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Home » Bulkhead Pattern vs. Circuit Breaker Pattern: Key Differences in Resilient Design Patterns with Python Code Examples and Explanations

Bulkhead Pattern vs. Circuit Breaker Pattern: Key Differences in Resilient Design Patterns with Python Code Examples and Explanations


In modern software development, ensuring the reliability and resilience of your application is of utmost importance. This is where design patterns like the Bulkhead Pattern and Circuit Breaker Pattern come into play. They are widely used to build fault-tolerant and resilient systems that can withstand failures and provide a high-quality user experience. In this blog post, we’ll explore both patterns in-depth, highlighting their key differences, and provide Python code examples with explanations to illustrate their implementation.

Bulkhead Pattern: The Basics

Inspired by the concept of bulkheads in ship construction, the Bulkhead Pattern is a design principle that aims to isolate different parts of an application to prevent failures from spreading. By dividing the system into multiple partitions, it ensures that a problem in one partition does not cascade into others, providing a higher degree of fault tolerance.

The primary objective of the Bulkhead Pattern is to limit the blast radius of failures, allowing the unaffected components to continue functioning normally. It also helps prevent resource saturation, as each partition has its own dedicated resources, reducing the risk of a single component causing a system-wide failure.

Bulkhead Pattern: Python Code Example and Explanation

In the following example, we’ll use Python’s concurrent.futures library to create a bulkhead that limits the number of concurrent calls to a function:

import concurrent.futures
import time

def process_request(request_id):
    print(f"Processing request {request_id}")
    time.sleep(1)  # Simulate processing
    print(f"Finished processing request {request_id}")

def main():
    max_concurrent_requests = 3
    with concurrent.futures.ThreadPoolExecutor(max_workers=max_concurrent_requests) as executor:
        for i in range(10):
            executor.submit(process_request, i)

if __name__ == "__main__":


  1. We import the necessary libraries, concurrent.futures and time.
  2. We define a function process_request(request_id) to simulate processing a request.
  3. In the main function, we set max_concurrent_requests to 3, limiting the number of concurrent calls to the process_request function.
  4. We create a ThreadPoolExecutor with max_workers=max_concurrent_requests to enforce the concurrency limit.
  5. We submit ten tasks to the executor, which will process them with the limited concurrency.

This example demonstrates how the Bulkhead Pattern can be implemented in Python by limiting the number of concurrent requests to a specific function, isolating the impact of failures, and preventing resource saturation.

Circuit Breaker Pattern: The Basics

The Circuit Breaker Pattern, on the other hand, is designed to prevent a cascading failure by monitoring the interactions between services or components. When it detects a predefined number of failures or timeouts, the circuit breaker “trips” and temporarily blocks any further calls to the failing service, allowing it to recover.

The Circuit Breaker Pattern also enables a fallback mechanism, which can provide alternative functionality or a graceful degradation of service when a component is unreachable. Once the failing service recovers, the circuit breaker resets and allows requests to flow through again.

Circuit Breaker Pattern: Python Code Example and Explanation

In this example, we’ll use the circuitbreaker library in Python to implement a simple circuit breaker:

import requests
from circuitbreaker import circuit_breaker

@circuit_breaker(max_failure_to_open=3, reset_timeout=10)
def call_api():
    response = requests.get("")
    if response.status_code != 200:
        raise Exception("API call failed")
return response.json()

def fallback():
    return {"data": "Fallback data"}

def main():
    for i in range(10):
        data = call_api()
      except Exception:
        data = fallback()

if name == "main":


  1. We import the necessary libraries, requests and circuitbreaker.
  2. We define a function call_api() to simulate calling an external API.
  3. We use the @circuit_breaker decorator with a max_failure_to_open value of 3 and a reset_timeout value of 10 seconds to create a circuit breaker around the call_api() function. This means that if the function fails three times in a row, the circuit breaker will open, and any further calls to call_api() will be blocked for 10 seconds.
  4. We define a fallback() function to provide alternative data when the circuit breaker is open.
  5. In the main function, we iterate through a loop 10 times, calling call_api() and printing the result. If the circuit breaker is open and an exception is raised, we call the fallback() function and print the fallback data instead.

This example demonstrates how the Circuit Breaker Pattern can be implemented in Python by monitoring the interaction with an external API and providing a fallback mechanism in case of failures, preventing cascading failures and enabling graceful degradation.

Key Differences Between Bulkhead and Circuit Breaker Patterns

  1. Isolation vs. Monitoring: The Bulkhead Pattern focuses on isolating different parts of an application to prevent failures from spreading, whereas the Circuit Breaker Pattern monitors the interaction between services or components to detect failures and limit their impact.
  2. Resource Saturation: The Bulkhead Pattern helps prevent resource saturation by allocating dedicated resources to each partition. The Circuit Breaker Pattern doesn’t directly address resource saturation but prevents cascading failures by stopping calls to the failing service.
  3. Fallback Mechanisms: The Circuit Breaker Pattern often employs a fallback mechanism to provide alternative functionality or graceful degradation in case of a failing service. The Bulkhead Pattern does not inherently include a fallback mechanism but can be combined with one for enhanced resilience.
  4. Implementation: Implementing the Bulkhead Pattern usually requires a more significant architectural change, as it involves dividing the system into isolated partitions. The Circuit Breaker Pattern can often be added with minimal architectural changes, as it primarily involves wrapping service calls with a circuit breaker.


Both the Bulkhead Pattern and Circuit Breaker Pattern play crucial roles in building resilient and fault-tolerant systems. While they serve different purposes and have distinct implementations, they can be used together to provide an even more robust and reliable application.

When deciding which pattern to use, consider your application’s architecture, potential failure points, and the desired level of fault tolerance. By understanding the key differences between these patterns and applying them thoughtfully, you can significantly improve the resilience of your application and ensure a better user experience. The provided Python code examples and explanations can serve as a starting point for implementing these patterns in your own applications, helping to enhance their reliability and fault tolerance.

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