One method to rule them all

I wasn’t thrilled when Owin was introduced back in 2012. Sure, I could see the benefits in an abstraction layer between the web server and the application, but I didn’t really see the full potential of the ecosystem of middlewares that came about a few months later. Then, for a long time, my only relation to these middleware was through extension methods like

public void Configuration(IAppBuilder app)

Fast-forward to 2016, and things have change. Not only Owin, but the entire .NET Core application platform uses this approach to extend and customize applications.

As I planed for the next major release of RawRabbit, I had come to appreciate the modularization that middleware provides, and decided to implement a middleware pipeline, realized in a class with one single method. Time and time again I got surprised how powerful this one method is. Without further ado: say hello to InvokeAsync on the base class Middleware1

public abstract class Middleware
  public abstract Task InvokeAsync(IPipeContext context, CancellationToken token);

IPipeContext holds a Dictionary<string,object> that is being built up by middleware throughout the execution pipe. Just as with other middleware pipes, it is up to a middleware to invoke the next middleware. Depending on where the call is made, you get different behaviors.

Sequential Execution

If the call to invoke the next middleware is the last thing that happens in the middleware, the execution becomes sequential, meaning that subsequent middlewares will be executed after the current one. This is useful when, for example, adding entries to the context for later use. A key resource in RabbitMq is the channel (IModel) that is used for both consuming and publishing messages.

public override Task InvokeAsync(IPipeContext context, CancellationToken token)
  var channel = CreateChannel();
  context.Properties.Add("channel", channel);
  return Next.InvokeAsync(context);

Callback execution

Sometimes it can be useful to execute some code after the subsequent pipe is executed. Example of this is disposing/cleaning up objects from the context, releasing exclusive locks or just logging execution time

public override async Task InvokeAsync(IPipeContext context, CancellationToken token)
  var stopwatch = StopWatch.StartNew();
  await Next.InvokeAsync(context);
  context.Properties.Add("execution_time", stopwatch.ElapsedTicks);

Conditional execution

If a middleware doesn’t call next, the execution ends and the chain of tasks starts to complete. As I wrote code to honor the cancellation token and it’s states I found myself in a position where I needed to decide if it was up to each middleware to check if cancellation has been requested or if a check would be injected in between each declared middleware. I sided on the latter, and created the CancellationMiddleware, that aborts the execution if requested

public override Task InvokeAsync(IPipeContext context, CancellationToken token)
  if (token.IsCancellationRequested)
    return TaskUtil.FromCancelled();
  return Next.InvokeAsync(context, token);

End of pipe

The execution ends when a middleware executes without calling next. RawRabbit’s pipe builder appends a no operation middleware at the end of the declared pipe

public override Task InvokeAsync(IPipeContext context, CancellationToken token)
  return Task.FromResult(0);

This deterministically ends the execution and starts returning completed tasks.

Declare and execute pipes

A bunch or middleware, wonderful! How do we go about to execute them? For RawRabbit, as the IBusClient interface is the entry point to the lib, it felt natural to add it there. It turns out that there are only two things needed to allow the pipe to be as dynamic as possible:

  • Action<IPipeBuilder> (very similar to the IAppBuilder we all know and love from .NET Core), that provides a fluid interface to declare the pipes.
  • Action<IPipeContext> to set initial values of the pipe context.

This is an example of how you would perform a basic publish with the 2.0 client2

  pipe => pipe
  ctx => {
    ctx.Properties.Add(PipeKey.Message, message);
    ctx.Properties.Add(PipeKey.ConfigurationAction, config);

Pretty neat, huh? Each middleware has a clear purpose and none of them have more than 100 lines of code. When the classes are small and specific it is easy to get an overview over the steps in the process.

Simplifying execution with extension methods

It just isn’t feasible to have a multiline, complex expression just to perform a simple publish (or any other operation for that matter). This is where extension methods comes to the rescue. It turns out that it is dead simple to create a publish signature that very much resembles the 1.x way of doing things.

client.PublishAsync(message, cfg => cfg

In fact, if you look at the two latest code snippets, You can probably map the arguments to the context actions.

More importantly, it creates a separation between executing the pipe and specialized operations. All methods that existed on IBusClient interface (pub/sub and RPC) have been moved out to separate NuGet packages. No operation has privileged access to bus client internals. This ensures that it is easy to create new extension methods or implementations of operations.

No operation has privileged access to bus client internals. This ensures that it is easy to create new extension methods or implementations of operations.

The next version of RawRabbit (2.0), is well on it’s way. For more information about the progress, checkout the issues labeled 2.0 for the latest status.


  1. Full implementation also contains the Next method for easier building of pipes. More about that later. 

  2. The full implementation of PublishAsync in RawRabbit contains more options and a larger pipe. These are removed for clarity.