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Algorithm::TokenBucket - Token bucket rate limiting algorithm


    use Algorithm::TokenBucket;

    # configure a bucket to limit a stream up to 100 items per hour
    # with bursts of 5 items max
    my $bucket = Algorithm::TokenBucket->new(100 / 3600, 5);

    # wait until we are allowed to process 3 items
    until ($bucket->conform(3)) {
        sleep 0.1;
        # do things

    # process 3 items because we now can

    # leak (flush) bucket
    $bucket->count(3);  # same as $bucket->count(1) for 1..3;

    if ($bucket->conform(10)) {
        # because a bucket with the burst size of 5
        # will never conform to 10

    my $time = Time::HiRes::time;
    while (Time::HiRes::time - $time < 7200) {  # two hours
        # be bursty
        if ($bucket->conform(5)) {
    # we're likely to have processed 200 items (and hogged CPU)

    Storable::store $bucket, 'bucket.stored';
    my $bucket1 =


The Token Bucket algorithm is a flexible way of imposing a rate limit against a stream of items. It is also very easy to combine several rate-limiters in an AND or OR fashion.

Each bucket has a constant memory footprint because the algorithm is based on the information rate. Other rate limiters may keep track of ALL incoming items in memory. It allows them to be more accurate.

FYI, the conform, count, information rate, and burst size terms are taken from the metering primitives page of the Linux Traffic Control - Next Generation system documentation.




The constructor requires at least the rate of information in items per second and the burst size in items as its input parameters. It can also take the current token counter and last check time but this usage is mostly intended for restoring a saved bucket. See "state()".


Returns the state of the bucket as a list. Use it for storing purposes. Buckets also natively support freezing and thawing with Storable by providing STORABLE_* callbacks.


This method returns true if the bucket contains at least N tokens and false otherwise. In the case that it is true, it is allowed to transmit or process N items (not exactly right because N can be fractional) from the stream. A bucket never conforms to an N greater than burst size.


This method removes N (or all if there are fewer than N available) tokens from the bucket. It does not return a meaningful value.


This method returns the number of seconds until N tokens can be removed from the bucket. It is especially useful in multitasking environments like POE where you cannot busy-wait. One can safely schedule the next conform($N) check in until($N) seconds instead of checking repeatedly.

Note that until() does not take into account burst size. This means that a bucket will not conform to N even after sleeping for until($N) seconds if N is greater than burst size.


Returns the current number of tokens in the bucket. This method may be useful for inspection or debugging purposes. You should not examine the state of the bucket for rate limiting purposes.

This number will frequently be fractional so it is not exactly a "count".


Imagine a rate limiter for a mail sending application. We would like to allow 2 mails per minute but no more than 20 mails per hour.

    my $rl1 = Algorithm::TokenBucket->new(2/60, 1);
    my $rl2 = Algorithm::TokenBucket->new(20/3600, 10);
        # "bursts" of 10 to ease the lag but $rl1 enforces
        # 2 per minute, so it won't flood

    while (my $mail = get_next_mail) {
        until ($rl1->conform(1) && $rl2->conform(1)) {

        $rl1->count(1); $rl2->count(1);

Now, let's fix the CPU-hogging example from "SYNOPSIS" using the "until($)" method.

    my $bucket = Algorithm::TokenBucket->new(100 / 3600, 5);
    my $time = Time::HiRes::time;
    while (Time::HiRes::time - $time < 7200) {  # two hours
        # be bursty
        Time::HiRes::sleep $bucket->until(5);
        if ($bucket->conform(5)) {  # should always be true
    # we're likely to have processed 200 items (without hogging the CPU)


Documentation lacks the actual algorithm description. See links or read the source (there are about 20 lines of sparse Perl in several subs).

until($N) does not return infinity if $N is greater than burst size. Sleeping for infinity seconds is both useless and hard to debug.


Yuval Kogman contributed the "until($)" method, proper Storable support and other things.

Alexey Shrub contributed the "get_token_count()" method.

Paul Cochrane contributed various documentation and infrastructure fixes.


This software is copyright (C) 2016 by Alex Kapranoff.

This is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms GNU General Public License version 3.


Alex Kapranoff, <>