The Dapr service invocation building block


This content is an excerpt from the eBook, Dapr for .NET Developers, available on .NET Docs or as a free downloadable PDF that can be read offline.

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Across a distributed system, one service often needs to communicate with another to complete a business operation. The Dapr service invocation building block can help streamline the communication between services.

What it solves

Making calls between services in a distributed application may appear easy, but there are many challenges involved. For example:

  • Where the other services are located.
  • How to call a service securely, given the service address.
  • How to handle retries when short-lived transient errors occur.

Lastly, as distributed applications compose many different services, capturing insights across service call graphs are critical to diagnosing production issues.

The service invocation building block addresses these challenges by using a Dapr sidecar as a reverse proxy for your service.

How it works

Let's start with an example. Consider two services, "Service A" and "Service B". Service A needs to call the catalog/items API on Service B. While Service A could take a dependency on Service B and make a direct call to it, Service A instead invokes the service invocation API on the Dapr sidecar. Figure 6-1 shows the operation.

How the Dapr service invocation works

Figure 6-1. How Dapr service invocation works.

Note the steps from the previous figure:

  1. Service A makes a call to the catalog/items endpoint in Service B by invoking the service invocation API on the Service A sidecar.


    The sidecar uses a pluggable name resolution component to resolve the address of Service B. In self-hosted mode, Dapr uses mDNS to find it. When running in Kubernetes mode, the Kubernetes DNS service determines the address.

  2. The Service A sidecar forwards the request to the Service B sidecar.

  3. The Service B sidecar makes the actual catalog/items request against the Service B API.

  4. Service B executes the request and returns a response back to its sidecar.

  5. The Service B sidecar forwards the response back to the Service A sidecar.

  6. The Service A sidecar returns the response back to Service A.

Because the calls flow through sidecars, Dapr can inject some useful cross-cutting behaviors:

  • Automatically retry calls upon failure.
  • Make calls between services secure with mutual (mTLS) authentication, including automatic certificate rollover.
  • Control what operations clients can do using access control policies.
  • Capture traces and metrics for all calls between services to provide insights and diagnostics.

Any application can invoke a Dapr sidecar by using the native invoke API built into Dapr. The API can be called with either HTTP or gRPC. Use the following URL to call the HTTP API:

  • <dapr-port> the HTTP port that Dapr is listening on.
  • <application-id> application ID of the service to call.
  • <method-name> name of the method to invoke on the remote service.

In the following example, a curl call is made to the catalog/items 'GET' endpoint of Service B:

curl http://localhost:3500/v1.0/invoke/serviceb/method/catalog/items


The Dapr APIs enable any application stack that supports HTTP or gRPC to use Dapr building blocks. Therefore, the service invocation building block can act as a bridge between protocols. Services can communicate with each other using HTTP, gRPC or a combination of both.

In the next section, you'll learn how to use the .NET SDK to simplify service invocation calls.

Use the Dapr .NET SDK

The Dapr .NET SDK provides .NET developers with an intuitive and language-specific way to interact with Dapr. The SDK offers developers three ways of making remote service invocation calls:

  1. Invoke HTTP services using HttpClient
  2. Invoke HTTP services using DaprClient
  3. Invoke gRPC services using DaprClient

Invoke HTTP services using HttpClient

The preferred way to call an HTTP endpoint is to use Dapr's rich integration with HttpClient. The following example submits an order by calling the submit method of the orderservice application:

var httpClient = DaprClient.CreateInvokeHttpClient();
await httpClient.PostAsJsonAsync("http://orderservice/submit", order);

In the example, DaprClient.CreateInvokeHttpClient returns an HttpClient instance that is used to perform Dapr service invocation. The returned HttpClient uses a special Dapr message handler that rewrites URIs of outgoing requests. The host name is interpreted as the application ID of the service to call. The rewritten request that's actually being called is:

This example uses the default value for the Dapr HTTP endpoint, which is<dapr-http-port>/. The value of dapr-http-port is taken from the DAPR_HTTP_PORT environment variable. If it's not set, the default port number 3500 is used.

Alternatively, you can configure a custom endpoint in the call to DaprClient.CreateInvokeHttpClient:

var httpClient = DaprClient.CreateInvokeHttpClient(daprEndpoint: "localhost:4000");

You can also directly set the base address by specifying the application ID. Doing so enables relative URIs when making a call:

var httpClient = DaprClient.CreateInvokeHttpClient("orderservice");
await httpClient.PostAsJsonAsync("/submit");

The HttpClient object is intended to be long-lived. A single HttpClient instance can be reused for the lifetime of the application. The next scenario demonstrates how an OrderServiceClient class reuses a Dapr HttpClient instance:

var builder = WebApplication.CreateBuilder(args);
builder.Services.AddSingleton<IOrderServiceClient, OrderServiceClient>(
    _ => new OrderServiceClient(DaprClient.CreateInvokeHttpClient("orderservice")));

In the snippet above, the OrderServiceClient is registered as a singleton with the ASP.NET Core dependency injection system. An implementation factory creates a new HttpClient instance by calling DaprClient.CreateInvokeHttpClient. It then uses the newly created HttpClient to instantiate the OrderServiceClient object. By registering the OrderServiceClient as a singleton, it will be reused for the lifetime of the application.

The OrderServiceClient itself has no Dapr-specific code. Even though Dapr service invocation is used under the hood, you can treat the Dapr HttpClient like any other HttpClient:

public class OrderServiceClient : IOrderServiceClient
    private readonly HttpClient _httpClient;

    public OrderServiceClient(HttpClient httpClient)
        _httpClient = httpClient ?? throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(httpClient));

    public async Task SubmitOrder(Order order)
        var response = await _httpClient.PostAsJsonAsync("submit", order);

Using the HttpClient class with Dapr service invocation has many benefits:

  • HttpClient is a well-known class that many developers already use in their code. Using HttpClient for Dapr service invocation allows developers to reuse their existing skills.
  • HttpClient supports advanced scenarios, such as custom headers, and full control over request and response messages.
  • In .NET 5, HttpClient supports automatic serialization and deserialization using System.Text.Json.
  • HttpClient integrates with many existing frameworks and libraries, such as Refit, RestSharp, and Polly.

Invoke HTTP services using DaprClient

While HttpClient is the preferred way to invoke services using HTTP semantics, you can also use the DaprClient.InvokeMethodAsync family of methods. The following example submits an order by calling the submit method of the orderservice application:

var daprClient = new DaprClientBuilder().Build();
    var confirmation =
        await daprClient.InvokeMethodAsync<Order, OrderConfirmation>(
            "orderservice", "submit", order);
catch (InvocationException ex)
    // Handle error

The third argument, an order object, is serialized internally (with System.Text.JsonSerializer) and sent as the request payload. The .NET SDK takes care of the call to the sidecar. It also deserializes the response to an OrderConfirmation object. Because no HTTP method is specified, the request is executed as an HTTP POST.

The next example demonstrates how you can make an HTTP GET request by specifying the HttpMethod:

var catalogItems = await daprClient.InvokeMethodAsync<IEnumerable<CatalogItem>>(HttpMethod.Get, "catalogservice", "items");

For some scenarios, you may require more control over the request message. For example, when you need to specify request headers, or you want to use a custom serializer for the payload. DaprClient.CreateInvokeMethodRequest creates an HttpRequestMessage. The following example demonstrates how to add an HTTP authorization header to a request message:

var request = daprClient.CreateInvokeMethodRequest("orderservice", "submit", order);
request.Headers.Authorization = new AuthenticationHeaderValue("bearer", token);

The HttpRequestMessage now has the following properties set:

  • Url =
  • HttpMethod = POST
  • Content = JsonContent object containing the JSON-serialized order
  • Headers.Authorization = "bearer <token>"

Once you've got the request set up the way you want, use DaprClient.InvokeMethodAsync to send it:

var orderConfirmation = await daprClient.InvokeMethodAsync<OrderConfirmation>(request);

DaprClient.InvokeMethodAsync deserializes the response to an OrderConfirmation object if the request is successful. Alternatively, you can use DaprClient.InvokeMethodWithResponseAsync to get full access to the underlying HttpResponseMessage:

var response = await daprClient.InvokeMethodWithResponseAsync(request);

var orderConfirmation = response.Content.ReadFromJsonAsync<OrderConfirmation>();


For service invocation calls using HTTP, it's worth considering using the Dapr HttpClient integration presented in the previous section. Using HttpClient gives you additional benefits such as integration with existing frameworks and libraries.

Invoke gRPC services using DaprClient

DaprClient provides a family of InvokeMethodGrpcAsync methods for calling gRPC endpoints. The main difference with the HTTP methods is the use of a Protobuf serializer instead of JSON. The following example invokes the submitOrder method of the orderservice over gRPC.

var daprClient = new DaprClientBuilder().Build();
    var confirmation = await daprClient.InvokeMethodGrpcAsync<Order, OrderConfirmation>("orderservice", "submitOrder", order);
catch (InvocationException ex)
    // Handle error

In the example above, DaprClient serializes the given order object using Protobuf and uses the result as the gRPC request body. Likewise, the response body is Protobuf deserialized and returned to the caller. Protobuf typically provides better performance than the JSON payloads used in HTTP service invocation.

Name resolution components

At the time of writing, Dapr provides support for the following name resolution components:

  • mDNS (default when running self-hosted)
  • Kubernetes Name Resolution (default when running in Kubernetes)
  • HashiCorp Consul


To use a non-default name resolution component, add a nameResolution spec to the application's Dapr configuration file. Here's an example of a Dapr configuration file that enables HashiCorp Consul name resolution:

kind: Configuration
  name: dapr-config
    component: "consul"
      selfRegister: true

Sample application: Dapr Traffic Control

In Dapr Traffic Control sample app, the FineCollection service uses the Dapr service invocation building block to retrieve vehicle and owner information from the VehicleRegistration service. Figure 6-2 shows the conceptual architecture of the Dapr Traffic Control sample application. The Dapr service invocation building block is used in flows marked with number 1 in the diagram:

Conceptual architecture of the Dapr Traffic Control sample application.

Figure 6-2. Conceptual architecture of the Dapr Traffic Control sample application.

Information is retrieved by the ASP.NET CollectionController class in the FineCollection service. The CollectFine method expects an incoming SpeedingViolation parameter. It invokes a Dapr service invocation building block to call to the VehicleRegistration service. The code snippet is presented below.

[Topic("pubsub", "speedingviolations")]
public async Task<ActionResult> CollectFine(SpeedingViolation speedingViolation, [FromServices] DaprClient daprClient)
   // ...

   // get owner info (Dapr service invocation)
   var vehicleInfo = _vehicleRegistrationService.GetVehicleInfo(speedingViolation.VehicleId).Result;

   // ...

The code uses a proxy of type VehicleRegistrationService to call the VehicleRegistration service. ASP.NET Core injects an instance of the service proxy using constructor injection:

public CollectionController(
    ILogger<CollectionController> logger,
    IFineCalculator fineCalculator,
    VehicleRegistrationService vehicleRegistrationService,
    DaprClient daprClient)
    // ...

The VehicleRegistrationService class contains a single method: GetVehicleInfo. It uses the ASP.NET Core HttpClient to call the VehicleRegistration service:

public class VehicleRegistrationService
    private HttpClient _httpClient;
    public VehicleRegistrationService(HttpClient httpClient)
        _httpClient = httpClient;

    public async Task<VehicleInfo> GetVehicleInfo(string licenseNumber)
        return await _httpClient.GetFromJsonAsync<VehicleInfo>(

The code doesn't depend on any Dapr classes directly. It instead leverages the Dapr ASP.NET Core integration as described in the Invoke HTTP services using HttpClient section of this module. The following code in the ConfigureService method of the Startup class registers the VehicleRegistrationService proxy:

var builder = WebApplication.CreateBuilder(args);
builder.Services.AddSingleton<VehicleRegistrationService>(_ =>
    new VehicleRegistrationService(DaprClient.CreateInvokeHttpClient(
        "vehicleregistrationservice", $"http://localhost:{daprHttpPort}"

The DaprClient.CreateInvokeHttpClient creates an HttpClient instance that calls the VehicleRegistration service using the service invocation building block under the covers. It expects both the Dapr app-id of the target service and the URL of its Dapr sidecar. At start time, the daprHttpPort argument contains the port number used for HTTP communication with the Dapr sidecar.

Using Dapr service invocation in the Traffic Control sample application provides several benefits:

  1. Decouples the location of the target service.
  2. Adds resiliency with automatic retry features.
  3. Ability to reuse an existing HttpClient based proxy (offered by the ASP.NET Core integration).


In this chapter, you learned about the service invocation building block. You saw how to invoke remote methods both by making direct HTTP calls to the Dapr sidecar, and by using the Dapr .NET SDK.

The Dapr .NET SDK provides multiple ways to invoke remote methods. HttpClient support is great for developers wanting to reuse existing skills and is compatible with many existing frameworks and libraries. DaprClient offers support for directly using the Dapr service invocation API using either HTTP or gRPC semantics.