Simple Demo WCF Web Services - CodeProject



  1. WCF - Introduction 
  2. What is a Service Contract, Operation Contract and a Data Contract
  3. A word about WCF configuration
  4. Look at our project defining simple Business Functionality
  5. Expose the above Business Functionality via a WCF Web Service
  6. Employ WCF Test Client to test out our newly created Web Service
  7. Create a Proxy Client for our new Web Service
  8. Test our above created proxy client
  9. Final Thoughts



In this article, we will have a look at a simple WCF Web Service.

It is far easier to understand concepts through examples.

In this article, we will be using a total of 3 projects.
Class Library Project TweetBL will represent a project that has some business functionality that needs to be service enabled. Then, we will look at a WCF Service Project which will expose our project TweetBL's business functionality as a Web Service. In our third and final project, we will create a proxy client which will consume our WCF Web Service.

Finally, it is worth adding that we will be testing each and every bit as we go. Stick around and don't panic I have tried to use simple code and just focus on WCF here!
So let's go...

WCF - Introduction

WCF stands for Windows Communication Foundation.
WCF is a framework designed for supporting message-based communication on both client and server.
WCF supports multiple transports like SOAP over HTTP (our example Web Service is based on this), TCP, named pipes, MSMQ and some others.
WCF supports multiple encodings like XML, text, binary and a few other options.
Currently, to name some technologies that employ WCF are Windows Workflow, Silverlight, etc.

WCF Architecture

What is a Service Contract, Operation Contract and a Data Contract

In WCF, contracts are used to define functionality.
Contracts basically are formal agreements between a client and a service to define a platform-neutral
and standard way of describing what a service will and can do.

WCF defines 4 types of contracts:

  1. Service Contracts
  2. Operation Contracts
  3. Data Contracts
  4. Fault Contracts

We will be looking at the first three contracts in this article.

WCF Architecture

Service Contracts define the capabilities of a web service.
It is essentially a Interface Contract that binds the application (business functionality - business operations
being exposed) to provide a fixed set of operations (as stated in the interface contract) to the sources
consuming the web service.
It simply describes the client-callable operations, or methods, that are available on the service endpoint,
and are exposed to the outside world.

In terms of code:
All we need to do is to code and decorate a interface with ServiceContract attribute.
This interface will have members (methods) that will be made available as part of the Tweet Service to the outside world.

// Service Contract
// Wee need to decorate the Interface with the ServiceContract Attribute
interface ITweetService
   // Interface members
   // Tweet Service Methods that need to be exposed to the outside world!

Operation Contracts on the other hand defines the methods of the service that are accessible to the external systems.
It is integral to the above created interface for Service Contract.
Members marked with Operation Contract attribute in the Service Contract Interface are the ones which are
exposed to external systems.
Members not decorated with Operation Contract attribute in Service Contract Interface are not exposed
as part of the web service.

In terms of code:
It can be applied only on methods.
It is used to decorate methods which belongs to Service Contract interfaces.

// Service Contract - Operation Contact example
interface ITweetService
   int AddNewTweet(string tweetBy, string tweet);

   // Other members...

Data Contracts defines the type and the format of data that will be sent out and received by the web service operations.
It is a formal agreement between the service and a client that abstractly describes the data to be exchanged.
Data contract can be explicit or implicit. Simple type such as int, string, etc. has an implicit data contract.
User defined object are explicit or Complex type, for which you have to define a Data contract using [DataContract] and [DataMember] attribute.

Some important factors regarding Data Contracts are mentioned below:

  1. Describes the format of data, structure of data and types of data that is passed to and from the web service operations
  2. Does the mapping between CLR type and XML Schema
  3. Defines how the associated data is serialized and deserialized
    Serialization = Converting data (object) into a sequence of bytes that can be transmitted over the Network
    De-serialization = reassembling a sequence of bytes to it its original form -> data (object)
  4. Is a loosely-coupled model that is defined outside the implementation of the service and is accessible by services in other platforms

In terms of code:
To define a data contract, apply the DataContract attribute to the class to serialize the class by a serializer, and apply the DataMember attribute to the fields in the class that must be serialized.
We need to include System.Runtime.Serialization reference to the project.
This assembly holds the DataContract and DataMember attribute.

// Data Contract - Data Member example
// Creating a user defined data type called SampleData. This data type should be identified
// for serialization and de-serialization by mentioning with [DataContract] and [DataMember] attribute.
// There should be: using System.Runtime.Serialization; reference in the using section.
public class SampleData
   private string _somePropertyPrivateVariable;

   public string SomeProperty
      get { return _somePropertyPrivateVariable;}
      set { _somePropertyPrivateVariable = value;}

   // Other properties...

A Word about WCF Configuration

Since WCF supports so many technologies, transport protocols and encodings, it has a heavy reliance on configuration.

It all boils down to the below:

  • Endpoint: This is the address where the server can send and receive data.
  • Binding: This is what defines the transport and encoding used by a Endpoint.
  • Behaviour: This is the final bit and is responsible for the runtime behaviour of a web service, endpoint, operation and/or client.

Behaviours are important as they influence error handling, credentials and many other important features.

We will be using default WCF Configuration in this article. The default WCf Configuration provided for every project is explained here.

Look At Our Project Defining Simple Business Functionality

We will expose this Business Functionality as a Web Service!

The project that we will be exposing as a Web Service is a simple class library project called TweetBL (BL stands for Business Layer).
Project TweetBL represents the business code that has been identified to be made available over the web via a web service.
TweetBL project has the following business functionality (methods) that will be exposed as a service.

Business functionality methods are:

  1. update tweet
  2. save/insert a tweet
  3. delete a tweet
  4. retrieve tweet by id and
  5. retrieve all tweets

TweetBL Project:

TweetBL Project Screen-shot

Tweet.cs is simply the data class identifying all data members that we have to fetch/update/insert and delete to manage tweets. Think of Model (Data Model).

Tweet.cs Class Screen-shot

TweetService.cs is the class that houses the business methods that do all the necessary processing on the Tweet Data to manage and maintain it.
Note: There is a bit of housekeeping code as well (unrelated to business functionality being exposed) because we are not using an actual database to keep things fairly simple.

TweetService.cs Class Screen-shot

Expose the Above Business Functionality via a WCF Web Service

Now that we have had a quick trip of our TweetBL Project, it is time to jump into some real code...
Let us start by adding a new project called Tweet.WebService - this will be our WCF project.

Adding Tweet.WebService Project Screen-shot

Tweet.WebService Project added Screen-shot

Now, we will add a WCF Service to Tweet.WebService project.
Go to add new item (on Tweet.WebService project) and follow the screen-shot below:

Tweet.WebService Adding New Item Screen-shot

As soon as we add the service, it makes a few changes to the project.
Serialization and ServiceModal references have been added along with a few other files!

Tweet.WebService Project Updated References Screen-shot

Web.config file has also been modified!
One thing to note here is that as soon as we add a WCF Web Service, Web.config file gets updated with the default configuration for SOAP over HTTP based WCF Services...

Tweet.WebService Project Updated Web.Config Screen-shot

We can see a collection of behaviour(s) has been defined for our WCF Service, especially, one for our Web Service.
Behaviour defines run time aspects of our service.

You are more than welcome to add, remove or modify these settings but for this article we will stick to the defaults.
Following the KISS concept here - Keep it simple stupid!

Below is a short explanation of the provided WCF configuration:

This setting allows to send Meta-data over HTTP and HTTPS using get verbs.

// Web.Config snippet
<serviceMetadata httpGetEnabled="true" httpsGetEnabled="true"/>

We are setting includeExceptionDetailInFaults to false so that if any error occurs on the server, we will not send details of the exception back to the client.

// Web.Config snippet
<serviceDebug includeExceptionDetailInFaults="false"/>

The configuration setting below defines how the Web Service will be hosted. Setting aspNetCompatibilityEnabled to true enables us to integrate with the ASP.NET pipeline in IIS.
And finally, setting multipleSiteBindingsEnabled to true allows us to associate our web service with
multiple site bindings configured on the IIS.

// Web.Config snippet
<serviceHostingEnvironment aspNetCompatibilityEnabled="true"

All the above settings are set for us by default... so we do not have to worry about any of it!

Now, an Interface and an svc file were also added to the project. Let us focus on them now.

Tweet.WebService Project automatically added Interface Screen-Shot

WCF uses Interfaces to define the capabilities of each individual service and ITweetService.cs represents
that design and purpose.

 // ITweetService.cs snippet 
public interface ITweetService
    void DoWork();

ServiceContract attribute tells WCF that this interface ITweetService.cs can be used to serve out data as part of a Web Service.
OperationContract attribute simply identifies the operations that can be executed by the service.

Finally, we have TweetService.svc.

// ITweetService.svc (right-click: View Markup) snippet
<%@ ServiceHost Language="C#" Debug="true"
Service="Tweet.WebService.TweetService" CodeBehind="TweetService.svc.cs"%>

The ServiceHost directive (above screen-shot) is specific to WCF - it enables all the binding and the configuration that we explored in the previous sections.

The code behind file is very clean as all the WCF specific configuration has been abstracted away and is specified
in the ITweetService Interface.

 // ITweetService.svc.cs Code behind file snippet
public class TweetService : ITweetService
    public void DoWork()
       // Lets do some work

Now Let Us Incorporate Our Business Code into this Newly Created WCF Web Service

We will expose all the relevant methods from TweetBL Project - TweetService class to manage tweets as a Web Service.
Let us start with exposing those methods via the ITweetService Interface of the Tweet.WebService Project.

Add methods to ITweetService Interface of the Tweet.WebService Project:

Tweet.WebService Project ITweetService (Methods added) Interface Screen-Shot

Now, we must implement the interface ITweetService.cs in class TweetService.svc.cs. I will implement the methods by tapping into our business functionality code defined in: Project TweetBL - Class TweetService.cs.

Project TweetBL - Class TweetService.cs Business methods Screen-Shot

Implementing interface ITweetService.cs in class TweetService.svc.cs.

Project Tweet.WebService - Class TweetService.svc.cs implemented methods Screen-Shot

Now, after implementing & building the project - go to TweetService.svc, right click and select view in browser.

Project Tweet.WebService - Class TweetService.svc.cs view in browser Screen-Shot

This will show us the generated HTML page for our web service, which we can use to build our proxy clients (the clients that consumes our service.)

Project Tweet.WebService - Class TweetService.svc.cs generated html page Screen-Shot

Finally, we are just one step away from testing our service. Let us mark our data object Tweet.cs (our Transport class) in project TweetBL with the following attributes:

  • [DataContract]: Marking our data transport class Tweet.cs (TweetBL Project) with this attribute
  • [DataMember]: Marking all the fields in class Tweet.cs (TweetBL Project) with this attribute

Project TweetBL - Class Tweet.cs post DataContract and DataMember attributes Screen-Shot

and now we are ready to Test our WCF Service!
Note* Data Contracts are explained here.

Employ WCF Test Client to Test Out Our Newly Created Web Service

In the previous section, we finalised the implementation of interface ITweetService.cs in class TweetService.svc.cs.
It is now time to run a quick test... Set the Tweet.WebService Project as the start-up project.
Select class TweetService.svc and press F5 to launch the WCF Test Client.

Tweet.WebService Project - WCF Test Client Launch Screen-Shot

Select the GetTweets() method and double click - this will start a Form for us...
The GetTweets() service method does not take any parameters so we can just click Invoke button:

Tweet.WebService Project - WCF Test Client GetTweets() Screen-Shot

The above screen-shot displays the result of GetTweets() service call - the result is displayed in a nice formatted data table!

It returned a list of 4 elements.
Our Business Layer Project TweetBL - class TweetService.cs had been set up to create 4 initial tweets.
All of those 4 records are returned.

If you click on the XML Tab - you can look at the request and response SOAP envelopes.
The Request envelope is generated by the client and the Response envelope is what we receive back from the WCF Service.

Tweet.WebService Project - WCF Test Client XML Tab Screen-Shot

Note - You can test all the other Service Methods as well using WCF test client.
I will leave the remaining service methods for you to play with on your own.

Create a Proxy Client for Our New Web Service

Add a new Console Application Project called TweetClient which will be the proxy client that will consume our Tweet Web Service.

TweetClient Project - Screen-Shot

Now, let's add the Service Reference for our TweetService to TweetClient project:
Right click on TweetClient project and go to Add -> Service Reference...

TweetClient Project - Add Service reference Screen-Shot

Click on the Discover button - as our service is in the same solution it will be discovered & displayed.

TweetClient Project - Discover Button Screen-Shot

By expanding the TweetService, it will download the web service definition document from the service and it will get the service contract for the WCF Service.
As you can see, we have our 5 operations that we exposed in our service contract being displayed.

TweetClient Project - WSDL Download Screen-Shot

Click OK and the selected Service reference is added to a folder called 'Service References'.

TweetClient Project - Service reference added Screen-Shot

If you double click on the newly added service reference, it opens up the Object Browser.
If you select the ITweetService interface, we have some interesting details here to look at:

TweetClient Project - double click Service reference Screen-Shot

TweetClient Project - Object Browser Screen-Shot

As you can see in the above screen-shot - for ITweetService interface, the Object Browser not only displays
the 5 operations that we have exposed through our Service Contract, but it also displays Asynchronous versions of those methods. These Asynchronous methods have been added by default and it enables the client to create Asynchronous Web requests! to communicate with the server without blocking its main thread.

Also, have a quick look at our Tweet transport class...
This is the transport class that we will use to send and receive data to and from the server for all our calls (example: create, get and update).
It has all the fields that we require to do the above mentioned operations.

TweetClient Project - Object Browser Tweet Transport Class Screen-Shot

Finally, let's look at TweetServiceClient...
This is the concrete implementation of ITweetService. Also it has 5 different constructor definitions.

Note* the default constructor will use the Web Address that we used to add the Service Reference!
The other constructors are made available to give us different options to configure our service to use different servers example a test server or a production server or use both.
Using these constructors, you can define what Endpoint the service should be talking too.
In this article, we will just employ the services of the default constructor.

TweetClient Project - Object Browser TweetServiceClient Class Screen-Shot

TweetClient Project - Object Browser TweetServiceClient Methods Screen-Shot

Now that we have our service reference, let us define our TweetClientDataService.

TweetClient Project - TweetClientDataService Class Screen-Shot

TweetClient Project - TweetClientDataService Class Implementation Screen-Shot

In TweetClientDataService implementation (above screen-shot), I am using reference to TweetServiceClient.
TweetServiceClient is providing us with a lot of functionality under the covers!
Example: TweetServiceClient - is doing all the serialization and de-serialization behind the scenes
for request and response SOAP envelopes.
It is also opening the connection for us and sending and receiving the information on our behalf over the network.
So, it has really abstracted away a lot of complications that one has to face when communicating through
RPC SAOP style Web Services!

Test Our Above Created Proxy Client

Wow! here we are... we have almost made it through!
I have created a Program Class in the TweetClient project and have introduced some Command Prompt
interface to interact with our Tweet Web Service operations. I will leave the Program Class in TweetClient
Project for you to explore as it is fairly simple.

To run the Program Class in TweetClient Project, follow the screen shot below:

TweetClient Project - Debug Program Class Screen-Shot

A pretty (you decide!) Command Prompt Interface will pop-up using which you can invoke our Tweet Web Service Operations!

TweetClient Project - Awesome Command Prompt. Program Class in Action. Screen-Shot

Have fun playing with our TweetService using TweetClient!

Final Thoughts

It's time for me to sign off. Feel free to ask questions, provide feedback and everything in between as I am on the same boat with you.

P.S.: The Boat is called "Burn and Learn".


  • Version 1 submitted on 9th March, 2015