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Build a concurrency limiter

ksankar profile image Kailash Sankar ・2 min read

Like memoizer and auto-completer, building a concurrency limiter is another interesting interview question.

Assume you have a function that does an async action like calling an API and you want to make sure that it's only run at most x times in parallel. The goal here is to write a function that can add this concurrency limiting capability to any such async function.

Let's start with a test case first

// mock api, resolves after 1 second
function api(params) {
  return new Promise((resolve, reject) => {
      const res = JSON.stringify(params);
      resolve(`Done: ${res}`);
    }, 1000);

// accepts function and a limit to apply on it
function concurrencyLimiter(fn, limit) {
 // TODO
 return fn;

// tests
function test() {
  const testApi = concurrencyLimiter(api, 3);

  // for logging response
  const onSuccess = (res) => console.log(`response ${res}`);
  const onError = (res) => console.log(`error ${res}`);

  // multiple calls to our rate limited function
  testApi('B').then((res) => {

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The log will look like this, prints A to E together after one second, and then a second later prints B.1

response Done: "A"
response Done: "B"
response Done: "C"
response Done: "D"
response Done: "E"
response Done: "B.1"
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After implementing the concurrency limiting function, we'll see A to C after one second, a second later D to B.1

Breaking down the requirement, we need

  • counter to track the number of active calls
  • queue for managing calls
  • wrap the original call with a then and catch which will dispatch the next in the queue
  • return a promise to keep contract the same
function concurrencyLimiter(fn, limit) {
  let activeCalls = 0;
  const callQueue = [];

  // decrement count and trigger next call
  const next = () => {

  // add function to queue
  const addToQueue = (params, resolve, reject) => {
    callQueue.push(() => {
      // dispatch next in queue on success or on error
      fn(...params).then((res)=> {
      }).catch((err) => {

  // if within limit trigger next from queue
  const dispatch = () => {
    if(activeCalls < limit) {
      const action = callQueue.shift();
      if (action) {

  // adds function call to queue
  // calls dispatch to process queue
  return (...params) => {
    const res = new Promise((resolve, reject)=> {
      addToQueue(params, resolve, reject);
    return res;
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Rerun the test, and you'll notice the difference in timing. Change concurrency limit to 1 and you will see only one message per second in the log.

Modify the test to see how exceptions are handled

// generate random number within limits
const getRandomNumber = (min = 1, max = 10) =>
 Math.floor(Math.random() * (max - min) + min);

// in the mock api, update promise to reject random calls
      const res = JSON.stringify(params);
      if(getRandomNumber() <= 5) {
        reject(`Something went wrong: ${res}`);
      resolve(`Done: ${res}`);
    }, 1000);

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This test will verify that promise rejections or exceptions don't break the concurrency limiter from dispatching the next action.

That's all folks :)


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