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Scalable Asynchronous Duplex Communication Between WPF and WCF

, 4 Sep 2011 CPOL
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Scalable duplex communication between WPF and WCF.

Introduction

The intention of this post is to provide details on how to develop a working example of an asynchronous (scalable) duplex communication WCF service.

Background

IIS has always had issues concerning scalability when it comes to open connections, compared to JBoss\Jetty\Tomcat etc. (with Java's non-blocking IO class).

XP, Vista, or Win7 will allow 10 open connections, which will quickly get allocated. To get around this limitation, it is suggested to use Windows 2008 with asynchronous calls. To create a push technology oriented service, a duplex mechanism is needed.

But there is a catch, you need to make the call to the duplex WCF service in an asynchronous manner. Remember, asynchronous will not hug the treads and duplex keeps the channel open for real-time updates.

How to Make Your Duplex Calls Scalable

You will need to deploy your duplex WCF service on a Windows 2008 server. The Windows 2008 server incorporates a mechanism to handle asynchronous calls so that they do not take up a new connection (this is the key).

If you were to make a synchronous call, one of the one hundred (or so) available connections will be allocated to your request; in time, these connections will get tied up and your requests will have to wait until a connection is freed up.

So, to get around the allocation of connections, but still have a connection to your application from the service, you must make your duplex calls asynchronous ones (duplex keeps the channel open, asynchronous stops the server from allocating a new connection).

Screenshot of the application

The screenshot above shows three open applications and displaying the same information. This data is being pushed from a WCF service (using a timer) to all sessions that made the duplex call to the service initially.

Project Structure

WpfDuplex/project.jpg

Above, you can see that the solution is split into multiple projects. There is a project to host the service, the client, and a model class. WpdClient is the start project, with MainWindow as the start page.

Code Explanation

Client Code - MainWindow Class

private void SubscribeToStockServer()
{
    try
    {
        log.Info("Creating services");
        InstanceContext context = new InstanceContext(new CallbackController());
        client = new SessionsControllerClient(context);
        client.SubscribeToNotificationsAsync(SessionGuid.ToString());
        log.Info("Services created");
    }
    catch (Exception ex)
    {                
        log.Error("Services error: " + ex.Message);
    }
}

Initially, the client makes a call to the service to let the service know that it wants to receive updates. The important thing here is the class called CallbackController. This class implements the callback method that gets executed in the service (you will see an Interface in the service called IStockSessionCallbackContract). The CallbackController code implements the method in the IStockSessionCallbackContract interface.

When the client subscribes to the duplex service (in an asynchronous manner), it is passing in a new GUID object - this GUID will be used to uniquely identify the session in a static collection on the server.

public MainWindow()
{
    try
    {
        InitializeComponent();
        this.InitialiseApplication();
        this.SubscribeToStockServer();
        Messenger.Default.Register<StockQuotes>(this, "ServerUpdateResponse", 
           data => { this.UpdateFromServer(data); }); // create a listener to update UI
    }
    catch (Exception ex)
    {                
        log.Error(ex.Message);
    }
}

The line of code to notice here is the MVVMLight Messenger statement that will listen for a ServerUpdateResponse token key (from the CallbackController class) and then forwards the StockQuote object to the client processing method UpdateFromServer (below).

private void UpdateFromServer(StockQuotes data)
{
    try
    {
        switch (data.Exchange)
        {
            case StockQuotes.StockExchanges.Cac:
                Dispatcher.Invoke(
                System.Windows.Threading.DispatcherPriority.Normal,
                new Action(
                  delegate()
                  {
                      (this.MyLine.Series[0] as DataPointSeries).ItemsSource = 
                        data.UpdatedStockQuotes;
                  }
              ));
                break;
            case StockQuotes.StockExchanges.Dac:
                Dispatcher.Invoke(
               System.Windows.Threading.DispatcherPriority.Normal,
               new Action(
                 delegate()
                 {
                     (this.MyScatter.Series[0] as DataPointSeries).ItemsSource = 
                       data.UpdatedStockQuotes;
                 }
             ));
                break;
            case StockQuotes.StockExchanges.Dow:
                Dispatcher.Invoke(
               System.Windows.Threading.DispatcherPriority.Normal,
               new Action(
                 delegate()
                 {
                     (this.MyColumn.Series[0] as DataPointSeries).ItemsSource = 
                       data.UpdatedStockQuotes;
                 }
             ));

                break;
            case StockQuotes.StockExchanges.Ftse:
                Dispatcher.Invoke(
              System.Windows.Threading.DispatcherPriority.Normal,
              new Action(
                delegate()
                {
                    (this.MyPie.Series[0] as DataPointSeries).ItemsSource = 
                      data.UpdatedStockQuotes;
                }
            ));
                break;
        }
        this.UpdateNoticeBox(data);
    }
    catch (Exception ex)
    {
        log.Error(ex.Message);
    }
}

The UpdateFromServer method simply rebinds the new StockQuotes List object to the respective chart (based on the value of the Exchange property).

Client Code - CallBackController Class

namespace WpfClient.Model
{
    class CallbackController : SessionService.ISessionsControllerCallback
    {
        public void SendNotificationToClients(StockQuotes message)
        {
            Messenger.Default.Send<StockQuotes>(message, "ServerUpdateResponse");
            // move onto the mian thread to perform a UI update
        }

        /*
         * The 'Begin' and 'End' methods associated with 
         * the 'SendNotificationToClients' are here for compiler declaration purposes only.
         * They have no functional purpose, since a channel has been opened
         * and the callback method (declared in the interface 'IGuitarSessionCallbackContract') 
         * will be used to communicate with the client not
         * the 'EndSendNotificationToClients'. They are here for the Async reason only.
         */
        public IAsyncResult BeginSendNotificationToClients(StockQuotes message, 
               AsyncCallback callback, object asyncState) { return null; }
        public void EndSendNotificationToClients(IAsyncResult result){ }
    }
}

Here is were the project informs the compiler that we have declared the "Begin" and "End" methods associated with an asynchronous call. But, we are not going to use them as the service will be using the duplex callback method to send information to the client - not the "End" method above. We have to declare them for compiler reasons. Notice the method SendNotificationToClients, this is declared in the interface IStockSessionCallbackContract on the server, but is coded on the client. Also, this is were the MVVMLight Messenger send happens too.

Adding the Service

WpfDuplex/Adding_Service.jpg

Notice that you will need to check "Generate asynchronous operations" so that calls will be asynchronous and not take up a connection.

StockQuote Class

namespace Stocks
{
    /// <summary>
    /// 
    /// </summary>
    public class StockQuotes
    {
        /// <summary>
        /// 
        /// </summary>
        private StockExchanges exchange;

        /// <summary>
        /// Gets or sets the exchange.
        /// </summary>
        /// <value>
        /// The exchange.
        /// </value>
        public StockExchanges Exchange
        {
            get { return exchange; }
            set { exchange = value; }
        }

        /// <summary>
        /// 
        /// </summary>
        List<StockValue> updatedStockQuotes;

        /// <summary>
        /// Gets or sets the updated stock quotes.
        /// </summary>
        /// <value>
        /// The updated stock quotes.
        /// </value>
        public List<StockValue> UpdatedStockQuotes
        {
            get { return updatedStockQuotes; }
            set { updatedStockQuotes = value; }
        }

        /// <summary>
        /// 
        /// </summary>
        public enum StockExchanges
        {
            Ftse,
            Dow,
            Dac,
            Cac
        }
    }

    /// <summary>
    /// 
    /// </summary>
    public class StockValue
    {
        /// <summary>
        /// Initializes a new instance of the <see cref="StockValue"/> class.
        /// </summary>
        public StockValue() { }
        /// <summary>
        /// Initializes a new instance of the <see cref="StockValue"/> class.
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name="stockName">Name of the stock.</param>
        /// <param name="stockValue">The stock value.</param>
        public StockValue(string stockName, int stockValue)
        {
            Symbol = stockName;
            Value = stockValue;
        }
        /// <summary>
        /// Gets or sets the symbol.
        /// </summary>
        /// <value>
        /// The symbol.
        /// </value>
        public string Symbol { get; set; }
        /// <summary>
        /// Gets or sets the value.
        /// </summary>
        /// <value>
        /// The value.
        /// </value>
        public int Value { get; set; }
    }

The above class is just a plain old C# class that is used to contain stock quotes. This class is passed to the client from the server and manipulated in the client code when binding to the charts.

WCF Service Code

Session Helper Class

static public class SessionHelper
{
    static private string browserValue;
    static Dictionary<string, IStockSessionCallbackContract> clients;  

    /// <summary>
    /// Class constructor.
    /// </summary>
    static SessionHelper()
    {
        clients = new Dictionary<string, IStockSessionCallbackContract>();
    }

    /// <summary>
    /// Gets or sets the browser value.
    /// </summary>
    /// <value>The browser value.</value>
    public static string BrowserValue
    {
        get { return browserValue; }
        set { browserValue = value; }
    }      

    /// <summary>
    /// Stores given client callback channel
    /// </summary>
    /// <param name="clientId">Id of client's session</param>
    /// <param name="callbackChannel">Callback channel for given client</param>
    public static void AddCallbackChannel(string clientId, 
           IStockSessionCallbackContract callbackChannel)
    {
        if (clients.Where(c => c.Key == clientId).Count() == 0)
        {
            object syncRoot = new Object();
            lock (syncRoot)
            {
                if (clients.Where(c => c.Key == clientId).Count() == 0)
                    clients.Add(clientId, callbackChannel);
            }
        }
    }      

    /// <summary>
    /// Checks whether given client is connected.
    /// </summary>
    /// <param name="clientId">Id of client's session</param>
    /// <returns>Whether client is connected</returns>
    public static bool IsClientConnected(string clientId)
    {            
        return clients.Where(c => c.Key == clientId).Count() > 0;
    }

    /// <summary>
    /// Returns all available callback channels except sender
    /// </summary>
    /// <returns>Callback channels</returns>
    public static IEnumerable<IStockSessionCallbackContract> 
                  GetCallbackChannels(string sessionId)
    {

        var filteredChannels = from channel in clients
                               where channel.Key != sessionId
                               select channel; 
        
        return filteredChannels.Select(c => c.Value);
    }

    /// <summary>
    /// Returns all available callback channels
    /// </summary>
    /// <returns>Callback channels</returns>
    public static IEnumerable<IStockSessionCallbackContract> GetCallbackChannels()
    {            
        return clients.Select(c => c.Value);
    }

    /// <summary>
    /// Returns callback channel for given client
    /// </summary>
    /// <param name="clientId">Id of client's session</param>
    /// <returns>Callback channel for given client</returns>
    public static IStockSessionCallbackContract GetCallbackChannel(string clientId)
    {            
        return clients.Where(c => c.Key == clientId).Single().Value;
    }
  
    /// <summary>
    /// Deletes callback channel for given client 
    /// </summary>
    /// <param name="clientId">Id of client's session</param>
    public static bool DeleteClient(string clientId)
    {
        if (clients.Where(c => c.Key == clientId).Count() > 0)
        {
            object syncRoot = new Object();
            lock (syncRoot)
            {
                if (clients.Where(c => c.Key == clientId).Count() > 0)
                    return clients.Remove(clientId);
            }
        }
        return false;
    }
}

The above static class will maintain all the sessions, doing the CRUD operations on the actual sessions. You will notice that it uses the IStockSessionCallbackContract interface in the dictionary collection, because this interface has the declaration for the callback method (which is coded on the client).

ISessionsController Service Interface

namespace StockService.Interfaces
{
    /// <summary>
    /// This interface contains methods that client
    /// can call to subscribe or unsubscrube to notifications from database
    /// </summary>
    [ServiceContract(Namespace = "StockService.Services.Interfaces", 
           CallbackContract = typeof(IStockSessionCallbackContract))]
    public interface ISessionsController
    {
        /// <summary>
        /// This method should be executed to subscribe to notifications from server.
        /// </summary>
        [OperationContract(IsOneWay = true)]
        void SubscribeToNotifications(string browserName);

        /// <summary>
        /// This method should be executed to unsubscribe to notifications from server.
        /// </summary>
        [OperationContract(IsOneWay = true)]
        void UnsubscribeToNotifications();
    }
}

The above operations allow the client to connect and disconnect from the session collection, and thus from any communication from the server.

IStockSessionCallbackContract Service Interface

namespace StockService.Interfaces
{
    /// <summary>
    /// Interface declarations for the notification callback to browser
    /// </summary>
    [ServiceContract]
    public interface IStockSessionCallbackContract
    {
        /// <summary>
        /// Sends the notification to clients.
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name="data">The data.</param>
        [OperationContract(IsOneWay = true)]
        void SendNotificationToClients(StockQuotes data);
    }
}

The above interface signature is declared on the server but is coded on the client (due to the callback nature of duplex coding). In the interface ISessionsController, you will see the annotation [ServiceContract(Namespace = "StockService.Services.Interfaces", CallbackContract = typeof(IStockSessionCallbackContract))], and you will see the CallbackContract attribute which specifies the interface IStockSessionCallbackContract. So this is how we round the circle of communications. The service method knows to call a particular interface method which is coded and executed on the client.

SessionsController Service Methods

public void SubscribeToNotifications(string clientGuid)
{
    IStockSessionCallbackContract ch = 
      OperationContext.Current.GetCallbackChannel<IStockSessionCallbackContract>();
    // string sessionId = OperationContext.Current.Channel.SessionId;

    //Any message from a client we haven't seen before
    //causes the new client to be added to our list
    lock (syncRoot)
    {
        SessionHelper.BrowserValue = clientGuid;

        if (!SessionHelper.IsClientConnected(clientGuid))
        {
            SessionHelper.AddCallbackChannel(clientGuid, ch);
            OperationContext.Current.Channel.Closing += new EventHandler(Channel_Closing);
            OperationContext.Current.Channel.Faulted += new EventHandler(Channel_Faulted);
        }
    }
}

When a client makes that initial asynchronous call to the service, it will come in on the SubscribeToNotifications method (passing a GUID). Then, its callback contract interface IStockSessionCallbackContract is obtained and stored in a collection. It will also have closing event handlers associated with it, to do any housekeeping procedures when finished.

private void ProcessUpdate(object sender, EventArgs e)
{
    try
    {
        StockQuotes data = GenerateStockQuotes();
        
        // loop through channels and make a call to their callback method
        if (SessionHelper.GetCallbackChannels().Count() > 0)
        {
            lock (syncRoot)
            {
                IEnumerable<IStockSessionCallbackContract> 
                       allChannels = SessionHelper.GetCallbackChannels();
                allChannels.ToList().ForEach(c => c.SendNotificationToClients(data));
            }
        }
    }
    catch (Exception) { }
}

The above method will perform the posting of information to all the clients.

public SessionsController()
{
    timer.Elapsed += new ElapsedEventHandler(this.ProcessUpdate);
    timer.Interval = 2000;
    timer.Enabled = true;
    timer.Start();
}

A simple timer is executed in the service to mimic the generation of data (data updates, for example). Every two seconds, the ProcessUpdate method is called and new stock quotes are pushed to all the connected sessions.

Improvements

  • Serialize the data on the client and compress it before sending to the service. Which in turn will process and send (compressed) to the open channels.

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

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About the Author

Bert O Neill
Architect
Ireland Ireland
No Biography provided

Comments and Discussions

 
QuestionDoes this application work over the internet.. ` PinmemberSanket Joshi13-Jul-12 20:25 
GeneralRe: Does this application work over the internet.. ` [modified] PinmemberBert ONeill23-Jul-12 0:15 
QuestionRegarding multiple client data problem PinmemberSanket Joshi8-Jul-12 21:04 
QuestionVery nice article but got a couple of questions Pinmembertfierens8-Jun-12 18:28 
AnswerRe: Very nice article but got a couple of questions PinmemberBert ONeill9-Jun-12 4:20 
QuestionDefault client binding at 80 port and Skype PinmemberGioviQ28-Sep-11 5:49 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberJP®12-Sep-11 10:57 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberFilip D'haene31-Aug-11 23:15 

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