Blackboard Perspectives and thoughts from Zhenhua Yao

Auto-Generate an Interface Implementation in C# During Build

Given an interface, it is straightforward to generate implementations of all members (or missing ones of abstract class) using either Visual Studio or ReSharper. Sometimes, code generation in IDE may not be enough for handling boilerplate code. Recently I have to deal with a WCF service proxy, where retry and logic mechanism needs to be put in every method. Basically the scenario is the following:

  • There is a WCF service running on multiple-replica setup, and the interface is changing constantly.
  • The client side wants to call the service and has to deal with unreliable channel with reconnect. However, the client code simply takes an interface object and uses it just like all other libraries, i.e. without any special logic of retry / reconnect / timeout.
  • It is preferable to not make any change to the client code. Finding all references of the interface and fixing the use pattern is not an option, and it may be huge amount of work anyway.

My solution is providing a service proxy, which implements the service interface and forwards all calls to the actual service endpoint with proper logic. As one can imagine, boilerplate code has to be put in every method of the proxy class, something like:

    CallWithRetry(clientChannel => {
        retValue = clientChannel.SomeMethod(...);
    return retValue;

Thanks to reflection, it is fairly easy to inspect the interface type to discover the full details, and then generate the boilaterplate code automatically. This can be performed in both C# and PowerShell. However, to integrate this process with the build, it is simpler to use PowerShell. The basic process is the following:

  1. Load the interface assembly using System.Reflection.Assembly.LoadFrom
  2. Load the interface type using Assembly.GetType
  3. Discover all methods using Type.GetMethods
  4. For each method, generate the code based on ReturnType and the list of parameters using GetParameters

For the parameter type, we need to check if it is input, output, or ref parameter and handle the code generation accordingly. Another thing to consider is handling the generic types, which Name or ToString() will generate a string like:


which will not work unless converting to C# declaration List<FileStream>. The issue of type resolving can be handled using embedded C# code in the script:

        public static string ResolveType(Type t)
            if (t.IsByRef) {
                t = t.GetElementType();

            if (t.IsGenericType) {
                var pType = t.FullName.Split('`');
                return string.Concat(pType[0], "<", string.Join(", ", 
                    t.GetGenericArguments().Select(i => ResolveType(i))), ">");
            else {
                return t.ToString();

If you are interested, you may download the script here.

Next, one can include the auto-generated code in the build by modifying csproj file:

  <Compile Include="$(IntermediateOutputPath)NetworkManagementProxy.codegen.cs" />

The last question is where and how to generate the code in the right location, i.e. $(IntermediateOutputPath). Since the code generation is needed before C# compiler is invoked and it requires the interface assembly being accessible (as well as its dependencies), the best approach is to define a target AfterResolveReference. This target is empty by default, it is invoked after all project references are resolved and handled properly and before Compile target is started. One can also use BeforeCompile target, which is invoked a moment after “AfterResolveReference” and right before CoreCompile. To get more details on this, read Microsoft.Common.targets in .NET framework directory on the machine.

The target looks like this:

<Target Name="AfterResolveReferences">
    <codegencmd>PowerShell.exe -ExecutionPolicy ByPass -File $(MSBuildProjectDirectory)\GenerateContractImpl.ps1</codegencmd>
    <codegencmd>$(codegencmd) -AssemblyPath XX.Contracts.dll -InterfaceName Microsoft.XX</codegencmd>
    <codegencmd>$(codegencmd) -Namespace Microsoft.XX -ClassName NetworkManagementProxy</codegencmd>
    <codegencmd>$(codegencmd) &gt; $(IntermediateOutputPath)NetworkManagementProxy.codegen.cs</codegencmd>
  <!-- Copy the missing DCM dependencies into the directory -->
  <Message Text="Generating code: $(codegencmd)" />
  <Exec WorkingDirectory="$(OutDir)\..\XX.Contracts" Command="$(codegencmd)" />

With this change in csproj file, the only human-written code is a partial class with CallWithRetry method which is referenced by all interface methods. No matter how interface changes, the maitainence cost is limited to the partial class itself.