Meaning of Asynchronous Programming - When to Use It and When Not to Use it - Asynchronous Programming Best Use Cases and Practices

Written by: Destiny Idika

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Published 3 Years Ago On Thursday, September 2, 2021
Updated 3 Years Ago On Friday, November 12, 2021

Asynchronous programming can be seen as a form of parallel programming that allows a unit of work to run separately from the primary application thread. When the unit of work is complete, it notifies the main thread whether the work was completed or failed. There are numerous benefits of using this technique such as improved application performance and enhanced responsiveness.

But, like all things in the world of programming, it’s not something that you should use in every instance; in fact, there are some situations in which you should avoid it. Asynchronous programming has actually been around for a very long time, but in recent years, it’s become more widely used especially since the invention of Node.js

So therefore, in this article, I set out some of the best use cases for asynchronous programming calls as well as situations in which it should be completely avoided. I searched for insights and reached out to some good programmers and developers and asked them to give insights on

Some examples of situations where asynchronous programming can be used and situations where it should be avoided.
Here are my findings:

1. There are numerous benefits that follows Asynchronous programming also known as parallel programming but can be overly used at times. One case I feel programmers may not need to use async calls is for simple and basic computations. There’re absolutely no real performance benefits of using async for these types of calculations. Another situation when async may not be useful is when you have a single database server that is not utilizing connection pooling. In this scenario, If all requests hit the same database using a long running connection, it won’t make a difference if the calls are asynchronous or synchronous. This is because the bottleneck will be on the database server and not on the application.

2. Basically you can not use Asynchronous programming when

  1. You are aiming for simplicity rather than efficiency.
  2. You are looking to run simple or short running operations.
  3. When you are performing very basic compution or very light database queries

Using Asynchronous programming in the above situation will not provide any benefit and actually will result in more overhead on operations that are primarily CPU operations instead of those that involve network or disk overhead.

3. The difference between asynchronous and concurrent programming. At a very simplified form, asynchronous is the ability to do something while waiting for something else to complete (example, installing an application and at the same time the application will be running configurations on the operating system, this is in contrast to Concurrent programming where one event finishes before starting another event). and concurrent programming is the ability to compute multiple things at the same time.

With the explosion in popularity of Node.js; which features an asynchronous environment, programmers are increasingly using asynchronous programming in situations where it offers no benefits.

4. Asynchrony is essential for activities that are potentially blocking, such as when your application accesses the web; Access to a web resource sometimes is slow or delayed. If such an activity is blocked within a synchronous process, the entire application must wait. In an asynchronous process, the application can continue with other work that doesn’t depend on the web resource until the potentially blocking task finishes.

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