Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Microservices in ASP.NET

Microservices is the last significant change in modern development. Let's learn some tools and related design patterns by building a simplified e-commerce website using modern tools and techniques such as ASP.NET Core and Docker.
Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

For some time we've been discussing tools and technologies adjacent to microservices on this blog. Not randomly though. Most of these posts derived from my open-source project aspnet-microservices, a simple (yet complicated 😉) distributed application built primarily with .NET Core and Docker. While still work in progress, the project demoes important concepts in distributed architectures.

What's included in the project

This project uses popular tools such as:
On the administrative side, the project also includes:

Disclaimer

When you create a sample microservice-based application, you need to deal with complexity and make tough choices. For the aspnet-microservices application, I deliberately chose to balance complexity and architecture by reducing the emphasis on design patterns focusing on the development of the services themselves. The project was built to serve as an introduction and a start-point for those looking forward to working of Docker, Compose and microservices.

This project is not production-ready! Check Areas for Improvement for more information.

Microservices included in this project

So far, the project consists of the following services:

  • Web: the frontend for our e-commerce application;
  • Catalog: provides catalog information for the web store;
  • Newsletter: accepts user emails and stores them in the newsletter database for future use;
  • Order: provides order features for the web store;
  • Account: provides account services (login, account creation, etc) for the web store;
  • Recommendation: provides simple recommendations based on previous purchases;
  • Notification: sends email notifications upon certain events in the system;
  • Payment: simulates a fake payment store;
  • Shipping: simulates a fake shipping store;

Technologies Used

The technologies used were cherry-picked from the most commonly used by the community. I chose to favour open-source alternatives over proprietary (or commercially-oriented) ones. You'll find in this bundle:
  • ASP.NET Core: as the base of our microservices;
  • Docker and Docker Compose: to build and run containers;
  • MySQL: serving as a relational database for some microservices;
  • MongoDB: serving as the catalog database for the Catalog microservice;
  • Redis: serving as distributed caching store for the Web microservice;
  • RabbitMQ: serving as the queue/communication layer over which our services will communicate;
  • MassTransit: the interface between our apps and RabbitMQ supporting asynchronous communications between them;
  • Dapper: lightweight ORM used to simplify interaction with the MySQL database;
  • SendGrid: used to send emails from our Notification service as described on a previous post;
  • Vue.js and Axios.Js to abstract the frontend of the Web microservice on a simple and powerful  JavaScript framework.

Conventions and Design Considerations

Among others, you'll find in this project that:
  • The Web microservice serves as the frontend for our e-commerce application and implements the API Gateway / BFF design patterns routing the requests from the user to other services on an internal Docker network;
  • Web caches catalog data a Redis data store; Feel free to use Redis Commander to delete cached entries if you wish or need to.
  • Each microservice has its own database isolating its state from external services. MongoDB and MySQL were chosen as the main databases due to their popularity.
  • All services were implemented as ASP.NET Core webapps exposing the endpoints /help and /ping so they can be inspected from and observed automatically the the running engine.
  • No special logging infrastructure was added. Logs can be easily accessed via docker logs or indexed by a different application if you so desire.
  • Microservices communicate between themselves via Pub/Sub and asynchronous request/response using MassTransit and RabbitMQ.
  • The Notification microservice will eventually send emails. This project was tested with SendGrid but other SMTP servers should work from within/without the containers.
  • Monitoring is experimental and includes Grafana sourcing its data from a Prometheus backend.

Technical Requirements

To run this project on your machine, please make sure you have installed:

If you want to develop/extend/modify it, then I'd suggest you to also have:

Running the microservices

So let's get quickly learn how to load and build our own microservices.

Initializing the project

Get your copy by cloning the project:
git clone https://github.com/hd9/aspnet-microservices

Next open the solution src/AspNetContainers.sln with Visual Studio 2019. Since code is always the best documentation, the easiest way to understand the containers and their configurations is by reading the src/docker-compose.yml file.

Debugging with Visual Studio

Building and debugging with Visual Studio 2019 is straightforward. Simply open the AspNetMicroservices.sln solution from the src folder, build and run the project as debug (F5). Next, run the dependencies (Redis, MongoDB, RabbitMQ and MySQL) by issuing the below command from the src folder:

docker-compose -f docker-compose.debug.yml up

Running the services with Docker Compose

In order to run the services you'll need Docker and Docker Compose installed on your machine. Type the command below from the src folder on a terminal to start all services:
docker-compose up
Then to stop them:
docker-compose down
To remove everything, run:
docker-compose down -v
To run a specific service, do:
docker-compose up <service-name>
As soon as you run your services, Compose should start emitting on the console logs for each service:
The output of our docker-compose command

You can also query individual logs for services as usual with docker logs <svc-name>. For example:

~> docker logs src_catalog_1
info: CatalogSvc.Startup[0]
      DB Settings: ConnStr: mongodb://catalog-db:27017, Db: catalog, Collection: products
info: Microsoft.Hosting.Lifetime[0]
      Now listening on: http://[::]:80
info: Microsoft.Hosting.Lifetime[0]
      Application started. Press Ctrl+C to shut down.
info: Microsoft.Hosting.Lifetime[0]
      Hosting environment: Production
info: Microsoft.Hosting.Lifetime[0]
      Content root path: /app

Database Initialization

Database initialization is automatically handled by Compose. Check the docker-compose.yml file to understand how that happens. You'll find examples on how to initialize both MySQL and MongoDB.

Dockerfiles

Each microservice contains a Dockerfile in their respective roots and understanding them should be straightforward. If you never wrote a Dockerfile before, consider reading the official documentation.

Docker Compose

There are two docker-compose files in the solution. Their use is described below:
  • docker-compose.yml: this is the main Compose file. Running this file means you won't be able to access some of the services as they'll not be exposed.
  • docker-compose.debug.yml: this is the file you should run if you want to debug the microservices from Visual Studio. This file only contains the dependencies (Redis, MySQL, RabbitMQ, Mongo + admin interfaces) you'll need to use when debugging.

Accessing our App

If the application booted up correctly, go to http://localhost:8000 to access it. You should see a simple catalog and some other widgets. Go ahead and try to create an account. Just make sure that you have the settings correctly configured on your docker-compose.yml file:
Our simple e-commerce website. As most things, its beauty is in the details 😊.

    Admin Interfaces

    You'll still have available admin interfaces for our services on:
    I won't go over the details about each of these apps. Feel free to explore on your own.

    Monitoring

    Experimental monitoring is available with Grafana, Prometheus and cadvisor. Open Grafana at http://localhost:3000/ and login with admin | admin, select the Docker dashboard and you should see metrics for the services similar to:

    Grafana capturing and emitting telemetry about our microservices.

    Quick Reference

    As a summary, the microservices are configured to run at:

    The management tools are available on:

    And you can access the databases at:
    • MySql databases: use Adminer at: http://localhost:8010/, enter the server name (ex. order-db for the order microservice) and use root | todo as username/password.
    • MongoDB: use MongoExpress at: http://localhost:8011/. No username/password is required.

    Final Thoughts

    On this post I introduce to you my open-source project aspnet-microservices. This application was built as a way to present the foundations of Docker, Compose and microservices for the whole .NET community and hopefully serves as an intuitive guide for those starting in this area.

    Microservices is the last significant change in modern development and requires learning lots (really, lots!) of new technologies and new design patterns. This project is by far complete and should not be used in production as it lacks basic cross-cutting concerns any production-ready project would need. I deliberately omitted them for simplicity else I could simply point you to this project. For more information, check the project's README on GitHub.

    Feel free to play with it and above all, learn and have fun!

    Source Code

    As always, the source code is available on GitHub at: github.com/hd9/spnet-microservices.

    About the Author

    Bruno Hildenbrand      
    Solutions Architect, Software Engineer and open-source enthusiast.
    .NET, Azure, Go, Linux, Vim, Fedora, i3, Development and Architecture.