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Posts tagged with 'ASP.NET Core'

Merry Christmas! This is the last day of the C# Advent. Make sure to check out all of the other great posts from 2017 and 2018. If you want to be involved next year, look for C# Advent 2019 author sign ups at the end of October 2019, and look for blog posts to start showing up on December 1st, 2019.

What is a background job?

A background job is some code that runs apart from the normal flow of your program. It could be run asynchronously and/or on another thread. As an ASP.NET MVC developer, I tend to think of it as any task that runs outside of an MVC action being invoked.

There’s two kinds of background jobs that I’m aware of:

  • Scheduled - a task that runs every N minutes, or every Y hours, etc. This is what I’m going to show in this post today. It’s great for making periodic checks, ingesting data from some other source, etc.

  • Fire and forget - Some other piece of code kicks off a process to run in the background. It doesn’t block the code (fire), and the code doesn’t wait for a response (forget). This is great for potentially time consuming operations like checking inventory, sending emails, etc, that you don’t need a user to wait for.

What you usually need to do to create background jobs

In my experience, I’ve seen background jobs take a few different forms.

  1. Separate Windows service (or Linux daemon, whatever). A console/service program that’s running in addition to your ASP.NET program. This works fine for scheduled jobs.

  2. Queueing mechanisms like Kafka or Rabbit. The ASP.NET program will put messages into these queues, which will then be processed by some other program. This is fine for fire-and-forget.

  3. Background jobs running within the ASP.NET process itself. In my experience, I’ve used Quartz.NET, which can run within the ASP.NET process. There’s also FluentScheduler (which I’ve not used, and doesn’t seem to come with database integration out of the box?)

With all these options in the past, I’ve experienced deployment difficulties. The wrong version of the service gets deployed, or isn’t running, or fails silently, or needs to be deployed on multiple servers in order to provide scalability/availability etc. It’s totally possible to overcome these challenges, of course. (I should also note that in my experience with Quartz.NET, I never used it in embedded form, and the last time I used it was probably 6+ years ago).

But if I just need a handful of background jobs, I’d much rather just make them part of the ASP.NET system. Yes, maybe this goes against the whole 'microservice' idea, but I don’t think it would be too hard to refactor if you decided you need to go that route. I solve my deployment problems, and as you’ll see with Hangfire (with Couchbase), it’s very easy to scale.

How hangfire works

You can find more details and documentation about Hangfire at Hangfire.io. Really, there are only three steps to setting up Hangfire with ASP.NET Core:

  1. Tell ASP.NET Core about Hangfire

  2. Tell Hangfire which database to use

  3. Start firing off background jobs

In Startup.cs, in the ConfigureServices method:

services.AddHangfire(x => x.UseCouchbaseStorage(configuration, "familyPhotos_hangfire"));

Then, in Startup.cs, in the Configure method:

app.UseHangfireServer();

I’m using Couchbase in this example, but there are options for SQL Server and other databases too. I happen to think Couchbase is a great fit, because it can easily horizontally scale to grow with your ASP.NET Core deployments. It also has a memory-first architecture for low latency storage/retrieval of job data. Generally speaking, even if you use SQL Server as your "main" database, Couchbase makes a great companion to ASP.NET or ASP.NET Core as a cache, session store, or, in this case, backing for Hangfire.

The configuration variable is to tell Hangfire where to find Couchbase:

var configuration = new ClientConfiguration
{
    Servers = new List<Uri> { new Uri("http://localhost:8091") }
};
configuration.SetAuthenticator(new PasswordAuthenticator("hangfire", "password"));

(In my case, it’s just running locally).

Steps 1 and 2 are down. Next, step 3 is to create some background jobs for Hangfire to process. I’ve created an ASP.NET Core app to assist me in the cataloging of all my family photographs. I want my application to scan for new files every hour or so. Here’s how I create that job in Hangfire:

RecurringJob.AddOrUpdate("photoProcessor", () => processor.ProcessAll(), Cron.Hourly);

Note that I didn’t have to implement an IJob interface or anything like that. Hangfire will take any expression that you give it (at least, every expression that I’ve thrown at it so far).

Step 3 done.

Hangfire is just a NuGet package and not a separate process. So no additional deployment is needed.

How do I know it’s working?

Another great thing about Hangfire is that is comes with a built-in dashboard for the web. Back in Startup.cs, in Configure, add this code:

app.UseHangfireDashboard("/hangfire", new DashboardOptions
{
    Authorization = new[] {new HangfireAuthorization()}
});

I’m using my own HangfireAuthorization implementation because Hangfire only gives permission to local users by default.

Then, you get a nice dashboard right out of the box, showing you a realtime and history graph.

Hangfire dashboard

From this dashboard, you can also look at a more detailed history of what’s run and what’s failed.

Succeeded jobs

You can even kick off recurring jobs manually.

Recurring jobs

This is only the start

If you’re thinking about adding background jobs to your ASP.NET Core solution, why not give Hangfire a try?

Some more things for you to explore:

  • Scaling: every ASP.NET Core site that gets deployed with Hangfire that points to the same database will be able to process jobs too. As your ASP.NET Core site scales out, hangfire scales out with it. This is another reason that Couchbase is a good fit, because it’s also easy to scale out as your site grows.

  • Cloud: If you are deploying your site as an app service, note that Azure will shut down ASP.NET processes if they haven’t been used in a while. This means Hangfire will shut down with them. There are a couple of ways to deal with this. Check out the Hangfire documentation.

  • Retries: Hangfire will retry failed jobs. Design your background job code to expect this.

  • Hangfire Pro: The commercial version of Hangfire is called Hangfire.Pro, and it comes with some interesting looking batch capabilities. I’ve not needed any of this functionality yet, but for more advanced cases you might need this.

  • Couchbase: a NoSQL data platform that has a built-in memory-first cache layer, SQL support, text search, analytics, and more. There are lots of options for working with Couchbase in .NET. For this post, I used the Hangfire.Couchbase library (available on NuGet).

Ed Charbeneau is creating and using ASP.NET tag helpers. This episode is sponsored by Smartsheet.

Show Notes:

Want to be on the next episode? You can! All you need is the willingness to talk about something technical.

Music is by Joe Ferg, check out more music on JoeFerg.com!

Swashbuckle is a handy library to easily bring Swagger support to your ASP.NET Core (or ASP.NET) application. It is especially handy when developing an HTTP based API. It creates a form of interactive documentation based on the OpenAPI Specification.

Before diving into Swashbuckle: Merry Christmas! This blog is being posted on December 25th, 2017. It’s the final post of the very first C# Advent Calendar. Please check out the other 24 posts in the series! This event has gone so well, that I’m already planning on doing it again in 2018. Thank you, again, to everyone who participated (whether you are a writer or you’ve just been following along).

The full source code used in this example is available on Github.

ASP.NET Core HTTP API

I’m going to assume some level of familiarity with ASP.NET Core and creating a REST API. Here’s an example of a GET and a POST. These endpoints are reading/writing from a JSON text file (in a way that is probably not thread-safe and definitely not efficient, but it’s fine for this example).

public class ValuesController : Controller
{
    [HttpGet]
    [Route("api/teams")]
    public IActionResult GetTeams()
    {
        var jsonFile = System.IO.File.ReadAllText("jsonFile.json");
        var teams = JsonConvert.DeserializeObject<List<Team>>(jsonFile);
        return Ok(teams);
    }

    [HttpPost]
    [Route("api/team")]
    public IActionResult PostTeam([FromBody]Team team)
    {
        var jsonFile = System.IO.File.ReadAllText("jsonFile.json");
        var teams = JsonConvert.DeserializeObject<List<Team>>(jsonFile);
        teams.Add(team);
        System.IO.File.WriteAllText("jsonFile.json",JsonConvert.SerializeObject(teams));
        return Ok(team);
    }

    // etc...

To try out the GET endpoint, the simplest thing I can do is open a browser and view the results. But to try out the POST endpoint, I need something else. I could install Postman or Fiddler (and you should). Here’s how that would look.

Postman

Postman is great for interacting with endpoints, but Postman alone doesn’t really tell us anything about the endpoint or the system as a whole. This is where Swagger comes in.

Swagger

Swagger is a standard way to provide specifications for endpoints. Usually, that specification is automatically generated and then used to generate an interactive UI.

We could write the Swagger spec out by hand, but fortunately ASP.NET Core provides enough information to generate a spec for us. Look at the PostTeam action above. Just from reading that we know:

  • It expects a POST

  • The URL for it is /api/team

  • There’s a Team class that we can look at to see what kind of body is expected

From that, we could construct a Swagger spec like the following (I used JSON, you can also use YAML).

{
	"swagger": "2.0",
	"info": { "version": "v1", "title": "Sports API" },
	"basePath": "/",
	"paths": {
		"/api/team": {
			"post": {
				"consumes": ["application/json"],
				"parameters": [{
					"name": "team",
					"in": "body",
					"required": false,
					"schema": { "$ref": "#/definitions/Team" }
				}]
			}
		}
	},
	"definitions": {
		"Team": {
			"type": "object",
			"properties": {
				"name": { "type": "string" },
				"stadiumName": { "type": "string" },
				"sport": { "type": "string" }
			}
		}
	}
}

But why on earth would you want to type that out? Let’s bring in a .NET library to do the job. Install Swashbuckle.AspNetCore with NuGet (there’s a different package if you want to do this with ASP.NET).

You’ll need to add a few things to Startup.cs:

In the ConfigureServices method:

services.AddSwaggerGen(c =>
{
    c.SwaggerDoc("v1", new Info { Title = "Sports API", Version = "v1"});
});

In the Configure method:

app.UseSwagger();

Aside: With ASP.NET, NuGet actually does all this setup work for you.

Once you’ve done this, you can open a URL like http://localhost:9119/swagger/v1/swagger.json and see the generated JSON spec.

Swagger spec in JSON

Swagger UI with Swashbuckle

That spec is nice, but it would be even nicer if we could use the spec to generate a UI.

Back in the Configure method, add this:

app.UseSwaggerUI(c =>
{
    c.SwaggerEndpoint("/swagger/v1/swagger.json", "Sports API v1");
});

Now, open your site and go to /swagger:

Swagger UI generated by Swashbuckle

Some cool things to notice:

  • Expand/collapse by clicking the URL of an endpoint (note that you must use Route attributes for Swashbuckle to work with ASP.NET Core).

  • "Try it out!" buttons. You can execute GET/POST right from the browser

  • The "parameter" of the POST method. Not only can you paste in some content, but you get an example value that acts like a template (just click it).

Giving some swagger to your Swagger

Swagger and Swashbuckle have done a lot with just a little bit. It can do even more if we add a little more information in the code.

  • Response: The ProducesResponseType attribute will let Swagger know what the response will look like (this is especially useful if you are using IActionResult and/or an endpoint could return different types in different situations).

  • Comments: If you are using XML comments, you can have these included with the Swagger output.

services.AddSwaggerGen(c =>
{
    c.SwaggerDoc("v1", new Info { Title = "Sports API", Version = "v1" });
    var filePath = Path.Combine(PlatformServices.Default.Application.ApplicationBasePath, "swashbuckle-example.xml");
    c.IncludeXmlComments(filePath);
});

(Also make sure you XML Documentation output for your project enabled)

Here’s an example of a GetTeams method with both XML comments and ProducesResponseType:

/// <summary>
/// Gets all the teams stored in the file
/// </summary>
/// <remarks>Baseball is the best sport</remarks>
/// <response code="200">List returned succesfully</response>
/// <response code="500">Something went wrong</response>
[HttpGet]
[Route("api/teams2")]
[ProducesResponseType(typeof(Team), 200)]
public IActionResult GetTeams2()
{
    var jsonFile = System.IO.File.ReadAllText("jsonFile.json");
    var teams = JsonConvert.DeserializeObject<List<Team>>(jsonFile);
    return Ok(teams);
}
  • Customize your info: there’s more to the Info class than just Title and Version. You can specify a license, contact, etc.

services.AddSwaggerGen(c =>
{
    c.SwaggerDoc("v1", new Info
    {
        Title = "Sports API",
        Version = "v1",
        Description = "An API to list and add sports teams",
        TermsOfService = "This is just an example, not for production!",
        Contact = new Contact
        {
            Name = "Matthew Groves",
            Url = "https://crosscuttingconcerns.com"
        },
        License = new License
        {
            Name = "Apache 2.0",
            Url = "http://www.apache.org/licenses/LICENSE-2.0.html"
        }
    });
    var filePath = Path.Combine(PlatformServices.Default.Application.ApplicationBasePath, "swashbuckle-example.xml");
    c.IncludeXmlComments(filePath);
});

Here’s a screenshot of the UI that has all three of the above enhancements: response type, XML comments, and more customized info.

Swagger with more swagger

Summary

Working on HTTP-based APIs? Bring Swashbuckle and Swagger into your life!

More resources:

Thanks again for reading the 2017 C# Advent!

This is a repost that originally appeared on the Couchbase Blog: ASP.NET Core with Couchbase: Getting Started.

ASP.NET Core is the newest development platform for Microsoft developers. If you are looking for information about plain old ASP.NET, check out ASP.NET with Couchbase: Getting Started.

ASP.NET Core Tools to Get Started

The following video will take you from having no code to having an HTTP REST API that uses Couchbase Server, built with ASP.NET Core.

These tools are used in the video:

Getting Started Video

In the video, I touch quickly on Scan Consistency. For more details on that, check out the Scan Consistency documentation or read a blog post that I wrote introducing AtPlus, which also covers the other types of Scan Consistency.

Summary

This video gives you the absolute minimum to get started with Couchbase by walking you through a simple CRUD application.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment. Or, you can always ask me questions on Twitter @mgroves.

Matthew D. Groves

About the Author

Matthew D. Groves lives in Central Ohio. He works remotely, loves to code, and is a Microsoft MVP.

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