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MSMQ Backed FIFO Queue

By , 1 Dec 2010
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I recently ran into a problem where I needed to store a collection of objects in a queue for quick access. This turned out to be a problem when I started storing a large number of these objects, which themselves had a decent size, in memory. I was seeing OutOfMemoryExceptions and other odd behavior resulting from the overloading of my system's memory.

The OverFlowQueue<T> is a direct result of needing a FIFO queue that would not blow my system's memory away when flooded with objects. Using MSMQ as a back-end to the standard .NET generic queue successfully mitigates the memory issue with acceptable performance decreases.

That being said, I am sure that there are improvements I can make to this class, and I am welcoming all feedback!

Using the Code

The sample project included here has several classes in it, of which I am only going to discuss OverflowQueue<T>, but feel free to use the other classes which contain methods to create/modify MSMQ queues, retrieve typed app.config values, and other utility methods.

The OverflowQueue<T> class itself must be created using a serializable type. This is mandated by the binary formatter that is being used to pack and unpack items from MSMQ.

OverflowQueue<T> has one constructor that takes two parameters:

public OverflowQueue(string queueName, bool useBackgroundMsmqPull)

The first parameter, queueName, is the name of the MSMQ queue that should be created and used for the overflow from the in-memory queue.

The second parameter, useBackgroundMsmqPull, defines whether or not the operation of pulling from MSMQ to repopulate the in-memory queue is done on the calling thread (on the call to Dequeue()) or on a background thread that runs every second. For performance reasons, I have this value set to true so that the pull from MSMQ happens on a secondary thread and does not hold up my dequeue operation. The pull from MSMQ looks like this:

void PullFromMSMQ()
    // We've been putting all new messages into MSMQ... 
    // Now is the time to get them out and put them back into memory.
    while (Interlocked.Read(ref currentMSMQSize) > 0 
        && Interlocked.Read(ref currentQueueSize) < maxInternalQueueSize)
        Message message = overflowMSMQ.Receive();

        // decrement the MSMQ size
        Interlocked.Decrement(ref currentMSMQSize);

        T item = message.Body as T;


    if (Interlocked.Read(ref currentMSMQSize) <= 0)
        // lock to prevent incorrect count when turning off msmq pushing
        lock (msmqLock) 
            if (Interlocked.Read(ref currentMSMQSize) <= 0)
                pushingToMSMQ = false;

So, you can see why I am using a background thread to pull from MSMQ... My application has a good amount of processing on the dequeue, so it works better for me to have the background thread pull from MSMQ, but this might not be the same for everyone.

The rest of the OverflowQueue<T> class is fairly easy to use; there are the following functions that allow you to enqueue or dequeue messages:

public void Enqueue(T item) {...}
public T Dequeue() {...} 

Both of these functions will transparently use the overflow MSMQ queue to enqueue or dequeue messages, which you can see if you download the source code.

Points of Interest

My goal in creating this class was to create a utility that transparently incorporated the MSMQ back-end for my queue. All functionality dealing with the creation and use of the underlying MSMQ is encapsulated in the OverflowQueue<T> class itself.

There are only two prerequisites to using this class:

  1. The user must have MSMQ installed
  2. The type <T> in OverflowQueue<T> must be serializable


This is the first revision of the OverflowQueue<T> class.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

About the Author

Aron Weiler
Technical Lead CareFusion
United States United States
I just looooove software.
Check out my technical blog here: The Fyslexic Duck. You can find most of what I've put on CodeProject there, plus some additional technical articles.

Comments and Discussions

QuestionRemoteQueuePathUri PinmemberMarc Leger12-Jul-11 12:15 
AnswerRe: RemoteQueuePathUri PinmemberAron Weiler12-Jul-11 13:04 
GeneralRe: RemoteQueuePathUri PinmemberMarc Leger13-Jul-11 7:49 
GeneralRe: RemoteQueuePathUri PinmemberAron Weiler13-Jul-11 18:11 
Questionwant to read msmq message fast continously Please help me PinmemberAmit kumar pathak28-Mar-11 2:45 
AnswerRe: want to read msmq message fast continously Please help me PinmemberAron Weiler28-Mar-11 10:48 
GeneralFor this code and more... PinmemberAron Weiler25-Feb-11 7:01 
Generalnice PinmemberPranay Rana30-Dec-10 16:53 
GeneralNice integration of new and old technologies! Pinmemberxzz01951-Dec-10 20:25 
GeneralRe: Nice integration of new and old technologies! PinmemberAron Weiler3-Dec-10 11:01 

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