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Posted 25 Dec 2014


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Stream Large Result Set from Web API to WPF on Background Thread

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25 Dec 2014CPOL5 min read
Stream large result set from Web API to WPF on background thread and display on Datagrid


I have been working on an N-tier application recently and one of the ideas I wanted to explore was to stream large result set from the server side to client side and display the data in Real-time. The application uses the ASP.NET Web API to stream large result set to WPF clients on background thread and display on screen as soon as content is received. I will also show how to yield return using Dapper, a simple ORM, to return the result per record. This article will explain the steps to create the sample solution.


I will demonstrate the idea using the sample code which will allow the user to search for a person by first name and display a list of persons that match the search criteria.

Using the Code

The solution has 2 projects, the Service Project and the WpfClient project. The solution should contain everything you'll need to run the sample code. You just need to make sure you have .NET Framework 4.5 installed as my code uses the new async and await keywords. For debugging purposes, start both projects at the same time.

Service Project

The Service Project is a Web API MVC4 project. I have 2 controllers, the Home Controller and the Name Controller. The Home Controller is the default controller created when the project is created, it is not being used in this case, so we are going to ignore it. The Name controller contains our services that will demonstrate streaming capability of Web API.

There are 2 actions in the Name controller. The SimulateLargeResultSet Action and the UsingDapper Action. To correctly route request to the appropriate action, we need to add the following route to WebApiConfig.cs.

public static void Register(HttpConfiguration config)
                name: "Api",
                routeTemplate: "api/{controller}/{action}",
                defaults: new {first = string.Empty} 

The SimulateLargeResultSet Action demonstrates what would happen in a situation when large result set is returned from SQL Server. Retrieving large result set takes time. To simulate the delay, Thread.Sleep(250) is appended to the end of the for loop. It will create a Person object with an Id and a name to return back to the client.

The Action first creates a HttpResponseMessage, which is typical in a Web API action.

HttpResponseMessage response = Request.CreateResponse();

Then it sets the HttpResponseMessage.Content as a PushStreamContent. The PushStreamContent is where all the magic occurs as it actually enables scenarios where data producers want to write directly (either synchronously or asynchronously) using a stream.

response.Content = new PushStreamContent(....); 

Then finally, the Action returns the response to establish the stream, which is again, typical in a normal Web API action.

return response;

One of the overloaded constructors for PushStreamContent accepts an action, and mediaType which we'll specify as "text/plain". The Action will write a Json serialized Person object to the output stream once every quarter of a second.

for (int i = 0; i < 20000; i++ )
    var name = new Person()
         Id = i,
         Name = string.Format("Name for Id: {0}", i),
     var str = await JsonConvert.SerializeObjectAsync(name);
     var buffer = UTF8Encoding.UTF8.GetBytes(str);
     // Write out data to output stream
     await outputStream.WriteAsync(buffer, 0, buffer.Length);
     //simulate each additional row scan time required in sql server
     //when we are retrieving many rows
     Thread.Sleep(250);//wait a quarter of a second

The other action in the sample code is the UsingDapper Action which is not being used by default because it requires a SQL Server database to be setup. The logic is pretty similar to the SimulateLargeResultSet action but it contains the code to connect to a SQL database and reads from the Name table. You will have to create the database structure and change the connection string to make it work. I am using Dapper v1.12.0.0 to execute the SQL query and yield return a person object per record. Doing it this way will not have to wait for the entire result to return before pushing the output back to the client. I have set the buffered parameter to false and set the commandtimeout to indefinitely.

var persons = connection.Query<Person>(dynamicQuery,
                                new { FirstName = first },//define the parameter
                                buffered: false, //yield return for each reader
                                commandTimeout: 0, //indefinitely
                                commandType: CommandType.Text);

Each foreach execution will then read the result from the database and seralize it into Json and write to the output stream.

foreach (var person in persons)
     var str = await JsonConvert.SerializeObjectAsync(person);
     var buffer = UTF8Encoding.UTF8.GetBytes(str);
     // Write out data to output stream
     await outputStream.WriteAsync(buffer, 0, buffer.Length);                                

WPF Client Project

The WPF client project is done using Prism 4.1 and MVVM approach. When you run the sample code, you will see a First Name textbox where user can enter the first name of the person to search for and a datagrid that will show all the results from the service project.

The MainWindow.xaml has a ViewModel called MainWindowViewModel which has this line of code in the constructor.

BindingOperations.EnableCollectionSynchronization(Persons, _personsLock);

This line of code allows an Observable collection to be modified from a background thread without WPF throwing an error. WPF requires all UI changing code to be run on the dispatcher thread, which is the UI thread, in the newer version of .NET Framework, it will automatically marshall all INotifyPropertyChanged.PropertyChanged to the UI thread, but it doesn't do it for the INotifyCollectionChanged.CollectionChanged. You will have to have the EnableCollectionSynchronization(...) or manually dispatch the add/remove operation back to the UI thread. I find that using the BindingOperations is so much faster than using the dispatcher.

The DataGrid is binded to the Persons property in the MainWindowViewModel class which is of type ObservableCollection<Person> which we will add person object to in realtime.

public ObservableCollection<Person> Persons
                if (_persons == null)
                    _persons = new ObservableCollection<Person>();
                return _persons;
                _persons = value;
                RaisePropertyChanged(() => Persons);

In the View Model, there are two commands, the Search Command and the Cancel Command. The Search command simply starts a background thread, calls the Web API service stream and gets back a list of Person back. Then it will add the person object into the Persons ObservableCollection which will be reflected in the UI in real time.

using (Stream stream = await response.Content.ReadAsStreamAsync())
      // Read response stream
      byte[] readBuffer = new byte[512];    //TODO: make this not fail when 
                        //response object is larger than 512 byte
      int bytesRead = 0;
      while ((bytesRead = stream.Read(readBuffer, 0, readBuffer.Length)) != 0)
            string personString = Encoding.UTF8.GetString(readBuffer, 0, bytesRead);
            var person = JsonConvert.DeserializeObject<Person>(personString);

At the beginning of the While loop, it checks if the cancellation token has been requested:


If so, it will stop streaming from the service. The Cancellation token is hooked up to the Cancel command which is then hooked up to the Cancel button. So that when user clicks on the Cancel button, it will stop the stream.

If the cancel button is clicked, the Service side will receive an exception with ErrorCode == -2147023667.

catch (HttpException ex)
    if (ex.ErrorCode == -2147023667) // The remote host closed the connection. 


And that's it guys. I hope you guys enjoyed reading the article as much as I enjoyed writing it, and find the article helpful. Thanks.


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

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Comments and Discussions

QuestionWhy WebAPI?? Pin
Member 111471455-May-15 8:21
MemberMember 111471455-May-15 8:21 

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