A New Approach to HttpRuntime.Cache Management
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by David Penton
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Concerns with HttpRuntime.Cache

HttpRuntime.Cache is not as complete as it could be in terms of implementation.

Although the internals of HttpRuntime.Cache do protect the set/get of values within the internal cache structures, it does not help the consumer of the Cache. There are reasonable, highly publicized patterns for setting and getting values. Here is a simple example with comments.

Listing 1

string key = "myCustomObjKey";
// attempt to retrieve the data from the cache
 CustomObj customObj = HttpRuntime.Cache[ key ] as CustomObj;
// now check the local variable
 if ( customObj == null )
     // the object was null.  We need to repopulate it
     customObj = GetCustomObj();
    // place it in the cache
         , customObj
         , null
         , DateTime.Now.AddMinutes( 10 )
         , Cache.NoSlidingExpiration
 // now it is assumed to be set.  We return it to the caller
 return customObj;

This is pretty good because we are only checking the Cache once and working with a local variable (no race condition to deal with).  The data is only repopulated in the cache when there is nothing in the cache (specifically, when the value returned from the cache cannot be converted to the specific object).

In a web environment where you may have many threads trying to retrieve that object, you could have many requests to a page which implement this logic. If the call to retrieve the new data is very quick, then perhaps only one request will repopulate this data. But, there is no guarantee that GetCustomObj() will be called only once while the cache entry is empty. Even if GetCustomObj() only takes 100 milliseconds to return data, there could be numerous requests to repopulate this cache. Now suppose our GetCustomObj() method makes an expensive call, such as to a database. Not only does this method seem to be less efficient, but many resources could be wasted on your database. What is a probable solution to the overused resources?

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