Polly and Bulkhead Pattern in .NET


In the world of software development, building resilient and fault-tolerant applications is crucial. As systems grow in complexity, they become more susceptible to failures and bottlenecks. One way to address these challenges is by employing the Bulkhead Pattern, often in conjunction with a library like Polly, to enhance the reliability and performance of your .NET applications. In this blog post, we will explore what the Bulkhead Pattern is, how to implement it using Polly and provide a practical example.

What is the Bulkhead Pattern?

The Bulkhead Pattern is a design pattern that originates from the maritime industry. In a ship, bulkheads are partitions that divide the hull into multiple compartments. The primary purpose of these compartments is to contain water in case of a breach, preventing the entire ship from sinking. Similarly, in software architecture, the Bulkhead Pattern is used to isolate and protect different parts of an application from failures or excessive resource utilization in other parts.

The key idea behind the Bulkhead Pattern is to create separate execution compartments (or bulkheads) for different components or services within an application. By doing so, you can prevent a failure in one part of the application from cascading and affecting other parts, ultimately improving the overall resilience of the system.

What is Polly?

Polly is a popular resilience and transient-fault-handling library for .NET applications. It provides a simple and intuitive way to implement various resilience patterns, including the Bulkhead Pattern. Polly allows you to define policies for handling exceptions, retries, timeouts, and circuit breaking.

Implementing the Bulkhead Pattern with Polly

To implement the Bulkhead Pattern using Polly, you need to define separate execution policies for different parts of your application that need isolation. These policies can specify how to handle exceptions, timeouts, and concurrency limits for each part. Polly provides the BulkheadPolicy class to facilitate this.

Here are the general steps to implement the Bulkhead Pattern with Polly.

  1. Install Polly: If you haven't already, install the Polly NuGet package in your .NET project. You can do this via NuGet Package Manager or by adding a package reference to your project file.
    Install-Package Polly
  2. Create a Bulkhead Policy: Define a BulkheadPolicy for each component or service that requires isolation. You can configure the concurrency limit, which specifies how many concurrent executions are allowed for that component.

    var bulkheadPolicy = Policy.Bulkhead(10, 30); // Allow up to 10 concurrent executions, with a maximum queue length of 30.
  3. Wrap Your Code: Wrap the code that needs to be protected by the Bulkhead Pattern with the Execute method of your bulkheadPolicy. This ensures that only the specified number of concurrent executions are allowed, preventing resource exhaustion.
    bulkheadPolicy.Execute(() =>
        // Your code that needs to be protected goes here.
  4. Handle Exceptions: You can also handle exceptions that occur within the Bulkhead Policy. This allows you to respond gracefully to failures within the isolated component.

    bulkheadPolicy.Execute(() =>
            // Your code that needs to be protected goes here.
        catch (Exception ex)
            // Handle the exception appropriately.

Practical Example. Using Polly and the Bulkhead Pattern

Let's walk through a practical example of using Polly and the Bulkhead Pattern in a .NET application. Imagine you have a web service that interacts with multiple downstream services to fetch data. You want to isolate each downstream call to prevent one service from overloading the others and causing a system-wide slowdown.

Here's how you can achieve this.

using Polly;

var bulkheadPolicy = Policy.Bulkhead(10, 30);

// Define a method that makes a downstream service call.
void FetchDataFromService(string serviceName)
    bulkheadPolicy.Execute(() =>
        // Simulate a downstream service call.
        // Replace this with your actual code to call the service.
        Console.WriteLine($"Fetching data from {serviceName}");
        Thread.Sleep(1000); // Simulate some work.

// Call multiple downstream services concurrently.
    () => FetchDataFromService("ServiceA"),
    () => FetchDataFromService("ServiceB"),
    () => FetchDataFromService("ServiceC")

Console.WriteLine("All downstream calls completed.");

In this example, we've used Polly's BulkheadPolicy to limit the number of concurrent calls to the downstream services. You can adjust the concurrency limit and queue length according to your application's needs.

By implementing the Bulkhead Pattern with Polly, you can ensure that one misbehaving component won't negatively impact the rest of your application, making your system more resilient and robust.


The Bulkhead Pattern, when implemented with Polly in .NET applications, can significantly enhance your application's resilience and fault tolerance. By isolating different components or services, you can prevent failures from cascading and ensure that your application remains responsive under various conditions.

Remember that the specific configuration of your Bulkhead Policies will depend on your application's requirements and the resources available. Polly provides a flexible and powerful way to implement this pattern, allowing you to fine-tune your resilience strategy for optimal performance and reliability.

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