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ProtoBuf Format

Protocol Buffers is a high-performance, compact binary wire format invented by Google who use it internally so they can communicate with their internal network services at very high speed.

For .NET @marcgravell has developed protobuf-net - a robust implementation of the Protocol Buffers wire format that provides the fastest serialization option available for .NET.

ProtoBuf is a great addition to your ServiceStack’s web services as it provides the fastest binary serializer to go along with the 2 fastest text serializers for .NET in JSON and JSV formats (already included by default).

Note: Until we can get marcgravell to succumb to internal pressure and add support for attribute-less POCOs you will need to add unique custom indexes for each property on your DTOs e.g: [DataMember(Order=N)].

Otherwise another fast binary serializer that supports attribute-less POCOs is the new MessagePack Format.

Installing via NuGet

As it requires an external protobuf-net.dll dependency ProtoBuf support is not automatically bundled inside ServiceStack, but it is easily installed with the ServiceStack.ProtoBuf NuGet package:

Install-Package ServiceStack.ProtoBuf

After the NuGet Package is added to your Project, enable the ProtoBuf format with:

Plugins.Add(new ProtoBufFormat());

The NuGet plugin also includes the ProtoBufServiceClient client below so you can easily call it from any C# Client.

Registering ProtoBuf Manually

The API for adding custom Formats and Content Types in ServiceStack is so easy we use it ourselves :) Where the CSV, HTML, Markdown and now ProtoBuf format are all registered in the same way by registering the new ContentType with your AppHost’s ContentTypeFilters.

Adding support for ProtoBuf is equally simple. It can be added by calling a single method:

    (reqCtx, res, stream) => ProtoBuf.Serializer.NonGeneric.Serialize(stream, res),

This makes the ProtoBuf format available in all of ServiceStack:

  • A new X-PROTOBUF column added for all services on the metadata pages
  • New /x-protobuf/syncreply/{Service} and /x-protobuf/asynconeway/{Service} pre-defined routes
  • Clients can request it with Accept: application/x-protobuf HTTP Header or ?format=x-protobuf query string

End to End happiness

However simply registering ProtoBuf is not enough to ensure end-to-end happiness so we also make it easy to create your own generic strong-typed ProtoBuf ServiceClient with the following code:

public class ProtoBufServiceClient : ServiceClientBase
    public override string Format
        get { return "x-protobuf"; }

    public ProtoBufServiceClient(string baseUri)

    public ProtoBufServiceClient(string syncReplyBaseUri, string asyncOneWayBaseUri)
        : base(syncReplyBaseUri, asyncOneWayBaseUri) { }

    public override void SerializeToStream(IRequest req, object request, Stream stream)
        Serializer.NonGeneric.Serialize(stream, request);

    public override T DeserializeFromStream<T>(Stream stream)
        return Serializer.Deserialize<T>(stream);

    public override string ContentType
        get { return MimeTypes.ProtoBuf; }

    public override StreamDeserializerDelegate StreamDeserializer
        get { return Deserialize; }

    private static object Deserialize(Type type, Stream source)
        return Serializer.NonGeneric.Deserialize(type, source);

This now lets you call each of your services with a Strong Typed service client of your very own:

var client = new ProtoBufServiceClient(BaseUri);
var response = client.Send<HelloResponse>(new Hello { Name = "ProtoBuf" });

The above ProtoBufServiceClient works like all the other strong-typed ServiceClients in ServiceStack where it also implements IServiceClient and IRestClient interfaces so you can easily swap out your existing clients to take advantage of the performance boost offered by ProtoBuf with minimal effort!

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