ASP.NET Core supports dependency injection directly out of the box. For Web APIs this is useful for automatically resolving dependencies needed by controllers, or if you’re a fan of Uncle Bob’s Clean Architecture it can be used to inject external dependencies such as the database into the inner layers.

Let’s imagine we’re building an API that has a UserController to provide an endpoint for retrieving users via their numeric id from the database. Since we don’t want the UserController to directly interact with the database as it would violate the single responsibility principle we will rely upon a UserService to do the dirty work for us.

We’ll even take it one step further and assume our UserService implements an IUserService interface to support dependency inversion by coding against the IUserService interface in the UserController.

public interface IUserService {
  Task<User> GetUser(int id);
}

public class UserService : IUserService {
  public async Task<User> GetUser(int id) {
    //Magic goes here...
  }
}

And for completeness the UserController:

[Route("api/user")]
[ApiController]
public class UserController : ControllerBase {
  private IUserService userService; //Need a way to instantiate this...

  [HttpGet("{id}")]
  public async Task<ActionResult> FindUserById(int id) {
    User user = await userService.FindById(id);

    if(user != null) {
      return Ok(user);
    } else {
      return NotFound();
    }
  }
}

Registering Dependencies

In order for ASP.NET to be able to resolve a dependency, we need to register it with the IoC container. In older versions of ASP.NET this would be done in global.asax. However, this file is no longer present and the IoC container is now configured in Startup.cs. By default, Startup.cs is located within the root directory of your project. Open it up and locate the following method:

  // This method gets called by the runtime. Use this method to add services to the container.
  public void ConfigureServices(IServiceCollection services) {

  }

The parameter services of type IServiceCollection is the IoC container we need to set up. When it comes to registering a dependency with the container we have three different lifetimes available: transient, singleton, or scoped.

Transient

Dependencies registered via AddTransient() will return a new instance each time the dependency is resolved. This is useful for lightweight, stateless classes that don’t require initialization.

Singleton

A singleton dependency registered via AddSingleton() will always return the same instance each time it’s resolved from the container. This is useful for large classes that are expensive to instantiate, or require set up.

Scoped

Lastly, a scoped dependency registered with AddScoped() will return a new instance per connection (request). For example if Client A made an API request it would be given one instance of the dependency but if Client B made a request it would be given another.

None of the three methods accept any parameters, instead the dependency type is passed in via generics. Each method is also overloaded to allow for registering a dependency to it’s exact type, or to an interface / abstract class (useful for dependency inversion).

Continuing on with our example, if we want to register our UserService as a transient we could do so:

  // This method gets called by the runtime. Use this method to add services to the container.
  public void ConfigureServices(IServiceCollection services) {
    services.AddTransient<UserService>();
  }

But, if we want to fully utilize dependency inversion we would need to reference the interface UserService implements, or else ASP.NET won’t be able to resolve a IUserService dependency with our service.

  // This method gets called by the runtime. Use this method to add services to the container.
  public void ConfigureServices(IServiceCollection services) {
    services.AddTransient<IUserService, UserService>();
  }

Resolving Dependencies

We need to make a minor tweak to the constructor of UserController so ASP.NET knows to pass it a dependecy when creating the controller.

[Route("api/user")]
public class UserController : BaseController {
  private IUserService userService;

  public UserController(IUserService service) {
    userService = service;
  }
  ...
}

Now ASP.NET will automatically inject our depedency of the IUserService when it instantiates an instance of the UserController.

**Note: Since the UserController constructor expects a parameter of type IUserService it is crucial we register the UserService with its interface. If we register UserService without its interface then ASP.NET will throw an exception due to being unable to find the dependency.

//Good
services.AddTransient<IUserService, UserService>();

//Bad
services.AddTransient<UserService>();

Nested Dependencies

The IoC container provided by ASP.NET supports nested dependencies. If our example of the UserController and UserService from earlier was a standard N-Tier structured project, there’s a good chance our UserService needs some kind of way to interact with the data persistance layer. In a project with no objet relational mapping (ORM) library this would typically be a UserRepo to allow for CRUD (Create, Read, Update, and Delete) actions of users in the database.

To ensure we keep the layers of the project loosely-coupled we wouldn’t want the UserService to have to create it’s own UserRepo instance. Instead we would want to code against a IUserRepo interface and pass the instance of the repo into the service via it’s constructor.

public class UserService {
  private IUserRepo userRepo;

  public UserService(IUserRepo uRepo) {
    userRepo = uRepo;
  }
}

public interface IUserRepo {
  User FindById(int id);
}

public class UserRepo : IUserRepo {
  public User FindById(int id){
    //magic
  }
}

Then when we set up our IoC container we need to register the new dependency (the UserRepo)

  // This method gets called by the runtime. Use this method to add services to the container.
  public void ConfigureServices(IServiceCollection services) {
    services.AddTransient<IUserRepo, UserRepo>();
    services.AddTransient<IUserService, UserService>();
  }

And now the IoC container will correctly resolve our UserService dependency and give it an instance of the UserRepo.

3rd Party IoC Containers

While the IoC container provided by ASP.NET should suffice for most uses, it does have some drawbacks. As noted by the official documentation it lacks the following features:

  • Property injection
  • Injection based on name
  • Child containers
  • Custom lifetime management
  • Func<T> support for lazy initialization

If any of these missing features are deal breakers for you, the default IoC container can be swapped out with an external library such as AutoFac and following the instructions available here.

My name's Eddie Abbondanzio, and I'm a full time Software Developer. Programming is my favorite hobby, and I love working on anything web related, and my own personal projects. If I'm not programming, then I'm likely working on one of my cars.