Right now most of the major players support async, but there are a few that don't. If your ORM doesn't support async, then don't try to wrap it in Task.Run or anything like that (see above).

Note that I said "you could use". If you're talking about ASP.NET MVC with a single database backend, then you're (almost certainly) not going to get any scalability benefit from async. This is because IIS can handle far more concurrent requests than a single instance of SQL server (or other classic RDBMS). However, if your backend is more modern - a SQL server cluster, Azure SQL, NoSQL, etc - and your backend can scale, and your scalability bottleneck is IIS, then you can get a scalability benefit from async.

Third question - How many times I can use await keywords to query database asynchronously in ONE single action method?

As many as you like. However, note that many ORMs have a one-operation-per-connection rule. In particular, EF only allows a single operation per DbContext; this is true whether the operation is synchronous or asynchronous.

Also, keep in mind the scalability of your backend again. If you're hitting a single instance of SQL Server, and your IIS is already capable of keeping SQLServer at full capacity, then doubling or tripling the pressure on SQLServer is not going to help you at all.

Question

I have some concerns using async actions in ASP.NET MVC. When does it improve performance of my apps, and when does it not?

  1. Is it good to use async action everywhere in ASP.NET MVC?
  2. Regarding awaitable methods: shall I use async/await keywords when I want to query a database (via EF/NHibernate/other ORM)?
  3. How many times can I use await keywords to query the database asynchronously in one single action method?



As you know, MVC supports asynchronous controllers and you should take advantage of it. In case your Controller, performs a lengthy operation, (it might be a disk based I/o or a network call to another remote service), if the request is handled in synchronous manner, the IIS thread is busy the whole time. As a result, the thread is just waiting for the lengthy operation to complete. It can be better utilized by serving other requests while the operation requested in first is under progress. This will help in serving more concurrent requests. Your webservice will be highly scalable and will not easily run into C10k problem. It is a good idea to use async/await for db queries. and yes you can use them as many number of times as you deem fit.

Take a look here for excellent advise.




async actions help best when the actions does some I\O operations to DB or some network bound calls where the thread that processes the request will be stalled before it gets answer from the DB or network bound call which you just invoked. It's best you use await with them and it will really improve the responsiveness of your application (because less ASP input\output threads will be stalled while waiting for the DB or any other operation like that). In all my applications whenever many calls to DB very necessary I've always wrapped them in awaiatable method and called that with await keyword.