Skip to content
This package enables .NET projects to use atomic primitives.
C# PowerShell
Branch: master
Clone or download
Type Name Latest commit message Commit time
Failed to load latest commit information.
Documentation Docs and README update Aug 14, 2016
NuGet NuGet spec update Aug 24, 2015

Build status NuGet

This package enables .NET projects to use atomic primitives.

Design and implementation

Project aims to be very close to C++ 11 standard atomics by design and usage. For example, the memory order semantics is supported.

Although the library is a PCL itself, the minimum required version of .NET is 4.5. It is possible to compile and use for .NET 4.0 and earlier. ARM-related stuff (volatile reads with proper memory barriers usages, etc.) will be present by using ARM_CPU directive (see docs).

The default memory order semantics for the library's primitives (like Atomic<T>, etc.) is MemoryOrder.SeqCst, whereas AtomicReference<T> uses MemoryOrder.AcqRel, which fits very well with CAS approach and CLR 2.0 memory model.

The option for sequential consistency (i.e. SeqCst) is implemented by using intrinsic functions (with compilation to proper CPU instruction) or a combination of Acquire/Release with sequential order emulation through exclusion locks, when atomic reads/writes to particular POD are not supported by HW.

Atomic primitives

  • Atomic<T>
  • AtomicReference<T>
  • AtomicInteger
  • AtomicLong
  • AtomicBoolean
  • AtomicReferenceArray
  • AtomicIntegerArray
  • AtomicLongArray

Supported types and operations

Reads/writes operations for reference types are provided by AtomicReference<T>. The Atomic<T> type should be used for structs (i.e. value types), including (char, byte, etc.).

AtomicInteger and AtomicLong types have support for +, -, *, /, ++, -- operators with atomicity guarantees.

All primitives implement the implicit conversion operator overload with atomic access.

Integers ranging from 8 to 64 bits are supported as well as unsigned ones.

False Sharing

AtomicInteger and AtomicLong types has support for memory alignment alongside modern CPU's cache lines. Use flag align in constructors of either Atomic<T>, AtomicInteger, AtomicLong or AtomicBoolean. Only specializations of Atomic<T> with Int32, Int64 and Boolean have effect.

Sample usage

Here is the basic setup and usage of atomic primitives.

using System;

class Counter
    private AtomicInteger _value;
    private readonly bool _isReadOnly;
    public Counter(int initialValue = 0, bool isReadOnly = false)
         * _value = new AtomicInteger(align: true)
         * for false sharing prevention, otherwise as shown below
        _value = initialValue;
        _isReadOnly = isReadOnly;
    public void Increment(int value)
        if (!_isReadOnly)
    public void PrintCounter()
        Console.WriteLine(_value); // Console.WriteLine(int) overload will be used

Notes for usage

Atomic<T> with Int32, Int64 and Boolean specialization fallbacks to AtomicInteger, AtomicLong and AtomicBoolean usage as internal storage respectively.

The memory ordering flag as well as alignment transfers to internal storage.

Lock-free stack 101

It is very straightforward to implement lock-free stack:

public class AtomicStack<T>
    private AtomicReference<StackNode<T>> _headNode = new AtomicReference<StackNode<T>>();

    public void Push(T item)
        _headNode.Set((stackNode, data) =>
            StackNode<T> node = new StackNode<T>(data);
            node._next = stackNode;

            return node;
        }, item);

    public T Pop()
        if (IsEmpty)
            throw new InvalidOperationException();

        return _headNode.Set(stackNode => stackNode._next)._value;

    public bool IsEmpty
        get { return _headNode.Load(MemoryOrder.Acquire) == null; }

    class StackNode<T>
        internal T _value;
        internal StackNode<T> _next;
        internal StackNode(T val) { _value = val; }

and usage:

AtomicStack<int> stack = new AtomicStack<int>();

Parallel.For(0, 100000, stack.Push);

var thread = new Thread(() => Parallel.For(0, 50000, index => stack.Pop()));
thread.IsBackground = true;

int i = 0;
while (!stack.IsEmpty)

Console.WriteLine("Pushed: {0};", i); // should print 50000

For more details about AtomicStack<T> example above, please refer docs.

CAS notes

Usually compare-and-swap (CAS) is used in lock-free algorithms to maintain thread-safety, while avoiding locks. Especially often the compare_exchange_weak variation is used. Provided by the .NET Framework Interlocked.CompareExchange method is the C++ compare_and_exchange_strong analog. The compare_exchange_weak is not supported.

Current implementation of uses CAS approach for lock-free atomic operations (the Atomic<T>.Value property uses CAS for setter in Acquire/Release mode.


Feel free to fork and create pull-requests if you have any kind of enhancements and/or bug fixes.


Package's page

Command: PM> Install-Package System.Threading.Atomics

License is licensed under the BSD license.

You can’t perform that action at this time.