AnswerWhat does this code print?

time to read 2 min | 366 words

I asked the following question, about code that uses AsyncLocal as well as async calls. Here is the code again:

This code prints False twice, the question is why. I would expect that the AsyncLocal value to remain the same after the call to Start(), since that is obviously the point of AsyncLocal. It turns out that this isn’t the case.

AsyncLocal is good if you are trying to pass a value down to child tasks, but it won’t be applicable to other tasks that are called in the same level. In other words, it works for children, not siblings tasks. This is actually even more surprising in the code above, since we don’t do any awaits in the Start() method.

The question is why? Looking at the documentation, I couldn’t see any reason for that. Digging deeper into the source code, I figured out what is going on.

We can use to lower the high level C# code to see what is actually going on here, which gives us the following code for the Start() method:

Note that we call to AsyncTaskMethodBuilder.Start() method, which ends up in AsyncMethodBuilderCore.Start(). There we have a bunch of interesting code, in particular, we remember the current thread execution context before we execute user code, here. After the code is done running, we restore it if this is needed, as you can see here.

That looks fine, but why would the execution context change here? It turns out that one of the few places that interact with it is the AsyncValue itself, which ends up in the ExecutionContext.SetLocalValue. The way it works, each time you set an async local, it creates a new layer in the async stack. And when you exit an async call, it will reset the async stack to the place it was before the async call started.

In other words, the local in the name AsyncLocal isn’t a match to ThreadLocal, but is more similar to a local variable, which goes out of scope on function exit.

This isn’t a new thing, and there are workarounds, but it was interesting enough that I decided to dig deep and understand what is actually going on.

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  3. (07 Apr 2022) Why is this code broken?
  4. (20 Jan 2017) What does this code do?
  5. (16 Aug 2011) Modifying execution approaches
  6. (30 Apr 2011) Stopping the leaks
  7. (24 Dec 2010) This code should never hit production
  8. (21 Dec 2010) Your own ThreadLocal
  9. (11 Feb 2010) Debugging a resource leak
  10. (03 Sep 2009) The lazy loaded inheritance many to one association OR/M conundrum
  11. (04 Sep 2008) Don't stop with the first DSL abstraction
  12. (12 Jun 2008) How many tests?