A quest for software excellence...

Microsoft REST API Guidelines

I’m a big believer in establishing standards for your REST APIs. I like this one from Microsoft but there are others. What I like about this particular guideline is the structural organization and its brevity. The introductory paragraph provides the reasoning and justification behind REST even when there are language specific SDKs made available.

Developers access most Microsoft Cloud Platform resources via RESTful HTTP interfaces. Although each service typically provides language-specific frameworks to wrap their APIs, all of their operations eventually boil down to REST operations over HTTP. Microsoft must support a wide range of clients and services and cannot rely on rich frameworks being available for every development environment. Thus a goal of these guidelines is to ensure Microsoft REST APIs can be easily and consistently consumed by any client with basic HTTP support.

One thing that would be nice to have is a standard for filtering, paging, etc., on the URL as query parameters. These get defined differently by every REST service architect out there. Or so it seems. A good jumping off point for some research and thought.

And I want to thank my friend Pablo for sending me the link to this.

ASP.NET Web API and IDisposable Aspect with ActionFilterAttribute

I needed to apply an aspect to my ASP.NET Web API 2 services on every controller. The trick was that I needed an IDisposable object to be created before the action method executed and then disposed when the action method completed. It’s easy enough to write an ActionFilterAttribute to do something at the beginning or at the end of a controller’s action method being called. But how to you maintain state between the OnActionExecuting and the OnActionExecuted events? That’s what this little snippet does.

public class DisposableActionFilterAttribute : ActionFilterAttribute
  private readonly IDisposableProvider _provider;

  public DisposableActionFilterAttribute()
    _provider = IoC.Instance.Container.Resolve<IDisposableProvider>();

  public override void OnActionExecuting(HttpActionContext actionContext)
    IDisposable obj = _provider.CreateDisposableObjectMethod() as IDisposable;
    actionContext.Request.Properties[Consts.DisposableObjectPropertyKey] = obj;

  public override void OnActionExecuted(HttpActionExecutedContext actionExecutedContext)
    IDisposable obj = actionExecutedContext.Request.Properties[Consts.DisposableObjectPropertyKey]
      as IDisposable;
    if (null != obj) obj.Dispose();

And now you wire it up and presto change-o, you’ve got an IDisposable created before execution and disposed after execution. And here’s the simple wire up for global application of the attribute in the Global.asax.cs code:

public class WebApiApplication : System.Web.HttpApplication
  protected void Application_Start()
      new DisposableActionFilterAttribute());

I do realize there are many examples of the ActionFilterAttribute and this technique, but it’s easier to search my own blog later when I need to remember how to do this. Happy Monday!

Castle Windsor, ASP.NET MVC and Web API in the Same Project

Many thanks to the original source by ArtisanCode on GitHub I’ve enjoyed for solving this problem. You may also enjoy Radenko’s post and Raymund’s post. I hope that you will find what I have learned from these sources helpful. The requirement was running ASP.NET MVC and Web API in the same project with a single inversion of control (IoC) container shared by both, though I never ended up using injection for my MVC controllers as I had planned.

My personal preference in the past has been Castle Windsor, in part because I like the ability to do interception so easily. More on interception in a future post. For now, have a look at how easy it is to wire up. First, we wire up the container in the Application_Start method in your Global.asax.cs class that inherits from System.Web.HttpApplication:

IoC.Instance.Container.Install(new DependencyConfig());
GlobalConfiguration.Configuration.DependencyResolver = 
   new CastleDependencyResolver(IoC.Instance.Container);

Then we wire up the DependencyConfig class mentioned in the above snippet.

public class DependencyConfig : IWindsorInstaller
   public void Install(IWindsorContainer container, IConfigurationStore store)
      //... config stuff ... blah blah blah

      //register a component with a custom interceptor for capturing some aspect

And implement your interceptor with something like this:

public class MyInterceptor : IInterceptor
   public void Intercept(IInvocation invocation)
      //do something before the call is executed
      //execute the call
	  //do something after the call is executed

Now put it all together and you have ApiControllers injecting your components for you. And you can get components directly when you need them using the IoC singleton I wrote like this:

var mycomp = IoC.Instance.Container.Resolve<IMyComponent>();

Here’s the IoC singleton:

using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Linq;
using System.Web;
using Castle.Windsor;

namespace MyCastle
   public class IoC
      private static volatile IoC _instance;
      private static object _syncRoot = new object();

      private readonly WindsorContainer container;

      private IoC()
         container = new WindsorContainer();

      public static IoC Instance
            if (null == _instance)
               lock (_syncRoot)
                  if (null == _instance)
                     _instance = new IoC();
            return _instance;

      public WindsorContainer Container { get { return container; } }

And where does the CastleDependencyResolver and CastleDependencyScope classes come from? That’s the fun part. First, you’ll need two NuGet packages:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
  <package id="Castle.Core" version="3.3.3" targetFramework="net45" />
  <package id="Castle.Windsor" version="3.3.0" targetFramework="net45" />

Then you just need the ArtisanCode code for those two classes. For my own use, I’ve modified them a bit in my own projects but you may find that you can use them right out of the box or even adopt the entire WebApiCastleIntegration library.

There you have it.

Context Switching and Task<Result>.ConfigureAwait Method

While heavily involved in a few ASP.NET Web API 2 projects over the past year, I’ve learned from experience that context switching, marshaling between threads when using the async and await constructs in C# can be undesirable.

To avoid the context switching which is undeniably needed in a UI application where you’re offloading work from the UI thread, the default value of “true” for the ConfigureAwait Method on the Task<Result> class, one must set the “continueOnCapturedContext” to false. Like this:

var user = await repo.GetUser(id).ConfigureAwait(false);

There is some debate as to whether this is helpful in an ASP.NET application given the request is handled on a thread pool thread which is returned to the pool while the asynchronous task is running.

The issue I’ve noticed is that in some cases setting the “continueOnCapturedContext” to false, eliminates the need to marshal the continuation of your code back to the original context and use of another thread pool thread. While there are no noticeable performance advantages, I have noticed that I experience fewer threading exceptions when I allow the execution to continue on the thread that just executed my asynchronous work.