What is immutability?

An immutable data structure can not be modified once it has been created. DateTime and String are types of which all instances are immutable. Methods like ToUpper() and AddDays() never mutate the object itself, instead they return new instances representing the new values.

One benefit of immutable data structures is that they are safe to read from any number of concurrent threads without the need for synchronization. By applying this principle to the entire OrigoDB in-memory model, some performance benefits can be achieved. Most importantly, commands will not block queries and queries will not block commands.

A command takes the current state of the model as input and returns a new model which becomes the new current state. The engine will perform an atomic replace of the current state when the command is completed.


In the figure, time flows from left to right. Commands are red, queries are green. Commands can only execute one at a time but they do not need an exclusive lock on the model. Queries can be started at any time and will take the most recent state as input and keep a reference to it for the duration of the query. So queries are not blocked by, and won’t block commands.

Because everything is immutable, it’s also safe to return direct references to any objects within the model. By default, command and query results are cloned using serialization, which guarantees isolation but costs time and CPU, often much more than executing the domain logic itself.


Here’s an example immutable collection type. Notice how the AddTask() method returns a new instance of TodoModel and that the underlying array is never modified. Notice also how the Tasks() method creates a new array. Returning a direct reference to _tasks would allow the content to be modified. Finally, note that both _tasks and the returned array reference the same underlying string objects. But since strings are immutable, this is completely safe.

public class TodoModel : Model
  private String[] tasks = {};

  public TodoModel AddTask(string task)
    var newState = new TodoModel();
    var temp = tasks.ToList();
    newState.tasks  = temp.ToArray();
    return newState;

  public IEnumerable<String> Tasks()
    return tasks.ToArray();

Immutable entity classes

Here’s another example immutable type, this time an entity class. Note again that there is no way to change the state of a Task once it has been instantiated.

public class Task
  public readonly string Title;
  public readonly DateTime? Completed;

  public Task(string title, DateTime? completed = null)
    Title = title;
    Completed = completed;

  public Task Complete(DateTime completed)
    return new Task(Title, completed);

The Microsoft.Bcl.Immutable collections

Microsoft has released a set of immutable collection classes available on Nuget including implementations of Dictionary, List, Queue, Stack and Set. The library requires NET 4.5.

The MS collections are not serializable. It is necessary to write custom serialization code for the model by implementing ISerializable.

Immutable commands

Commands return a new model and must not change the current model. Derive commands from ImmutableCommand<TModel> or ImmutableCommand<TModel, TResult> and override either of:

  • public abstract void Execute(TModel model, out TModel result)
  • public abstract TResult Execute(TModel model, out TModel nextModel)
public class AddTaskCommand : ImmutableCommand<TodoModel>
  public readonly string Task;

  public AddTaskCommand(string task)
    Task = task;

  public override void Execute(TodoModel model, out TodoModel next)
    next = model.AddTask(task);


The engine needs to be configured to use the ImmutabilityKernel and optionally with lock free concurrency.

var config = new EngineConfiguration();
config.Kernel = Kernels.Immutability;
config.Synchronization = SynchronizationMode.None;

// or to get both settings
var config = new EngineConfiguration().WithImmutability();

//pass config when creating engine
var engine = Engine.For<TodoModel>(config);

//execute commands as usual
engine.Execute(new AddTaskCommand("500 backhand volley drop shots"));

Proxy not supported

Immutability does not yet work with the proxy feature.


See a complete example in the Examples.Immutability repository, available on the download page.