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Imagine this: you have a system made up of different applications that communicate via HTTP. There’s some sort of entry point, exposed to the clients, that orchestrates the calls to the other applications. How do you correlate those requests?

A good idea is to use a Correlation ID: one common approach for HTTP-based systems is passing a value to the “public” endpoint using HTTP headers; that value will be passed to all the other systems involved in that operation to say that “hey, these incoming requests in the internal systems happened because of THAT SPECIFIC request in the public endpoint”. Of course, it’s more complex than this, but you got the idea.

Now. How can we propagate an HTTP Header in .NET? I found this solution on GitHub, provided by no less than David Fowler. In this article, I’m gonna dissect his code to see how he built this solution.

Just interested in the C# methods?

As I said, I’m not reinventing anything new: the source code I’m using for this article is available on GitHub (see link above), but still, I’ll paste the code here, for simplicity.

First of all, we have two extension methods that add some custom functionalities to the IServiceCollection.

public static class HeaderPropagationExtensions
{ public static IServiceCollection AddHeaderPropagation(this IServiceCollection services, Action<HeaderPropagationOptions> configure) { services.AddHttpContextAccessor(); services.ConfigureAll(configure); services.TryAddEnumerable(ServiceDescriptor.Singleton<IHttpMessageHandlerBuilderFilter, HeaderPropagationMessageHandlerBuilderFilter>()); return services; } public static IHttpClientBuilder AddHeaderPropagation(this IHttpClientBuilder builder, Action<HeaderPropagationOptions> configure) { builder.Services.AddHttpContextAccessor(); builder.Services.Configure(builder.Name, configure); builder.AddHttpMessageHandler((sp) => { var options = sp.GetRequiredService<IOptionsMonitor<HeaderPropagationOptions>>(); var contextAccessor = sp.GetRequiredService<IHttpContextAccessor>(); return new HeaderPropagationMessageHandler(options.Get(builder.Name), contextAccessor); }); return builder; }
}

Then we have a Filter that will be used to customize how the HttpClients must be built.

internal class HeaderPropagationMessageHandlerBuilderFilter : IHttpMessageHandlerBuilderFilter
{ private readonly HeaderPropagationOptions _options; private readonly IHttpContextAccessor _contextAccessor; public HeaderPropagationMessageHandlerBuilderFilter(IOptions<HeaderPropagationOptions> options, IHttpContextAccessor contextAccessor) { _options = options.Value; _contextAccessor = contextAccessor; } public Action<HttpMessageHandlerBuilder> Configure(Action<HttpMessageHandlerBuilder> next) { return builder => { builder.AdditionalHandlers.Add(new HeaderPropagationMessageHandler(_options, _contextAccessor)); next(builder); }; }
}

next, a simple class that holds the headers we want to propagate

public class HeaderPropagationOptions
{ public IList<string> HeaderNames { get; set; } = new List<string>();
}

and, lastly, the handler that actually propagates the headers.

public class HeaderPropagationMessageHandler : DelegatingHandler
{ private readonly HeaderPropagationOptions _options; private readonly IHttpContextAccessor _contextAccessor; public HeaderPropagationMessageHandler(HeaderPropagationOptions options, IHttpContextAccessor contextAccessor) { _options = options; _contextAccessor = contextAccessor; } protected override Task<HttpResponseMessage> SendAsync(HttpRequestMessage request, System.Threading.CancellationToken cancellationToken) { if (_contextAccessor.HttpContext != null) { foreach (var headerName in _options.HeaderNames) { var headerValue = _contextAccessor.HttpContext.Request.Headers[headerName]; if (StringValues.IsNullOrEmpty(headerValue)) { continue; } request.Headers.TryAddWithoutValidation(headerName, (string[])headerValue); } } return base.SendAsync(request, cancellationToken); }
}

Ok, and how can we use all of this?

It’s quite easy: if you want to propagate the my-correlation-id header for all the HttpClients created in your application, you just have to add this line to your Startup method.

builder.Services.AddHeaderPropagation(options => options.HeaderNames.Add("my-correlation-id"));

Time to study this code!

How to “enrich” HTTP requests using DelegatingHandler

Let’s start with the HeaderPropagationMessageHandler class:

public class HeaderPropagationMessageHandler : DelegatingHandler
{ private readonly HeaderPropagationOptions _options; private readonly IHttpContextAccessor _contextAccessor; public HeaderPropagationMessageHandler(HeaderPropagationOptions options, IHttpContextAccessor contextAccessor) { _options = options; _contextAccessor = contextAccessor; } protected override Task<HttpResponseMessage> SendAsync(HttpRequestMessage request, System.Threading.CancellationToken cancellationToken) { if (_contextAccessor.HttpContext != null) { foreach (var headerName in _options.HeaderNames) { var headerValue = _contextAccessor.HttpContext.Request.Headers[headerName]; if (StringValues.IsNullOrEmpty(headerValue)) { continue; } request.Headers.TryAddWithoutValidation(headerName, (string[])headerValue); } } return base.SendAsync(request, cancellationToken); }
}

This class lies in the middle of the HTTP Request pipeline. It can extend the functionalities of HTTP Clients because it inherits from System.Net.Http.DelegatingHandler.

If you recall from a previous article, the SendAsync method is the real core of any HTTP call performed using .NET’s HttpClients, and here we’re enriching that method by propagating some HTTP headers.

 protected override Task<HttpResponseMessage> SendAsync(HttpRequestMessage request, System.Threading.CancellationToken cancellationToken)
{ if (_contextAccessor.HttpContext != null) { foreach (var headerName in _options.HeaderNames) { var headerValue = _contextAccessor.HttpContext.Request.Headers[headerName]; if (StringValues.IsNullOrEmpty(headerValue)) { continue; } request.Headers.TryAddWithoutValidation(headerName, (string[])headerValue); } } return base.SendAsync(request, cancellationToken);
}

By using _contextAccessor we can access the current HTTP Context. From there, we retrieve the current HTTP headers, check if one of them must be propagated (by looking up _options.HeaderNames), and finally, we add the header to the outgoing HTTP call by using TryAddWithoutValidation.

HTTP Headers are “cloned” and propagated

Notice that we’ve used TryAddWithoutValidation instead of Add: in this way, we can use whichever HTTP header key we want without worrying about invalid names (such as the ones with a new line in it). Invalid header names will simply be ignored, as opposed to the Add method that will throw an exception.

Finally, we continue with the HTTP call by executing base.SendAsync, passing the HttpRequestMessage object now enriched with additional headers.

Using HttpMessageHandlerBuilder to configure how HttpClients must be built

The Microsoft.Extensions.Http.IHttpMessageHandlerBuilderFilter interface allows you to apply some custom configurations to the HttpMessageHandlerBuilder right before the HttpMessageHandler object is built.

internal class HeaderPropagationMessageHandlerBuilderFilter : IHttpMessageHandlerBuilderFilter
{ private readonly HeaderPropagationOptions _options; private readonly IHttpContextAccessor _contextAccessor; public HeaderPropagationMessageHandlerBuilderFilter(IOptions<HeaderPropagationOptions> options, IHttpContextAccessor contextAccessor) { _options = options.Value; _contextAccessor = contextAccessor; } public Action<HttpMessageHandlerBuilder> Configure(Action<HttpMessageHandlerBuilder> next) { return builder => { builder.AdditionalHandlers.Add(new HeaderPropagationMessageHandler(_options, _contextAccessor)); next(builder); }; }
}

The Configure method allows you to customize how the HttpMessageHandler will be built: we are adding a new instance of the HeaderPropagationMessageHandler class we’ve seen before to the current HttpMessageHandlerBuilder‘s AdditionalHandlers collection. All the handlers registered in the list will then be used to build the HttpMessageHandler object we’ll use to send and receive requests.

via GIPHY

By having a look at the definition of HttpMessageHandlerBuilder you can grasp a bit of what happens when we’re creating HttpClients in .NET.

namespace Microsoft.Extensions.Http
{ public abstract class HttpMessageHandlerBuilder { protected HttpMessageHandlerBuilder(); public abstract IList<DelegatingHandler> AdditionalHandlers { get; } public abstract string Name { get; set; } public abstract HttpMessageHandler PrimaryHandler { get; set; } public virtual IServiceProvider Services { get; } protected internal static HttpMessageHandler CreateHandlerPipeline(HttpMessageHandler primaryHandler, IEnumerable<DelegatingHandler> additionalHandlers); public abstract HttpMessageHandler Build(); }
}

Ah, and remember the wise words you can read in the docs of that class:

The Microsoft.Extensions.Http.HttpMessageHandlerBuilder is registered in the service collection as a transient service.

Nice 😎

Share the behavior with all the HTTP Clients in the .NET application

Now that we’ve defined the custom behavior of HTTP clients, we need to integrate it into our .NET application.

public static IServiceCollection AddHeaderPropagation(this IServiceCollection services, Action<HeaderPropagationOptions> configure)
{ services.AddHttpContextAccessor(); services.ConfigureAll(configure); services.TryAddEnumerable(ServiceDescriptor.Singleton<IHttpMessageHandlerBuilderFilter, HeaderPropagationMessageHandlerBuilderFilter>()); return services;
}

Here, we’re gonna extend the IServiceCollection with those functionalities. At first, we’re adding AddHttpContextAccessor, which allows us to access the current HTTP Context (the one we’ve used in the HeaderPropagationMessageHandler class).

Then, services.ConfigureAll(configure) registers an HeaderPropagationOptions that will be used by HeaderPropagationMessageHandlerBuilderFilter. Without that line, we won’t be able to specify the names of the headers to be propagated.

Finally, we have this line:

services.TryAddEnumerable(ServiceDescriptor.Singleton<IHttpMessageHandlerBuilderFilter, HeaderPropagationMessageHandlerBuilderFilter>());

Honestly, I haven’t understood it thoroughly: I thought that it allows us to use more than one class implementing IHttpMessageHandlerBuilderFilter, but apparently if we create a sibling class and add them both using Add, everything works the same. If you know what this line means, drop a comment below! πŸ‘‡

Wherever you access the ServiceCollection object (may it be in the Startup or in the Program class), you can propagate HTTP headers for every HttpClient by using

builder.Services.AddHeaderPropagation(options => options.HeaderNames.Add("my-correlation-id")
);

Yes, AddHeaderPropagation is the method we’ve seen in the previous paragraph!

Seeing it in action

Now we have all the pieces in place.

It’s time to run it 😎

To fully understand it, I strongly suggest forking this repository I’ve created and running it locally, placing some breakpoints here and there.

As a recap: in the Program class, I’ve added these lines to create a named HttpClient specifying its BaseAddress property. Then I’ve added the HeaderPropagation as we’ve seen before.

builder.Services.AddHttpClient("items") .ConfigureHttpClient(c => c.BaseAddress = new Uri("https://en5xof8r16a6h.x.pipedream.net/")); builder.Services.AddHeaderPropagation(options => options.HeaderNames.Add("my-correlation-id")
);

There’s also a simple Controller that acts as an entry point and that, using an HttpClient, sends data to another endpoint (the one defined in the previous snippet).

[HttpPost]
public async Task<IActionResult> PostAsync([FromQuery] string value)
{ var item = new Item(value); var httpClient = _httpClientFactory.CreateClient("items"); await httpClient.PostAsJsonAsync("/", item); return NoContent();
}

What happens at start-up time

When a .NET application starts up, the Main method in the Program class acts as an entry point and registers all the dependencies and configurations required.

We will then call builder.Services.AddHeaderPropagation, which is the method present in the HeaderPropagationExtensions class.

All the configurations are then set, but no actual operations are being executed.

The application then starts normally, waiting for incoming requests.

What happens at runtime

Now, when we call the PostAsync method by passing an HTTP header such as my-correlation-id:123, things get interesting.

The first operation is

var httpClient = _httpClientFactory.CreateClient("items");

While creating the HttpClient, the engine is calling all the registered IHttpMessageHandlerBuilderFilter and calling their Configure method. So, you’ll see the execution moving to HeaderPropagationMessageHandlerBuilderFilter‘s Configure.

public Action<HttpMessageHandlerBuilder> Configure(Action<HttpMessageHandlerBuilder> next)
{ return builder => { builder.AdditionalHandlers.Add(new HeaderPropagationMessageHandler(_options, _contextAccessor)); next(builder); };
}

Of course, you’re also executing the HeaderPropagationMessageHandler constructor.

The HttpClient is now ready: when we call httpClient.PostAsJsonAsync("/", item) we’re also executing all the registered DelegatingHandler instances, such as our HeaderPropagationMessageHandler. In particular, we’re executing the SendAsync method and adding the required HTTP Headers to the outgoing HTTP calls.

We will then see the same HTTP Header on the destination endpoint.

We did it!

Propagating CorrelationId to a specific HttpClient

You can also specify which headers need to be propagated on single HTTP Clients:

public static IHttpClientBuilder AddHeaderPropagation(this IHttpClientBuilder builder, Action<HeaderPropagationOptions> configure)
{ builder.Services.AddHttpContextAccessor(); builder.Services.Configure(builder.Name, configure); builder.AddHttpMessageHandler((sp) => { var options = sp.GetRequiredService<IOptionsMonitor<HeaderPropagationOptions>>(); var contextAccessor = sp.GetRequiredService<IHttpContextAccessor>(); return new HeaderPropagationMessageHandler(options.Get(builder.Name), contextAccessor); }); return builder;
}

Which works similarly, but registers the Handler only to a specific HttpClient.

For instance, you can have 2 distinct HttpClient that will propagate only a specific set of HTTP Headers:

builder.Services.AddHttpClient("items") .AddHeaderPropagation(options => options.HeaderNames.Add("my-correlation-id")); builder.Services.AddHttpClient("customers") .AddHeaderPropagation(options => options.HeaderNames.Add("another-correlation-id"));

Further readings

Finally, some additional resources if you want to read more.

For sure, you should check out (and star⭐) David Fowler’s code:

πŸ”— Original code | GitHub

If you’re not sure about what are extension methods (and you cannot respond to this question: How does inheritance work with extension methods?), then you can have a look at this article:

πŸ”— How you can create extension methods in C# | Code4IT

We heavily rely on HttpClient and HttpClientFactory. How can you test them? Well, by mocking the SendAsync method!

πŸ”— How to test HttpClientFactory with Moq | Code4IT

We’ve seen which is the role of HttpMessageHandlerBuilder when building HttpClients. You can explore that class starting from the documentation.

πŸ”— HttpMessageHandlerBuilder Class | Microsoft Docs

We’ve already seen how to inject and use HttpContext in our applications:

πŸ”— How to access the HttpContext in .NET API

Finally, the repository that you can fork to toy with it:

πŸ”— PropagateCorrelationIdOnHttpClients | GitHub

Conclusion

What a ride!

We’ve seen how to add functionalities to HttpClients and to HTTP messages. All integrated into the .NET pipeline!

We’ve learned how to propagate generic HTTP Headers. Of course, you can choose any custom HttpHeader and promote one of them as CorrelationId.

Again, I invite you to download the code and toy with it – it’s incredibly interesting 😎

Happy coding!

🐧

Source: https://www.code4it.dev/blog/propagate-httpheader-and-correlation-id

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