Tips / techniques for high-performance C# server sockets

I have a .NET 2.0 server that seems to be running into scaling problems, probably due to poor design of the socket-handling code, and I am looking for guidance on how I might redesign it to improve performance.

Usage scenario: 50 - 150 clients, high rate (up to 100s / second) of small messages (10s of bytes each) to / from each client. Client connections are long-lived - typically hours. (The server is part of a trading system. The client messages are aggregated into groups to send to an exchange over a smaller number of 'outbound' socket connections, and acknowledgment messages are sent back to the clients as each group is processed by the exchange.) OS is Windows Server 2003, hardware is 2 x 4-core X5355.

Current client socket design: A TcpListener spawns a thread to read each client socket as clients connect. The threads block on Socket.Receive, parsing incoming messages and inserting them into a set of queues for processing by the core server logic. Acknowledgment messages are sent back out over the client sockets using async Socket.BeginSend calls from the threads that talk to the exchange side.

Observed problems: As the client count has grown (now 60-70), we have started to see intermittent delays of up to 100s of milliseconds while sending and receiving data to/from the clients. (We log timestamps for each acknowledgment message, and we can see occasional long gaps in the timestamp sequence for bunches of acks from the same group that normally go out in a few ms total.)

Overall system CPU usage is low (< 10%), there is plenty of free RAM, and the core logic and the outbound (exchange-facing) side are performing fine, so the problem seems to be isolated to the client-facing socket code. There is ample network bandwidth between the server and clients (gigabit LAN), and we have ruled out network or hardware-layer problems.

Any suggestions or pointers to useful resources would be greatly appreciated. If anyone has any diagnostic or debugging tips for figuring out exactly what is going wrong, those would be great as well.

Note: I have the MSDN Magazine article Winsock: Get Closer to the Wire with High-Performance Sockets in .NET, and I have glanced at the Kodart "XF.Server" component - it looks sketchy at best.


A lot of this has to do with many threads running on your system and the kernel giving each of them a time slice. The design is simple, but does not scale well.

You probably should look at using Socket.BeginReceive which will execute on the .net thread pools (you can specify somehow the number of threads it uses), and then pushing onto a queue from the asynchronous callback ( which can be running in any of the .NET threads ). This should give you much higher performance.

Socket I/O performance has improved in .NET 3.5 environment. You can use ReceiveAsync/SendAsync instead of BeginReceive/BeginSend for better performance. Chech this out:

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