WCF client overview

This section describes what client applications do, how to configure, create, and use a Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) client, and how to secure client applications.

Using WCF Client Objects

A client application is a managed application that uses a WCF client to communicate with another application. Creating a client application for a WCF service requires the following steps:

  1. Obtain the service contract, bindings, and address information for a service endpoint.

  2. Create a WCF client using that information.

  3. Call operations.

  4. Close the WCF client object.

The following sections discuss these steps and provide brief introductions to the following issues:

  • Handling errors.

  • Configuring and securing clients.

  • Creating callback objects for duplex services.

  • Calling services asynchronously.

  • Calling services using client channels.

Obtain the Service Contract, Bindings, and Addresses

In WCF, services and clients model contracts using managed attributes, interfaces, and methods. To connect to a service in a client application, you need to obtain the type information for the service contract. Typically, you obtain type information for the service contract by using the ServiceModel Metadata Utility Tool (Svcutil.exe). The utility downloads metadata from the service, converts it to a managed source code file in the language of your choice, and creates a client application configuration file that you can use to configure your WCF client object. For example, if you are going to create a WCF client object to invoke a MyCalculatorService, and you know that the metadata for that service is published at http://computerName/MyCalculatorService/Service.svc?wsdl, then the following code example shows how to use Svcutil.exe to obtain a ClientCode.vb file that contains the service contract in managed code.

svcutil /language:vb /out:ClientCode.vb /config:app.config http://computerName/MyCalculatorService/Service.svc?wsdl  

You can either compile this contract code into the client application or into another assembly that the client application can then use to create a WCF client object. You can use the configuration file to configure the client object to properly connect to the service .

For an example of this process, see How to: Create a Client. For more complete information about contracts, see Contracts.

Create a WCF Client Object

A WCF client is a local object that represents a WCF service in a form that the client can use to communicate with the remote service. WCF client types implement the target service contract, so when you create one and configure it, you can then use the client object directly to invoke service operations. The WCF run time converts the method calls into messages, sends them to the service, listens for the reply, and returns those values to the WCF client object as return values or out or ref parameters.

You can also use WCF client channel objects to connect with and use services. For details, see WCF Client Architecture.

Creating a New WCF Object

To illustrate the use of a ClientBase<TChannel> class, assume the following simple service contract has been generated from a service application.


If you are using Visual Studio to create your WCF client, objects are loaded automatically into the object browser when you add a service reference to your project.

  Namespace = "http://microsoft.wcf.documentation"
public interface ISampleService
      Action = "http://microsoft.wcf.documentation/ISampleService/SampleMethod",
      ReplyAction = "http://microsoft.wcf.documentation/ISampleService/SampleMethodResponse"
      Action = "http://microsoft.wcf.documentation/ISampleService/SampleMethodSampleFaultFault"
    string SampleMethod(string msg);

If you are not using Visual Studio, examine the generated contract code to find the type that extends ClientBase<TChannel> and the service contract interface ISampleService. In this case, that type looks like the following code:

[System.CodeDom.Compiler.GeneratedCodeAttribute("System.ServiceModel", "")]
public partial class SampleServiceClient : System.ServiceModel.ClientBase<ISampleService>, ISampleService

    public SampleServiceClient()

    public SampleServiceClient(string endpointConfigurationName)

    public SampleServiceClient(string endpointConfigurationName, string remoteAddress)
            base(endpointConfigurationName, remoteAddress)

    public SampleServiceClient(string endpointConfigurationName, System.ServiceModel.EndpointAddress remoteAddress)
            base(endpointConfigurationName, remoteAddress)

    public SampleServiceClient(System.ServiceModel.Channels.Binding binding, System.ServiceModel.EndpointAddress remoteAddress)
            base(binding, remoteAddress)
    public string SampleMethod(string msg)
        return base.Channel.SampleMethod(msg);

This class can be created as a local object using one of the constructors, configured, and then used to connect to a service of the type ISampleService.

It is recommended that you create your WCF client object first, and then use it and close it inside a single try/catch block. Don't use the using statement (Using in Visual Basic) because it can mask exceptions in certain failure modes. For more information, see the following sections as well as Use Close and Abort to release WCF client resources.

Contracts, Bindings, and Addresses

Before you can create a WCF client object, you must configure the client object. Specifically, it must have a service endpoint to use. An endpoint is the combination of a service contract, a binding, and an address. (For more information about endpoints, see Endpoints: Addresses, Bindings, and Contracts.) Typically, this information is located in the <endpoint> element in a client application configuration file, such as the one the Svcutil.exe tool generates, and is loaded automatically when you create your client object. Both WCF client types also have overloads that enable you to programmatically specify this information.

For example, a generated configuration file for an ISampleService used in the preceding examples contains the following endpoint information.

                <binding name="WSHttpBinding_ISampleService" closeTimeout="00:01:00"
                    openTimeout="00:01:00" receiveTimeout="00:01:00" sendTimeout="00:01:00"
                    bypassProxyOnLocal="false" transactionFlow="false" hostNameComparisonMode="StrongWildcard"
                    maxBufferPoolSize="524288" maxReceivedMessageSize="65536"
                    messageEncoding="Text" textEncoding="utf-8" useDefaultWebProxy="true"
                    <readerQuotas maxDepth="32" maxStringContentLength="8192" maxArrayLength="16384"
                        maxBytesPerRead="4096" maxNameTableCharCount="16384" />
                    <reliableSession ordered="true" inactivityTimeout="00:10:00"
                        enabled="false" />
                    <security mode="Message">
                        <transport clientCredentialType="None" proxyCredentialType="None"
                            realm="" />
                        <message clientCredentialType="Windows" negotiateServiceCredential="true"
                            algorithmSuite="Default" establishSecurityContext="true" />
            <endpoint address="http://localhost:8080/SampleService" binding="wsHttpBinding"
                bindingConfiguration="WSHttpBinding_ISampleService" contract="ISampleService"

This configuration file specifies a target endpoint in the <client> element. For more information about using multiple target endpoints, see the ClientBase<TChannel> or the ChannelFactory<TChannel> constructors.

Calling Operations

Once you have a client object created and configured, create a try/catch block, call operations in the same way that you would if the object were local, and close the WCF client object. When the client application calls the first operation, WCF automatically opens the underlying channel, and the underlying channel is closed when the object is recycled. (Alternatively, you can also explicitly open and close the channel prior to or subsequent to calling other operations.)

For example, if you have the following service contract:

namespace Microsoft.ServiceModel.Samples  
    using System;  
    using System.ServiceModel;  
    [ServiceContract(Namespace = "http://Microsoft.ServiceModel.Samples")]  
    public interface ICalculator  
        double Add(double n1, double n2);  
        double Subtract(double n1, double n2);  
        double Multiply(double n1, double n2);  
        double Divide(double n1, double n2);  
Namespace Microsoft.ServiceModel.Samples  
    Imports System  
    Imports System.ServiceModel  
    <ServiceContract(Namespace:= _  
    "http://Microsoft.ServiceModel.Samples")> _
   Public Interface ICalculator  
        <OperationContract> _
        Function Add(n1 As Double, n2 As Double) As Double  
        <OperationContract> _
        Function Subtract(n1 As Double, n2 As Double) As Double  
        <OperationContract> _
        Function Multiply(n1 As Double, n2 As Double) As Double  
        <OperationContract> _
     Function Divide(n1 As Double, n2 As Double) As Double  
End Interface  

You can call operations by creating a WCF client object and calling its methods, as the following code example demonstrates. The opening, calling, and closing of the WCF client object occurs within a single try/catch block. For more information, see Accessing Services Using a WCF Client and Use Close and Abort to release WCF client resources.

CalculatorClient wcfClient = new CalculatorClient();
    Console.WriteLine(wcfClient.Add(4, 6));
catch (TimeoutException timeout)
    // Handle the timeout exception.
catch (CommunicationException commException)
    // Handle the communication exception.

Handling Errors

Exceptions can occur in a client application when opening the underlying client channel (whether explicitly or automatically by calling an operation), using the client or channel object to call operations, or when closing the underlying client channel. It is recommended at a minimum that applications expect to handle possible System.TimeoutException and System.ServiceModel.CommunicationException exceptions in addition to any System.ServiceModel.FaultException objects thrown as a result of SOAP faults returned by operations. SOAP faults specified in the operation contract are raised to client applications as a System.ServiceModel.FaultException<TDetail> where the type parameter is the detail type of the SOAP fault. For more information about handling error conditions in a client application, see Sending and Receiving Faults. For a complete sample the shows how to handle errors in a client, see Expected Exceptions.

Configuring and Securing Clients

Configuring a client starts with the required loading of target endpoint information for the client or channel object, usually from a configuration file, although you can also load this information programmatically using the client constructors and properties. However, additional configuration steps are required to enable certain client behavior and for many security scenarios.

For example, security requirements for service contracts are declared in the service contract interface, and if Svcutil.exe created a configuration file, that file usually contains a binding that is capable of supporting the security requirements of the service. In some cases, however, more security configuration may be required, such as configuring client credentials. For complete information about the configuration of security for WCF clients, see Securing Clients.

In addition, some custom modifications can be enabled in client applications, such as custom run-time behaviors. For more information about how to configure a custom client behavior, see Configuring Client Behaviors.

Creating Callback Objects for Duplex Services

Duplex services specify a callback contract that the client application must implement in order to provide a callback object for the service to call according to the requirements of the contract. Although callback objects are not full services (for example, you cannot initiate a channel with a callback object), for the purposes of implementation and configuration they can be thought of as a kind of service.

Clients of duplex services must:

  • Implement a callback contract class.

  • Create an instance of the callback contract implementation class and use it to create the System.ServiceModel.InstanceContext object that you pass to the WCF client constructor.

  • Invoke operations and handle operation callbacks.

Duplex WCF client objects function like their nonduplex counterparts, with the exception that they expose the functionality necessary to support callbacks, including the configuration of the callback service.

For example, you can control various aspects of callback object runtime behavior by using properties of the System.ServiceModel.CallbackBehaviorAttribute attribute on the callback class. Another example is the use of the System.ServiceModel.Description.CallbackDebugBehavior class to enable the return of exception information to services that call the callback object. For more information, see Duplex Services. For a complete sample, see Duplex.

On Windows XP computers running Internet Information Services (IIS) 5.1, duplex clients must specify a client base address using the System.ServiceModel.WSDualHttpBinding class or an exception is thrown. The following code example shows how to do this in code.

WSDualHttpBinding dualBinding = new WSDualHttpBinding();
EndpointAddress endptadr = new EndpointAddress("http://localhost:12000/DuplexTestUsingCode/Server");
dualBinding.ClientBaseAddress = new Uri("http://localhost:8000/DuplexTestUsingCode/Client/");

Dim dualBinding As New WSDualHttpBinding()
Dim endptadr As New EndpointAddress("http://localhost:12000/DuplexTestUsingCode/Server")
dualBinding.ClientBaseAddress = New Uri("http://localhost:8000/DuplexTestUsingCode/Client/")

The following code shows how to do this in a configuration file

    name ="ServerEndpoint"

Calling Services Asynchronously

How operations are called is entirely up to the client developer. This is because the messages that make up an operation can be mapped to either synchronous or asynchronous methods when expressed in managed code. Therefore, if you want to build a client that calls operations asynchronously, you can use Svcutil.exe to generate asynchronous client code using the /async option. For more information, see How to: Call Service Operations Asynchronously.

Calling Services Using WCF Client Channels

WCF client types extend ClientBase<TChannel>, which itself derives from System.ServiceModel.IClientChannel interface to expose the underlying channel system. You can invoke services by using the target service contract with the System.ServiceModel.ChannelFactory<TChannel> class. For details, see WCF Client Architecture.

See also