Dylan Reisenberger edited this page Jul 21, 2018 · 23 revisions

Timeout policy (v5.0 onwards)


To ensure the caller never has to wait beyond the configured timeout.

To enforce a timeout on actions having no in-built timeout.

Premise: 'Don't wait forever'

Waiting forever (having no timeout) is a bad design strategy: it specifically leads to the blocking up of threads or connections (itself often a cause of further failure), during a faulting scenario.

Beyond a certain wait, success is unlikely.


TimeoutPolicy timeoutPolicy = Policy
  .Timeout([int|TimeSpan|Func<TimeSpan> timeout]
           [, TimeoutStrategy.Optimistic|Pessimistic]
           [, Action<Context, TimeSpan, Task> onTimeout])

TimeoutPolicy timeoutPolicy = Policy
  .TimeoutAsync([int|TimeSpan|Func<TimeSpan> timeout]
                [, TimeoutStrategy.Optimistic|Pessimistic]
                [, Func<Context, TimeSpan, Task, Task> onTimeoutAsync])


  • timeout: the time after which the execute delegate or func should be abandoned. Can be specified as an int (number of seconds), TimeSpan, or func returning a TimeSpan
  • timeoutStrategy (optional): whether to time out optimistically or pessimistically (see below)
  • onTimeout/Async (optional): an action to run when the policy times-out an executed delegate or func. The action is run before the TimeoutRejectedException (see below) is thrown.


  • TimeoutRejectedException, when an execution is abandoned due to timeout.


TimeoutPolicy supports optimistic and pessimistic timeout.

Optimistic timeout

TimeoutStrategy.Optimistic assumes delegates you execute support co-operative cancellation (ie honor CancellationTokens).

The policy combines a timing-out CancellationToken into any passed-in CancellationToken, and uses the fact that the executed delegate honors cancellation to achieve the timeout. You must use Execute/Async(...) (or similar) overloads taking a CancellationToken, and the executed delegate must honor that token:

Policy timeoutPolicy = Policy.TimeoutAsync(30, TimeoutStrategy.Optimistic);
HttpResponseMessage httpResponse = await _timeoutPolicy
        async ct => await httpClient.GetAsync(requestEndpoint, ct), // Execute a delegate which responds to a CancellationToken input parameter.
        CancellationToken.None // CancellationToken.None here indicates you have no independent cancellation control you wish to add to the cancellation provided by TimeoutPolicy.

You can also combine your own CancellationToken (perhaps to carry independent cancellation signalled by the user). For example:

CancellationTokenSource userCancellationSource = new CancellationTokenSource();
// userCancellationSource perhaps hooked up to the user clicking a 'cancel' button, or other independent cancellation

Policy timeoutPolicy = Policy.TimeoutAsync(30, TimeoutStrategy.Optimistic);

HttpResponseMessage httpResponse = await _timeoutPolicy
        async ct => await httpClient.GetAsync(requestEndpoint, ct), 
    // GetAsync(...) will be cancelled when either the timeout occurs, or userCancellationSource is signalled.

We recommend using optimistic timeout wherever possible, as it consumes less resource. Optimistic timeout is the default.

Pessimistic timeout

TimeoutStrategy.Pessimistic recognises that there are cases where you need to execute delegates which have no in-built timeout, and do not honor cancellation.

TimeoutStrategy.Pessimistic is designed to allow you nonetheless to enforce a timeout in these cases, guaranteeing still returning to the caller on timeout.

What is meant by timeout in this case is that the caller 'walks away': stops waiting for the underlying delegate to complete. The underlying delegate is not magically cancelled - see What happens to the timed-out delegate? below.

Additional notes: Pessimistic timeout for sync executions

For synchronous executions, the ability of the calling thread to 'walk away' comes at a cost: the policy will execute the user delegate as a Task on a ThreadPool thread.

Additional notes: Pessimistic timeout for async executions

For asynchronous executions, the extra resource cost is marginal: no extra threads or executing Tasks involved.

Note that pessimistic timeout for async executions will not timeout purely synchronous delegates. It expects that the executed async code conforms to the standard async pattern, returning a Task representing the continuing execution of that async work (for example when the executed delegate hits an internal await statement).

What happens to the timed-out delegate?

A key question with any timeout policy is what to do with the abandoned (timed-out) task.

Pessimistic timeout

Polly will not risk the state of your application by unilaterally terminating threads. Instead, for pessimistic executions, TimeoutPolicy captures and passes the abandoned execution to you as the Task parameter of the onTimeout/onTimeoutAsync delegate.

This prevents these tasks disappearing into the ether (remember, with pessimistic executions, we are talking by definition about delegates over which we expect to have no control by cancellation token: they will continue their happy way until they either belatedly complete or fault).

The task property of onTimeout/Async allows you to clean up gracefully even after these otherwise ungovernable calls. You can dispose resources, carry out other clean-up, and capture any exception the timed-out task may eventually raise (important, to prevent these manifesting as UnobservedTaskExceptions):

Policy.Timeout(30, TimeoutStrategy.Pessimistic, (context, timespan, task) => 
        task.ContinueWith(t => { // ContinueWith important!: the abandoned task may very well still be executing, when the caller times out on waiting for it! 

            if (t.IsFaulted) 
                logger.Error($"{context.PolicyKey} at {context.ExecutionKey}: execution timed out after {timespan.TotalSeconds} seconds, eventually terminated with: {t.Exception}.");
            else if (t.IsCanceled)
               // (If the executed delegates do not honour cancellation, this IsCanceled branch may never be hit.  It can be good practice however to include, in case a Policy configured with TimeoutStrategy.Pessimistic is used to execute a delegate honouring cancellation.)  
               logger.Error($"{context.PolicyKey} at {context.ExecutionKey}: execution timed out after {timespan.TotalSeconds} seconds, task cancelled.");
               // extra logic (if desired) for tasks which complete, despite the caller having 'walked away' earlier due to timeout.

            // Additionally, clean up any resources ...


Optimistic timeout

For optimistic executions, it is assumed the CancellationToken will cause clean-up of the abandoned task (so the Task parameter passed to onTimeout/onTimeoutAsync is always null)

Further reading

For a good discussion on walking away from executions you cannot cancel (pessimistic timeout), see Stephen Toub on How do I cancel non-cancelable async operations?.

Configuration recommendations

Every action which could block a thread, or block waiting for a resource or response, should have a timeout. [Michael Nygard: Release It!].

Combining timeout with retries

For a timeout-per-try, place a TimeoutPolicy inside a RetryPolicy with PolicyWrap

For a timeout applying to an operation overall, including any retries (eg: up to N tries, but if the whole operation takes longer than one minute, time out), place a TimeoutPolicy outside a RetryPolicy with PolicyWrap.

For the specific case of applying an overall timeout to all tries where a retry policy is applied as a DelegatingHandler within HttpClient (perhaps configured through HttpClientFactory), note that the HttpClient.Timeout property can provide this overall timeout: see our HttpClientFactory doco for more detail.

Thread safety and policy reuse

Thread safety

The operation of TimeoutPolicy is thread-safe: multiple calls may safely be placed concurrently through a policy instance.

Policy reuse

TimeoutPolicy instances may be re-used across multiple call sites.

When reusing policies, use an ExecutionKey to distinguish different call-site usages within logging and metrics.

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