Santosh Benjamin's Weblog

Adventures with AppFabric, BizTalk & Clouds

Waltzing with WSDL

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One of my immediate goals for MockingBird is to have the “Configurator” UI done where you can just pick a WSDL on file or point to a URL and have the tool shred it and generate sample request and response messages into the correct folders (and generate the Handler Configuration) after which the user can then do any extra XPath based configurations to make the system more dynamic. Sounds easy enough, doesnt it? Well, thats what i thought too, until i delved into the intricacies of WSDL Parsing.

The class most people use is ServiceDescription and to be fair, it gives some information about the WSDL but navigating it is not easy at all and its not all that intuitive after you get to the point of listing all Operations inside the PortTypeCollection. There is also another big issue with trying to use ServiceDescription alone and that is the fact that WCF by default gives you multipart WSDLs. So getting hold of the WSDL from a WCF endpoint is not straightforward but one class that comes to the rescue is DiscoveryClientProtocol as Mike Hadlow points out in his article. This behavior can be changed as pointed out by Tomas Restrepo in hs post on “Inline XSD in WSDL with WCF” and Christian Weyer takes it up a notch in his article on Flat WSDL in WCF.

Anyway after pondering this a while, I decided it would be in my best interests to factor the code into a WSDLRetriever and a WSDLDescriptor. The Descriptor takes a dependency on WSDLRetriever (an interface of course, so its easy to mock) and expects  a single WSDL XDocument which it can work with. Now with this approach I dont care if the endpoint (if the WSDL is not on file) is a WCF endpoint or not, the Retriever does all that work. So the Descriptor can do its work and with that sorted i wrote up the first few tests for the Descriptor using a mock Retriever. So far so good.

Now, along with the requirement stated above, I also want to build a nice UI, where, you can not only do a single click to generate messages, but you can exercise finer control over the message content before storing them in the appropriate folders. So imagine if you will, a tree view which shows all the operations and the messages in them and immediately under the message name, the name of the complex type and additionally the body of the type (not in the tree node, but in an associated panel).

Of course, I’m not trying to write a completely generic WSDL parser, but something thats immediately usable by MockingBird and for other tools which can use a WSDL as input.

I had a look around at some blog posts and samples but none seemed to go as far as I wanted. I also took a look through the code for WSCF Blue  but couldnt make immediate use of that API. (I’ve since chatted with Buddhike about that so there may be something i could do with WSCF libraries in future). I looked at WebServiceStudio as the license allows reuse of the code there, but the code structure is simply awful. It works as is but everything is so deeply tied into the UI that it will take a feat of coding to extend it or pull out any reusable logic from it. I tried re-factoring a local copy but gave up pretty soon. 😦 So I had to work through the requirement myself.

Anyway, parsing WSDL is not easy at all. Once you get to the operation and message, you then have to wak through all schemas and their associated object tables to pick out the correct complex type corresponding to the message. This took me the best part of a few hours. Given that the user will not supply any namespaces, it gets very hard indeed. Thankfully the Schema Object Model is very decent. I used LINQ to XML for little bits such as extracting endpoint information (which also required me to resort to XPath extension methods because LINQ insisted i give it qualified names but I didnt know what the namespaces were !!) but for the schemas in WSDL, i think the SOM is better than LINQ. But I’m happy to be proved wrong!!

So I’ve got it to the point where it brings back the complex types. Now to generate sample instances from that for which I’ve got some resources. Once thats done and a simple Retriever implemented it wont be hard to put a UI on that because none of this is tied to the UI.

Thats it for now, a sort of ‘progress’ post for those waiting for the GUI for MockingBird and also to point out some of the dragons that await those who venture into the WSDL arena. Talk about ‘design by committee.. its a minefield!!

Couple of really good articles are Understanding WSDL by Aaron Skonnard (an old one, but an excellent read) and Walking the SOM by Stan Kitsis

Till next time 🙂


Written by santoshbenjamin

January 22, 2009 at 12:55 AM

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