WCF - Architecture

WCF - Architecture

  • WCF contains a layered architecture with support for the distributed application development. 
  • The architecture has  four major layers such as Contracts, Service runtime, Messaging, Activation and Hosting.
  • The above diagram depicts an inner view of each layer.

WCF Architecture

Contracts :

  • Contracts layer stay close to the application and hence developers directly communicate with this layer.
  • Hence its duty is to define the service in detail and delegate access methodologies to acquire the service.
  • The features of contracts layer includes:

Data Contract :

  • Data Contract describes the message parameter (ie.) the data passed to and received from the service. 
  • These parameters are well-defined by XML Schema definition language (XSD) documents.
  • This enables any system, that understands the XML and  to process the documents. 

Message Contract :

  • Message Contract defined as the  parts of  using SOAP message format.
  • It is used to control these message parts during the interoperability process. 

Service Contract :

  • Service Contract clarifies more on the method definitions of the service.
  • It is available in the form of interface defined by Visual Basic or Visual C# and provide details on service endpoints for easy communication with the service.

Policies and Bindings :

  • It informs about the conditions that needs to be followed for communicating with a service.
  • It comprises of security measures needed for establishing communication.

Service Runtime :

  • Service runtime layer defines the service behaviors during its actual operation. Some of them are listed as follows:
    • Throttling takes care on the number of messages to be processed at a time. The count varies with the demand for the service. 
    • An error behavior outputs an internal error on the service, to the client. 
    • Metadata concerns much about the metadata’s availability to the client. 
    • Instance Behavior decides on the number of instances of the service at a particular time. 
    • Transaction Behavior takes care of rolling back a process to its previous state in case of failures.
    • Dispatch Behavior insist more on the processing of message by the WCF architecture
    • Concurrency Behavior selects the method for switch over mechanism via the threading process.
    • Parameter Filtering filters the message headers and completes the preset actions with the filters as base.

Messaging :

Channel Stack in WCF messaging

  • Message contains a set of channels termed as channel stack and to process the upcoming messages. 
  • Two types of channels are as follows.

Transport Channels :

    • Available at the bottom of the stack.
    • Communicate messages with the network via HTTP, named pipes, TCP, and MSMQ. 
    • Use encoder schemes such as XML and optimized binary.

Protocol Channels  : 

    • Present at the top of channel stack.
    • Process message header via protocols such as WS-Security and WS-Reliability.

Activation and Hosting :

  • Services are hosted or executed for the client’s usage. The activation and hosting mechanisms:


  • IIS(Internet information Service) automatically activates the service code in case of a service using Http Protocol.

Windows Activation Service :

  • WAS is the process activation tool that is available as part of IIS 7.0. 
  • It is used to provide message-based activation on protocols such as TCP and named pipes.

Self-Hosting :

  • A WCF service is made to be self-hosted either as a console application or a Windows Application or as a WPF application.

Windows Service :

  • WCF can be hosted as a Windows Service, and controlled by the Service Control Manager (SCM).