Approaches to Document Style Parameter Models 

I'm a huge fan of document style parameter models when implementing a public, programmatic façade to a business functionality that often changes.

public interface IDocumentParameterModel
   XmlDocument Process(XmlDocument doc);

This contract defines a simple method, called Process, which processes the input document. The idea is to define the document schema and validate inbound XML documents, while throwing exceptions on validation errors. The processing semantics is arbitrary and can support any kind of action, depending on the defined invoke document schema.

A simple instance document which validates against a version 1.0 processing schema could look like this:

<?xml version="1.0?>
<Process xmlns="" version="1.0">

Another processing instruction, supported in version 1.1 of the processing schema, with different semantics could be:

<?xml version="1.0?>
<Process xmlns="" version="1.1">

Note that the default XML namespace changed, but that is not a norm. It only allows you to automate schema retrieval using the schema repository (think System.Xml.Schema.XmlSchemaSet), load all supported schemas and validate automatically.

public class ProcessService : IDocumentParameterModel
   public XmlDocument Process(XmlDocument doc)
      XmlReaderSettings sett = new XmlReaderSettings();

      sett.Schemas.Add(<document namespace 1>, <schema uri 1>);
      sett.Schemas.Add(<document namespace n>, <schema uri n>);

      sett.ValidationType = ValidationType.Schema;
      sett.ValidationEventHandler += new
      XmlReader books = XmlReader.Create(doc.OuterXml, sett);
      while (books.Read()) { }

      // processing goes here

   static void XmlInvalidHandler(object sender, ValidationEventArgs e)
      if (e.Severity == XmlSeverityType.Error)
         throw new XmlInvalidException(e.Message);

The main benefit of this approach is decoupling the parameter model and method processing version from the communication contract. A service maintainer has an option to change the terms of processing over time, while supporting older version-aware document instances.

This notion is of course most beneficial in situations where your processing syntax changes frequently and has complex validation schemas. A simple case presented here is informational only.

So, how do we validate?

  • We need to check the instance document version first. This is especially true in cases where the document is not qualified with a different namespace when the version changes.
  • We grab the appropriate schema or schema set
  • We validate the inbound XML document, throw a typed XmlInvalidException if invalid
  • We process the call

The service side is quite straightforward.

Let's look at the client and what are the options for painless generation of service calls using this mechanism.

Generally, one can always produce an instance invoke document by hand on the client. By hand meaning using System.Xml classes and DOM concepts. Since this is higly error prone and gets tedious with increasing complexity, there is a notion of a schema compiler, which automatically translates your XML Schema into the CLR type system. Xsd.exe and XmlSerializer are your friends.

If your schema requires parts of the instance document to be digitally signed or encrypted, you will need to adorn the serializer output with some manual DOM work. This might also be a reason to use the third option.

The third, and easiest option for the general developer, is to provide a local object model, which serializes the requests on the client. This is an example:

ProcessInstruction pi = new ProcessInstruction();
pi.Instruction = "Add";
pi.Parameter1 = 10;
pi.Parameter2 = 21;
pi.Sign(cert); // pi.Encrypt(cert);

The main benefit of this approach comes down to having an option on the server and the client. Client developers have three different levels of complexity for generating service calls. The model allows them to be as close to the wire as they see fit. Or they can be abstracted completely from the wire representation if you provide a local object model to access your services.

Categories:  .NET 3.0 - WCF | .NET 3.5 - WCF | Architecture | Web Services | XML
Monday, September 24, 2007 11:19:10 AM (Central Europe Standard Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments


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