Calling a WCF service from a client without having the contract interface

February 10, 2012


I was asked yesterday in the Hebrew C#/.NET Framework MSDN forums a tough question – is it possible to dynamically call a WCF service using only the contract name, operation name, and metadata address?

At first I agreed with the answer given in the forum – move from SOAP bindings to WebHttpBinding (“REST”). This of course makes things a lot easier, only requiring you to create a WebHttpRequest and parse the response. However the question remains – is it possible to do this in the case of a SOAP-based service endpoint?

The short answer is – YES!

The full answer is – YES, but you’ll need to do a lot of coding to make it work properly, and even more coding for complex scenarios (who said passing a data contract?)

How is it done you ask?

First let’s start with the contract – you have a simple contract that looks like so:

   1:  [ServiceContract]
   2:  public interface ICalculator
   3:  {
   4:    [OperationContract]
   5:    double Add(double n1, double n2);
   6:    [OperationContract]
   7:    double Subtract(double n1, double n2);
   8:    [OperationContract]
   9:    double Multiply(double n1, double n2);
  10:    [OperationContract]
  11:    double Divide(double n1, double n2);
  12:  }

At this point the implementation doesn’t matter, but you can assume the service compiles and loads successfully.

Second, make sure your service has either a MEX endpoint or metadata exposed over HTTP GET. Read here for more info about the difference between the two.

Third – do the client coding!!! to create the client code I took some ideas from the following links: – generating client-side type information for WCF contracts – the same concept of dynamic calls, but for ASP.NET web services (ASMX).

   1:  using System;
   2:  using System.Collections.Generic;
   3:  using System.Linq;
   4:  using System.ServiceModel;
   5:  using System.ServiceModel.Description;
   6:  using System.Globalization;
   7:  using System.Collections.ObjectModel;
   8:  using System.CodeDom.Compiler;
  10:  namespace Client
  11:  {
  12:      class Program
  13:      {
  14:          static void Main(string[] args)
  15:          {
  16:              // Define the metadata address, contract name, operation name, and parameters. 
  17:              // You can choose between MEX endpoint and HTTP GET by changing the address and enum value.
  18:              Uri mexAddress = new Uri(“http://localhost:8732/CalculatorService/?wsdl”);
  19:              // For MEX endpoints use a MEX address and a mexMode of .MetadataExchange
  20:              MetadataExchangeClientMode mexMode = MetadataExchangeClientMode.HttpGet;            
  21:              string contractName = “ICalculator”;
  22:              string operationName = “Add”;
  23:              object[] operationParameters = new object[] { 1, 2 };
  25:              // Get the metadata file from the service.
  26:              MetadataExchangeClient mexClient = new MetadataExchangeClient(mexAddress, mexMode);
  27:              mexClient.ResolveMetadataReferences = true;
  28:              MetadataSet metaSet = mexClient.GetMetadata();
  30:              // Import all contracts and endpoints
  31:              WsdlImporter importer = new WsdlImporter(metaSet);
  32:              Collection<ContractDescription> contracts = importer.ImportAllContracts();
  33:              ServiceEndpointCollection allEndpoints = importer.ImportAllEndpoints();
  35:              // Generate type information for each contract
  36:              ServiceContractGenerator generator = new ServiceContractGenerator();
  37:              var endpointsForContracts = new Dictionary<string, IEnumerable<ServiceEndpoint>>();
  39:              foreach (ContractDescription contract in contracts)
  40:              {
  41:                  generator.GenerateServiceContractType(contract);
  42:                  // Keep a list of each contract’s endpoints
  43:                  endpointsForContracts[contract.Name] = allEndpoints.Where(
  44:                      se => se.Contract.Name == contract.Name).ToList();
  45:              }
  47:              if (generator.Errors.Count != 0)
  48:                  throw new Exception(“There were errors during code compilation.”);
  50:              // Generate a code file for the contracts 
  51:              CodeGeneratorOptions options = new CodeGeneratorOptions();
  52:              options.BracingStyle = “C”;
  53:              CodeDomProvider codeDomProvider = CodeDomProvider.CreateProvider(“C#”);
  55:              // Compile the code file to an in-memory assembly
  56:              // Don’t forget to add all WCF-related assemblies as references
  57:              CompilerParameters compilerParameters = new CompilerParameters(
  58:                  new string[] { 
  59:                      “System.dll”, “System.ServiceModel.dll”, 
  60:                      “System.Runtime.Serialization.dll” });
  61:              compilerParameters.GenerateInMemory = true;
  63:              CompilerResults results = codeDomProvider.CompileAssemblyFromDom(
  64:                  compilerParameters, generator.TargetCompileUnit);
  66:              if (results.Errors.Count > 0)
  67:              {
  68:                  throw new Exception(“There were errors during generated code compilation”);
  69:              }
  70:              else
  71:              {
  72:                  // Find the proxy type that was generated for the specified contract
  73:                  // (identified by a class that implements the contract and ICommunicationbject)
  74:                  Type clientProxyType = results.CompiledAssembly.GetTypes().First(
  75:                      t => t.IsClass &&
  76:                          t.GetInterface(contractName) != null &&
  77:                          t.GetInterface(typeof(ICommunicationObject).Name) != null);
  79:                  // Get the first service endpoint for the contract
  80:                  ServiceEndpoint se = endpointsForContracts[contractName].First();                    
  82:                  // Create an instance of the proxy
  83:                  // Pass the endpoint’s binding and address as parameters
  84:                  // to the ctor
  85:                  object instance = results.CompiledAssembly.CreateInstance(
  86:                      clientProxyType.Name, 
  87:                      false, 
  88:                      System.Reflection.BindingFlags.CreateInstance, 
  89:                      null,
  90:                      new object[] { se.Binding, se.Address }, 
  91:                      CultureInfo.CurrentCulture, null);
  93:                  // Get the operation’s method, invoke it, and get the return value
  94:                  object retVal = instance.GetType().GetMethod(operationName).
  95:                      Invoke(instance, operationParameters);
  97:                  Console.WriteLine(retVal.ToString());
  98:              }
  99:          }
 100:      }
 101:  }

I’ve placed comments that describe the code, but basically it imports the WSDL, generates types for the contract (service + data), generates C# code from it, compiles it, and uses reflection to create a proxy and invoke the correct method.

If you want to use this technique to call methods that require a data contract, you will need some extra work to create the correct type and initialize it.

A compiled and running version of this code (+ the service) can be found here:!466&parid=5EF5BE1AB30A6056!129

Hope you find this piece of code useful.


Just found out this great blog post that uses the same implementation only to enable calling WCF services from PowerShell.

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  1. KeesMay 24, 2012 ב 3:55 pm

    Great code, but how can I use this with a service that uses clientcredentials?

  2. Ido FlatowJune 2, 2012 ב 11:40 am

    What you ask for is possible, but a bit tricky – since the ClientCredentials is a property of the base type of the proxy – ClientBase, we need to cast out proxy to the base type, but since the base type is generic, it’s a problem to do that without reflection. So instead of that, we can just do the following:
    1. Get the ClientCredentials proxy from the proxy object using reflection.
    2. Cast it to System.ServiceModel.Description.ClientCredentials

    The code is:
    (instance.GetType().GetProperty(“ClientCredentials”).GetValue(instance, null) as System.ServiceModel.Description.ClientCredentials)

    From this point, you can access the value of the property and set any credentials you need.

  3. MikeJuly 25, 2012 ב 8:16 pm

    Can I use this if there are DataContracts used by service ?

  4. Ido FlatowJuly 28, 2012 ב 8:55 pm

    Hi Mike,
    The generated contract includes both service and data contracts. With the compiled assembly, which you have
    access to as shown in line 74, you can create any data contract object you need, as long as you know its name. Then you can either use reflection to set its properties, or use a dynamic object to store the object reference, and use the dynamic object capability of using properties which are not known during compilation. In runtime, because you use the same property names as the ones in the real type, it should work (tested just now)

  5. Goran TesicSeptember 26, 2012 ב 9:43 am

    Hi Ido,

    Thank you for excellent article.

    I’m trying to use your code and have some issue. I’ve created ASP.NET application and added simple WCF service to it. The ASP.NET application is host for WCF service. The service is running. Then I’ve added new console application project as a client and pasted your code. I’ve used this URL:

    Uri mexAddress = new Uri(“http://localhost:1781/Service.svc?wsdl”);

    When I run client application I’ve got this error:

    Could not load file or assembly ‘file:///D:\Documents and Settings\tesicg\Local Settings\Temp\jun1iaki.dll’ or one of its dependencies. The system cannot find the file specified.

    At this line:

    Type clientProxyType = results.CompiledAssembly.GetTypes().First(
    t => t.IsClass && t.GetInterface(contractName) != null && t.GetInterface(typeof(ICommunicationObject).Name) != null);

    Do you happen to know what could be the reason for that error and how to overcome it?

    Thank you in advance.


  6. Ido FlatowSeptember 26, 2012 ב 10:26 am

    Hi Goran,
    You might want to try a simple “add service reference” first to see if there is a problem with the WCF service itself. If adding a service reference works, then so should the dynamic code.
    If it doesn’t work, contact me using the contact link at the top of the blog and we’ll continue this discussion offline.

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