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ServiceStack’s API design

ServiceStack Services lets you return any kind of POCO, including naked collections:

public class GetReqstars : IReturn<List<Reqstar>> { }

public class ReqstarsService : Service
    public object Get(GetReqstars request) => Db.Select<Reqstar>();

That your C# clients can call with just:

List<Reqstar> response = client.Get(new GetReqstars());

This will make a GET call to the custom /reqstars url, making it the minimum effort required in any Typed REST API in .NET! When the client doesn’t contain the [Route] definition it automatically falls back to using ServiceStack’s pre-defined routes - saving an extra LOC!

Using explicit Response DTO

A popular alternative to returning naked collections is to return explicit Response DTO, e.g:

public class GetReqstars : IReturn<GetReqstarsResponse> { }

public class GetReqstarsResponse 
    public List<Reqstar> Results { get; set; }
    public ResponseStatus ResponseStatus { get; set; }

public class ReqstarsService : Service
    public object Get(GetReqstars request) 
        return new GetReqstarsResponse {
            Results = Db.Select<Reqstar>()

Whilst slightly more verbose this style benefits from better versionability and more coarse-grained APIs as additional results can be added to the Response DTO without breaking existing clients. You’ll also need to follow the above convention if you also wanted to support SOAP clients and endpoints or if you want to be able to handle Typed Response Messages in MQ Services.

ServiceStack’s API Design

We’ll walk through a few examples here but for a more detailed look into the usages and capabilities of ServiceStack’s API design checkout its Comprehensive Test Suite

At a minimum ServiceStack Services only need to implement the IService empty interface:

public interface IService {}

The interface is used as a Marker interface that ServiceStack uses to find, register and auto-wire your existing services. Although you’re more likely going to want to inherit from ServiceStack’s convenience concrete Service class which contains easy access to ServiceStack’s providers:

public class Service : IService 
    IRequest Request { get; }                 //HTTP Request Wrapper
    IResponse Response { get; }               //HTTP Response Wrapper
    IServiceGateway Gateway { get; }          //Built-in Service Gateway
    IVirtualPathProvider VirtualFileSources   //Virtual FileSystem Sources
    IVirtualFiles VirtualFiles { get; }       //Writable Virtual FileSystem
    ICacheClient Cache { get; }               //Registered Caching Provider
    MemoryCacheClient LocalCache { get; }     //Local InMemory Caching Provider
    IDbConnection Db { get; }                 //Registered ADO.NET IDbConnection
    IRedisClient Redis { get; }               //Registered RedisClient 
    IMessageProducer MessageProducer { get; } //Message Producer for Registered MQ Server
    IServiceGateway Gateway { get; }          //Service Gateway
    IAuthRepository AuthRepository { get; }   //Registered User Repository
    ISession SessionBag { get; }              //Dynamic Session Bag
    TUserSession SessionAs<TUserSession>();   //Resolve Typed UserSession
    T TryResolve<T>();                        //Resolve dependency at runtime
    T ResolveService<T>();                    //Resolve an auto-wired service
    void PublishMessage(T message);           //Publish messages to Registered MQ Server
    bool IsAuthenticated { get; }             //Is Authenticated Request
    void Dispose();                           //Override to implement custom Dispose

Basic example - Handling Any HTTP Verb

Lets revisit the Simple example from earlier:

public class GetReqstars : IReturn<List<Reqstar>> { }

public class ReqstarsService : Service
    public object Get(GetReqstars request) => Db.Select<Reqstar>();

ServiceStack maps HTTP Requests to your Services Actions. An Action is any method that:

  • Is public
  • Only contains a single argument - the typed Request DTO
  • Has a Method name matching a HTTP Method or Any which is used as a fallback if it exists
  • Can specify either T or object Return type, both have same behavior

The above example will handle any GetReqstars request made on any HTTP Verb or endpoint and will return the complete List<Reqstar> contained in your configured RDBMS.

Micro ORMs and ADO.NET’s IDbConnection

Code-First Micro ORMS like OrmLite and Dapper provides a pleasant high-level experience whilst working directly against ADO.NET’s low-level IDbConnection. They both support all major databases so you immediately have access to a flexible RDBMS option out-of-the-box. At the same time you’re not limited to using the providers contained in the Service class and can continue to use your own register IOC dependencies (inc. an alternate IOC itself).

Micro ORM POCOs make good DTOs

The POCOs used in Micro ORMS are particularly well suited for re-using as DTOs since they don’t contain any circular references that the Heavy ORMs have (e.g. EF). OrmLite goes 1-step further and borrows pages from NoSQL’s playbook where any complex property e.g. List<MyPoco> is transparently blobbed in a schema-less text field, promoting the design of frictionless Pure POCOS that are uninhibited by RDBMS concerns. In many cases these POCO data models already make good DTOs and can be returned directly instead of mapping to domain-specific DTOs.

Calling Services from a Typed C# Client

In Service development your services DTOs provides your technology agnostic Service Layer which you want to keep clean and as ‘dependency-free’ as possible for maximum accessibility and potential re-use. Our recommendation is to keep your service DTOs in a separate largely dep-free assembly. We intend to improve this story further with a commercial VS.NET extension to enable ‘Add ServiceStack Reference’ like behaviour providing a familiar productive development experience for existing VS.NET SOAP WebService developers.

One of ServiceStack’s strengths is its ability to re-use your Server DTOs on the client enabling ServiceStack’s productive end-to-end typed API. The exact DTOs aren’t needed, only the shape of the DTOs is important, ServiceStack’s message-based design means you can even use partial DTOs on the client containing just the fields they’re interested in.

But lets say you take the normal route of copying the DTOs (in either source of binary form) so you have something like this on the client:

public class GetReqstars : IReturn<List<Reqstar>> { }

The code on the client now just becomes:

var client = new JsonServiceClient(BaseUri);
List<Reqstar> response = client.Get(new GetReqstars());

Which makes a GET web request to the /reqstars route. When a custom route is not present on the client it automatically falls back to using ServiceStack’s pre-defined routes.

Finally you can also use the previous more explicit client API (ideal for when you don’t have the IReturn<> marker):

var response = client.Get<List<Reqstar>>("/reqstars");

All these APIs have async equivalents which you can use instead, when you need to.

Everything Just Works

A nice property of ServiceStack’s message-based design is all functionality is centered around Typed Request DTOs which easily lets you take advantage of high-level value-added functionality like Auto Batched Requests or Encrypted Messaging which are enabled automatically without any effort or easily opt-in to enhanced functionality by decorating Request DTOs or thier Services with Metadata and Filter Attributes and everything works together, binded against typed models naturally.

E.g. you can take advantage of ServiceStack’s Razor support and create a web page for this service by just adding a Razor view with the same name as the Request DTO in the /Views folder, which for the GetReqstars Request DTO you can just add /Views/GetReqstars.cshtml and it will get rendered with the Services Response DTO as its View Model when the Service is called from a browser (i.e. HTTP Request with Accept: text/html).

Thanks to ServiceStack’s built-in Content Negotiation you can fetch the HTML contents calling the same url:

var html = $"{BaseUri}/reqstars".GetStringFromUrl(accept:"text/html");

This feature is particularly nice as it lets you re-use your existing services to serve both Web and Native Mobile and Desktop clients.

Action Filters

Service actions can also contain fine-grained application of Request and Response filters, e.g:

public class ReqstarsService : Service
    public object Get(GetReqstars request) => Db.Select<Reqstar>();

This Request Filter allows the client to change the selected Razor View and Template used at runtime. By default the view with the same name as the Request or Response DTO is used.

Handling different HTTP Verbs

ServiceStack Services lets you handle any HTTP Verb in the same way, e.g this lets you respond with CORS headers to a HTTP OPTIONS request with:

public class ReqstarsService : Service
    public void Options(GetReqstar request) {}

Which if you now make an OPTIONS request to the above service, will emit the default [EnableCors] headers:

var webReq = (HttpWebRequest)WebRequest.Create(Host + "/reqstars");
webReq.Method = "OPTIONS";
using (var webRes = webReq.GetResponse())
    webRes.Headers["Access-Control-Allow-Origin"]     // *
    webRes.Headers["Access-Control-Allow-Methods"]    // GET, POST, PUT, DELETE, OPTIONS
    webRes.Headers["Access-Control-Allow-Headers"]    // Content-Type

PATCH request example

Handling a PATCH request is just as easy, e.g. here’s an example of using PATCH to handle a partial update of a Resource:

[Route("/reqstars/{Id}", "PATCH")]
public class UpdateReqstar : IReturn<Reqstar>
    public int Id { get; set; }
    public int Age { get; set; }

public Reqstar Patch(UpdateReqstar request)
    Db.Update<Reqstar>(request, x => x.Id == request.Id);
    return Db.Id<Reqstar>(request.Id);

And the client call is just as easy as you would expect:

var response = client.Patch(new UpdateReqstar { Id = 1, Age = 18 });

Although sending different HTTP Verbs are unrestricted in native clients, they’re unfortunately not allowed in some web browsers and proxies. So to simulate a PATCH from an AJAX request you need to set the X-Http-Method-Override HTTP Header.

Structured Error Handling

When following the explicit Response DTO Naming convention ServiceStack will automatically populate the ResponseStatus property with a structured Error Response otherwise if returning other DTOs like naked collections ServiceStack will instead return a generic ErrorResponse, although this is mostly a transparent technical detail you don’t need to know about as for schema-less formats like JSON they return the exact same wire-format.

Error Handling works naturally in ServiceStack where you can simply throw C# Exceptions, e.g:

public List<Reqstar> Post(Reqstar request)
    if (!request.Age.HasValue)
        throw new ArgumentException("Age is required");

    return Db.Select<Reqstar>();

This will result in an Error thrown on the client if it tried to create an empty Reqstar:

    var response = client.Post(new Reqstar());
catch (WebServiceException webEx)
    webEx.StatusCode                    // 400
    webEx.StatusDescription             // ArgumentException
    webEx.ResponseStatus.ErrorCode      // ArgumentException
    webEx.ResponseStatus.Message        // Age is required
    webEx.ResponseDto is ErrorResponse  // true

The same Service Clients Exception handling is also used to handle any HTTP error generated in or outside of your service, e.g. here’s how to detect if a HTTP Method isn’t implemented or disallowed:

    var response = client.Send(new SearchReqstars());
catch (WebServiceException webEx)
    webEx.StatusCode                   // 405
    webEx.StatusDescription            // Method Not Allowed

In addition to standard C# exceptions your services can also return multiple, rich and detailed validation errors as enforced by Fluent Validation’s validators.

Overriding the default Exception handling

You can override the default exception handling in ServiceStack by registering a ServiceExceptionHandlers, e.g:

void Configure(Container container) 
    this.ServiceExceptionHandlers.Add((req, reqDto, ex) => {
        return ...;

Smart Routing

For the most part you won’t need to know about this as ServiceStack’s routing works as you would expect. Although this should still serve as a good reference to describe the resolution order of ServiceStack’s Routes:

  1. Any exact Literal Matches are used first
  2. Exact Verb match is preferred over All Verbs
  3. The more variables in your route the less weighting it has
  4. When Routes have the same weight, the order is determined by the position of the Action in the service or Order of Registration (FIFO)

These Rules only come into play when there are multiple routes that matches the pathInfo of an incoming request.

Lets see some examples of these rules in action using the routes defined in the API Design test suite:

public class Reqstar {}

[Route("/reqstars", "GET")]
public class GetReqstars {}

[Route("/reqstars/{Id}", "GET")]
public class GetReqstar {}

public class ViewReqstar {}

public class DeleteReqstar {}

[Route("/reqstars/{Id}", "PATCH")]
public class UpdateReqstar {}

public class ResetReqstar {}

public class SearchReqstars {}

These are results for these HTTP Requests

GET   /reqstars           =>	GetReqstars
POST  /reqstars           =>	Reqstar
GET   /reqstars/search    =>	SearchReqstars
GET   /reqstars/reset     =>	ResetReqstar
PATCH /reqstars/reset     =>	ResetReqstar
PATCH /reqstars/1         =>	UpdateReqstar
GET   /reqstars/1         =>	GetReqstar
GET   /reqstars/1/delete  =>	DeleteReqstar
GET   /reqstars/1/foo     =>	ViewReqstar

And if there were multiple of the exact same routes declared like:

[Route("/req/{Id}", "GET")]
public class Req2 {}

[Route("/req/{Id}", "GET")]
public class Req1 {}

public class MyService : Service {
    public object Get(Req1 request) { ... }		
    public object Get(Req2 request) { ... }		

The Route on the Action that was declared first gets selected, i.e:

GET /req/1              => Req1

Advanced Usages

Custom Hooks

The ability to extend ServiceStack’s service execution pipeline with Custom Hooks is an advanced customisation feature that for most times is not needed as the preferred way to add composable functionality to your services is to use Request / Response Filter attributes or apply them globally with Global Request/Response Filters.

The IServiceRunner decouples the execution of your service from the implementation of it which provides an alternative custom hook which lets you add custom behavior to all Services without needing to use a base Service class.

To add your own Service Hooks you just need to override the default Service Runner in your AppHost from its default implementation:

public virtual IServiceRunner<TRequest> CreateServiceRunner<TRequest>(ActionContext actionContext)
    return new ServiceRunner<TRequest>(this, actionContext); //Cached per Service Action

With your own:

public override IServiceRunner<TRequest> CreateServiceRunner<TRequest>(ActionContext actionContext)
    return new MyServiceRunner<TRequest>(this, actionContext); //Cached per Service Action

Where MyServiceRunner<T> is just a custom class implementing the custom hooks you’re interested in, e.g:

public class MyServiceRunner<T> : ServiceRunner<T> 
    public override void OnBeforeExecute(IRequestContext requestContext, TRequest request) {
      // Called just before any Action is executed

    public override object OnAfterExecute(IRequestContext requestContext, object response) {
      // Called just after any Action is executed, you can modify the response returned here as well

    public override object HandleException(IRequestContext requestContext, TRequest request, Exception ex) {
      // Called whenever an exception is thrown in your Services Action


One limitation of Services is that you can’t split the handling of a single Resource (i.e. Request DTO) over multiple service implementations. If you find you need to do this because your service is getting too big, consider using partial classes to spread the implementation over multiple files. Another option is encapsulating some of the re-usable functionality into Logic dependencies and inject them into your service.

Other Notes

Although they’re not needed or used anywhere you can also use HTTP Verb interfaces to enforce the correct signature required by the services, e.g:

public class MyService : Service, IAny<GetReqstars>, IGet<SearchReqstars>, IPost<Reqstar>
    public object Any(GetReqstars request) { .. }
    public object Get(SearchReqstars request) { .. }
    public object Post(Reqstar request) { .. }

This has no effect to the runtime behaviour and your services will work the same way with or without the added interfaces.