ASP.NET Core Pitfalls – Session Storage

Previous versions of ASP.NET featured several ways to persist sessions:

  • InProc: sessions would be stored on the server’s process memory
  • SQL Server: sessions would be serialized and stored in a SQL Server database; other vendors offered similar functionality
  • State Server: sessions would be serialized and stored on an instance of the ASP.NET State Service
  • Custom: we had to implement our own persistence mechanism

InProc was probably the most commonly used; it was the fastest, as the items in the session weren’t serialized, but on the other side they would not survive server crashes. Using this approach things usually worked well, because the session object merely provided a reference to the items stored in memory, so manipulating these items didn’t mandate that the session be explicitly saved.

In ASP.NET Core, all of this is gone. By default, sessions are still stored in memory but one can also use one of the available distributed cache mechanisms. The main difference, however, is that even when the session objects are stored in memory, they still need to be serialized and deserialized prior to persisting or retrieving them. It is no longer possible to just store a pointer to a memory object and keep manipulating it transparently; the object to be stored needs to be converted into a byte array first. You can use any serializer you want.

If we think about it seriously, it was probably a good decision: I’ve seen applications where a lot of data was being stored on the session using InProc mode, but then there was a need to switch to another mode to improve scalability, and the application would just stop working, as the objects being stored weren’t serializable. This time, we need to carefully think about it beforehand.



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