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Applications, Advantages and Disadvantages of Queue

Queues are one of the most fundamental data structures in computer science. The principle of first-in, first-out ordering that queues follow has widespread uses in programming. However, understanding the nuances of queues - their strengths, applications, and limitations - is key to utilizing them effectively.

In this article, we will provide a comprehensive overview of queues. We will start by discussing what queues are and how they work. We will then outline the major advantages and use cases of queues. Finally, we will also look at some of the disadvantages and integrity restrictions imposed by queues. By the end, you will have a solid grasp of this key data structure and when to leverage it in your code. Queues are not just theoretical - they power functionality from operating system scheduling to graph algorithms. A deeper understanding will make you a more adept programmer.

Applications, Advantages and Disadvantages of Queue

Queues in Brief

What are Queues?

A queue is a linear data structure that follows the principle of FIFO (First In, First Out) for adding and removing elements. Elements are inserted at the back of the queue and removed from the front. Queues maintain the original order of insertion for elements.

The main operations associated with queues are:

  • Enqueue: Add an element to the back of the queue.
  • Dequeue: Remove an element from the front of the queue.
  • IsEmpty: Check if the queue is empty.
  • IsFull: Check if the queue is full.
  • Peek: Get the value of the front element without removing it.

Queues are typically implemented using arrays or linked lists. Array-based queues have a fixed capacity, while linked list queues are dynamic.


Queues are based on the FIFO algorithm. The steps are:

  • Enqueue: Add an item to the back of the queue, increase the rear pointer
  • Dequeue: Remove the item from the front of the queue, increase the front pointer
  • Check if the rear pointer has reached the end of the queue capacity
  • Check if the front pointer equals the rear (empty queue)

The enqueue and dequeue operations have O(1) time complexity for array-based queues and linked lists.


  • Ordered Insertion: Elements are inserted in one end and removed from the other. Order is preserved.
  • Single Entry Point: Elements can only be inserted at the back/rear of the queue.
  • Single Removal Point: Elements can only be removed from the front of the queue.
  • FIFO Ordering: The first element inserted is the first one out (like a real-world queue)
  • Dynamic Resizing: Linked list queues can grow/shrink in size. Array queues have fixed capacity.
  • Linear Data Structure: Queues are linear data structures since elements are sequentially ordered.


Applications, Advantages and Disadvantages of Queue


1. Import required modules

  • No modules need to be imported for this implementation

2. Create a Queue class

  • Define the init method to initialize an empty queue list

3. Implement enqueue method

  • Accepts an item as input
  • Appends the item to the end of the queue list

4. Implement dequeue method

  • Check if queue is empty
  • If empty, returns None
  • Else, remove the item at index 0 (front) using pop(0)
  • Returns the removed item

5. Implement size method

  • Returns length of queue list

6. Implement isEmpty method

  • Checks if queue list length is 0
  • Returns True if the queue is empty, False otherwise

This implements the Queue class with key operations like enqueue, dequeue, size, isEmpty, etc. It uses a Python list to store the queue elements.

The enqueue operation adds an element to the end of the queue. The dequeue is removed from the front. Size and isEmpty allow checking queue length and emptiness.

We create a Queue object and test it by enqueueing some elements, checking the size, dequeuing elements and checking emptiness. The queue operates in a FIFO manner.

This is a basic queue implementation in Python using lists. More efficient implementations are used using collections modules and linked lists.

Applications of Queue Data Structures

Queues have various real-world applications since they allow efficient modelling of real queues and Ordering tasks. Some of the major applications are:

1. Operating Systems Scheduling

One of the most common uses of queues is for scheduling tasks in operating systems. The OS maintains queues of processes waiting for important resources like CPU time, memory, I/O devices, etc. Schedulers follow queue disciplines like FCFS, Priority Queueing, and round-robin to decide the next resource allocation process.

For example, in priority queuing, processes are ordered by priority. Higher priority processes are placed before the queue and allocated resources first. In round-robin scheduling, each process is given a fixed time slice in a circular order to ensure fairness. Queues allow efficient scheduling in OS kernels.

2. Message Queuing

Message queues are used frequently in distributed applications. Various components of an application interact by passing asynchronous messages. Queues store these messages reliably until they are consumed. For example, a producer process generates load requests stored in a queue. The consumer process handles these requests one by one. This decouples the producer and consumer.

Message queues enable smooth data exchange between distributed systems. They are used extensively in microservices architectures and web applications. Popular implementations are RabbitMQ, Kafka, ActiveMQ, etc.

3. Breadth-First Search

Queues are leveraged in graph and tree algorithms like breadth-first search to traverse nodes layer by layer. Initially, the root node is enqueued. All its neighbours are then dequeued and enqueued. This continues until the entire graph is traversed.

BFS relies on queues to visit nodes in the correct order and keep track of the next layer. Dequeuing also prevents visiting nodes more than once. This leads to efficient O(V+E) complexity for BFS traversal.

4. Printer Spooler

Operating systems and printer drivers use print queues to handle print requests. All documents are spooled in a queue instead of being printed directly. The printer handles jobs sequentially in a FIFO manner.

Queues allow smooth handling of frequent print requests and prevent bottlenecks. Documents are printed efficiently without overload. Print spooling also allows a return of control back to applications immediately.

5. Web Server Request Queuing

Web servers and frameworks leverage request queues to handle multiple client requests concurrently. As requests come in, they are added to a queue and processed in order. The HTTP requests may be queued based on priority.

Queues prevent request overload and allow web servers to handle traffic spikes smoothly. Request queuing also enables asynchronous processing. Overall, queues improve the scalability and performance of web servers.

6. CPU Scheduling

OS kernels use queues for CPU scheduling. The processes waiting for CPU time are kept in a queue. CPU utilization happens by removing and assigning processes from the front of the queue. The queue order can be based on arrival time, priority, time quantum, etc. This queue-based scheduling improves CPU efficiency.

7. Traffic Modeling

Traffic systems maintain queues of vehicles waiting at signals, toll booths, etc. These queues are modelled using queuing theory to analyze traffic patterns and optimize road networks. Queues represent the incoming traffic flow and waiting. Modelling this allows for improving road capacity and traffic flow.

8. Simulations

Queues are used in discrete event simulations for modelling real-world queues and processes. For example, banks use queues to simulate customers arriving for teller service. Airlines use it to model passenger check-in. Queues allow efficient simulation of real-life queuing behaviours.

9. Order Processing

E-commerce systems leverage queues to smooth order processing and ensure sequencing. When orders arrive, they are placed in a queue and fulfilled correctly. Requests do not get dropped until processed. Queues add reliability to order workflows.

To summarize, queues are a versatile data structure used extensively in programming and systems design. Their applications range from operating systems scheduling, graph algorithms, and distributed messaging to traffic engineering, simulations, and web servers. Mastering queues is key to building robust systems.

10. Load Balancing

Queues can be used for load balancing in distributed systems. A central job queue is created, and multiple worker processes are used to listen for jobs.

When a job arrives, it is added to the queue. Workers pick up jobs individually from the front of the queue and process them. The queue evenly distributes jobs across workers.

If a worker is overloaded or crashes, the job gets re-queued for another worker. This creates a smooth, load-balanced system.

For example, web application servers place incoming requests in a queue assigned to application server threads. Image processing services use queues to distribute tasks across servers.

The central queue acts as a buffer and coordinator for the smooth distribution of work. Queues prevent the overloading of any single worker. They enable horizontal scaling and resilience.

Load balancing is a key application of queues in building distributed systems. The queue order handles fair work distribution as well as robustness against failures.

Advantages of using Queues

Queues provide several key advantages that make them a ubiquitous data structure in programming. The main benefits are:

1. Ordering

Queues maintain the original order of insertion for elements. The first element inserted is also the first one out. This First-In-First-Out (FIFO) ordering ensures sequenced access and processing.

For example, in a print queue, documents are printed in the same order they arrive. Queues also enable fair scheduling algorithms like round-robin, where each element gets equal turns.

The ordering facilitates smooth processing and sequencing even with multiple concurrent accesses.

2. Synchronization

Queues can synchronize and transfer data safely between multiple threads or processes. Elements enqueued are processed in an ordered way by consumer threads.

For example, a producer-consumer system uses a shared queue to safely transfer data from producer to consumer threads. The producer inserts data which the consumer processes in a sequenced way.

3. Decoupling

Queues allow the decoupling of different components or services in a system. The queue acts as an intermediary buffer for reliable delivery.

For example, web servers use request queues to decouple request handling from request generation. Frontend servers queue requests that backend servers process asynchronously.

4. Load Leveling

Queues smooth uneven loads and prevent resource overloading. Temporary spikes in traffic or load are absorbed efficiently by the queue.

For example, print queues prevent many simultaneous documents from overloading the printer. Temporary spikes in printing load are handled gracefully using the queue.

5. Asynchrony

Queues facilitate asynchronous, non-blocking operations. Elements needing processing or I/O operations are enqueued. The queue allows resuming when the result is available.

For example, database query results may be enqueued for asynchronous retrieval by application threads. The threads queue queries and carry on with other work.

6. Fault Tolerance

Queues implement reliable delivery even across system failures. Elements persist in the queue until fully processed. Failed elements are required.

For example, message queues provide reliable asynchronous messaging across distributed systems. Failed messages are redelivered up to a retry limit before being dead-lettered.

7. Traffic Burst Buffering

Queues can buffer short bursts of traffic. Temporary incoming spikes beyond service capacity are absorbed in the queue till they can be handled.

For example, web servers queue incoming requests using buffers. The queue smoothly handles request spikes without overwhelming backend servers.

8. Resource Pooling

Queues allow pooling of servicing resources like threads and database connections. Resources pick up queue elements for processing in turn.

For example, a connection pool is maintained with only 20 database connections instead of hundreds. Requests are queued until a connection is available.

9. Rate Limiting

Queues can be used to rate limit tasks and prevent resource overuse. Elements are added to a queue and processed at a defined rate. Additional elements remain queued.

For example, APIs use request queues to rate limit API calls. Requests beyond a threshold are queued and processed when earlier ones are complete to prevent API spam.

10. Parallelism

Queues allow easy parallel processing of tasks using multiple threads/processes. Each parallel consumer can dequeue and process entries concurrently.

For example, a file processing queue can utilize multiple threads to process files in parallel, improving throughput. The queue provides smooth work distribution.

So, queues provide key advantages like ordering, synchronization, decoupling, load levelling, asynchrony, fault tolerance and traffic smoothing. They are a versatile data structure at the heart of many systems.

Disadvantages of Queue

Although queues provide many benefits, they also come with some disadvantages:

1. No Random Access

Queues only allow sequential access to elements. There is no way to directly access an arbitrary element in the queue. Elements must be dequeued in order from the front. This makes queues unsuitable for applications requiring random access to data.

For example, a binary search on data requires accessing elements randomly based on the comparison. A queue does not allow this.

2. Additional Memory Overhead

Queues require extra memory to handle the buffering and ordering of elements. All elements must be stored until processed. For a system processing data "in place", a queue solution incurs overhead.

For example, parsing a file line by line doesn't require buffering all the file's contents. Queuing each line requires more memory.

3. Increased Processing Latency

Queues inherently introduce some delays as elements wait to be processed in order. Elements queued earlier must be completed before later ones begin processing. This increases processing latency.

For example, queuing inserts delay even if a file line can be parsed quickly. The first line must wait for the entire queue to be parsed before the result.

4. No Preemption

Queues do not allow preempting already queued elements. Once queued, elements cannot be removed until they reach the font. Priority changes cannot be accommodated.

For example, changing a task's priority is impossible in a priority queue. It must first complete its turn.

5. Additional Programming Complexity

Queues require managing the order, storage and access of elements. Additional code must handle queue insertion, removal and overflow. This increases software complexity.

For example, a queue processing system must handle cases like queuing failed messages, ensuring persisted storage, handling overflow, etc.

6. Not Cache Friendly

Queues lack locality of reference and access elements sequentially. This prevents efficient use of caches during access. Caches work best with localized random access.

For example, a queue of elements being parsed does not benefit from caching as much as direct sequential access.

7. Restricted Access

Queues only allow access to the front and rear elements. The only operations available are enqueue and dequeue. This restricts the ability to organize and access data.

For example, operations like sorting and merging queues dynamically are not possible. Queues provide limited flexibility.

8. Blocking Operations

Operations like dequeue can block and stall if the queue is empty. This can lead to poor performance and starvation for other waiting processes. Care must be taken to prevent blocking where possible.

For example, a process waiting to dequeue from an empty queue will remain blocked indefinitely until items arrive. Other queued processes are starved in the meantime.

9. Bounded Capacity

Queues typically have finite capacity limits, which, once exceeded, will reject new elements. This bounded capacity requires handling overflow situations.

For example, a message queue storing 1 million messages has to implement an overflow strategy, like load shedding, to handle new messages beyond capacity.

10. Ordering Overhead

Maintaining order requires additional steps like assigning sequence numbers and comparing with queue order before insertion. This adds computational overhead to enqueue/dequeue.

For example, priority queues require priority comparison on enqueue. Distributed queues require coordinating sequence numbers across multiple systems.

Hence, queues tradeoff random access, increased latency, preemption ability, and flexibility for benefits like ordering, decoupling and reliability. The restrictions must be considered before using queues. Issues like blocking calls, bounded capacity and ordering overhead are inherent challenges with queue implementations that must be handled carefully.


In conclusion, queues are a fundamental data structure that offers useful properties like ordered insertion and removal. However, queues come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages.

On the positive side, queues enable sequencing, synchronization, load balancing, and fault tolerance, among other benefits. These make them applicable to various domains, from operating systems to web architectures. Queue implementations like priority, circular, concurrent, etc., further expand their utility.

However, queues also introduce limitations like lack of random access, increased latency and overhead. Additionally, care must be taken to prevent issues like blocking operations and overflow.

Therefore, the decision to use a queue data structure in an application should come after analyzing the benefits and drawbacks. Queues ultimately provide a powerful abstraction for modelling real-world queues and sequenced access. When used judiciously, queues can simplify the design and improve the performance of systems. They will continue to be a versatile data structure for programmers.

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