What's a good rate limiting algorithm?


I could use some pseudo-code, or better, Python. I am trying to implement a rate-limiting queue for a Python IRC bot, and it partially works, but if someone triggers less messages than the limit (e.g., rate limit is 5 messages per 8 seconds, and the person triggers only 4), and the next trigger is over the 8 seconds (e.g., 16 seconds later), the bot sends the message, but the queue becomes full and the bot waits 8 seconds, even though it's not needed since the 8 second period has lapsed.

3/20/2009 10:51:11 PM

Accepted Answer

Here the simplest algorithm, if you want just to drop messages when they arrive too quickly (instead of queuing them, which makes sense because the queue might get arbitrarily large):

rate = 5.0; // unit: messages
per  = 8.0; // unit: seconds
allowance = rate; // unit: messages
last_check = now(); // floating-point, e.g. usec accuracy. Unit: seconds

when (message_received):
  current = now();
  time_passed = current - last_check;
  last_check = current;
  allowance += time_passed * (rate / per);
  if (allowance > rate):
    allowance = rate; // throttle
  if (allowance < 1.0):
    allowance -= 1.0;

There are no datastructures, timers etc. in this solution and it works cleanly :) To see this, 'allowance' grows at speed 5/8 units per seconds at most, i.e. at most five units per eight seconds. Every message that is forwarded deducts one unit, so you can't send more than five messages per every eight seconds.

Note that rate should be an integer, i.e. without non-zero decimal part, or the algorithm won't work correctly (actual rate will not be rate/per). E.g. rate=0.5; per=1.0; does not work because allowance will never grow to 1.0. But rate=1.0; per=2.0; works fine.

8/5/2016 10:09:34 AM

Use this decorator @RateLimited(ratepersec) before your function that enqueues.

Basically, this checks if 1/rate secs have passed since the last time and if not, waits the remainder of the time, otherwise it doesn't wait. This effectively limits you to rate/sec. The decorator can be applied to any function you want rate-limited.

In your case, if you want a maximum of 5 messages per 8 seconds, use @RateLimited(0.625) before your sendToQueue function.

import time

def RateLimited(maxPerSecond):
    minInterval = 1.0 / float(maxPerSecond)
    def decorate(func):
        lastTimeCalled = [0.0]
        def rateLimitedFunction(*args,**kargs):
            elapsed = time.clock() - lastTimeCalled[0]
            leftToWait = minInterval - elapsed
            if leftToWait>0:
            ret = func(*args,**kargs)
            lastTimeCalled[0] = time.clock()
            return ret
        return rateLimitedFunction
    return decorate

@RateLimited(2)  # 2 per second at most
def PrintNumber(num):
    print num

if __name__ == "__main__":
    print "This should print 1,2,3... at about 2 per second."
    for i in range(1,100):

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