c# unity How do you reconcile IDisposable and IoC?




unity idisposable (6)

I'm finally wrapping my head around IoC and DI in C#, and am struggling with some of the edges. I'm using the Unity container, but I think this question applies more broadly.

Using an IoC container to dispense instances that implement IDisposable freaks me out! How are you supposed to know if you should Dispose()? The instance might have been created just for you (and therefor you should Dispose() it), or it could be an instance whose lifetime is managed elsewhere (and therefor you'd better not). Nothing in the code tells you, and in fact this could change based on configuration!!! This seems deadly to me.

Can any IoC experts out there describe good ways to handle this ambiguity?


In the Unity framework, there are two ways to register the injected classes: as singletons (you get always the same instance of the class when you resolve it), or such as you get a new instance of the class on each resolution.

In the later case, you have the responsibility of disposing the resolved instance once you don't need it (which is a quite reasonable approach). On the other hand, when you dispose the container (the class that handles object resolutions), all the singleton objects are automatically disposed as well.

Therefore, there are apparently no issues with injected disposable objects with the Unity framework. I don't know about other frameworks, but I suppose that as long as a dependency injection framework is solid enough, it for sure handles this issue in one way or another.


This has puzzled me frequently as well. Though not happy about it, I always came to the conclusion that never returning an IDisposable object in a transient way was best.

Recently, I rephrased the question for myself: Is this really an IoC issue, or a .net framework issue? Disposing is awkward anyway. It has no meaningful functional purpose, only technical. So it's more a framework issue that we have to deal with, than an IoC issue.

What I like about DI is that I can ask for a contract providing me functionality, without having to bother about the technical details. I'm not the owner. No knowledge about which layer it's in. No knowledge about which technologies are required to fulfil the contract, no worries about lifetime. My code looks nice and clean, and is highly testable. I can implement responsibilities in the layers where they belong.

So if there's an exception to this rule that does require me to organise the lifetime, let's make that exception. Whether I like it or not. If the object implementing the interface requires me to dispose it, I want to know about it since then I am triggered to use the object as short as possible. A trick by resolving it using a child container which is disposed some time later on might still cause me keeping the object alive longer than I should. The allowed lifetime of the object is determined when registering the object. Not by the functionality that creates a child container and holds on to that for a certain period.

So as long as we developers need to worry about disposing (will that ever change?) I will try to inject as few transient disposable objects as possible. 1. I try to make the object not IDisposable, for example by not keeping disposable objects on class level, but in a smaller scope. 2. I try to make the object reusable so that a different lifetime manager can be applied.

If this is not feasible, I use a factory to indicate that the user of the injected contract is owner and should take responsibility for it.

There is one caveat: changing a contract implementer from non-disposable to disposable will be a breaking change. At that time the interface will no longer be registered, but the interface to the factory. But I think this applies to other scenario's as well. Forgetting to use a child container will from that moment on give memory issues. The factory approach will cause an IoC resolve exception.

Some example code:

using System;
using Microsoft.Practices.Unity;

namespace Test
{
    // Unity configuration
    public class ConfigurationExtension : UnityContainerExtension
    {
        protected override void Initialize()
        {
            // Container.RegisterType<IDataService, DataService>(); Use factory instead
            Container.RegisterType<IInjectionFactory<IDataService>, InjectionFactory<IDataService, DataService>>();
        }
    }

    #region General utility layer

    public interface IInjectionFactory<out T>
        where T : class
    {
        T Create();
    }

    public class InjectionFactory<T2, T1> : IInjectionFactory<T2>
        where T1 : T2
        where T2 : class

    {
        private readonly IUnityContainer _iocContainer;

        public InjectionFactory(IUnityContainer iocContainer)
        {
            _iocContainer = iocContainer;
        }

        public T2 Create()
        {
            return _iocContainer.Resolve<T1>();
        }
    }

    #endregion

    #region data layer

    public class DataService : IDataService, IDisposable
    {
        public object LoadData()
        {
            return "Test data";
        }

        protected virtual void Dispose(bool disposing)
        {
            if (disposing)
            {
                /* Dispose stuff */
            }
        }

        public void Dispose()
        {
            Dispose(true);
            GC.SuppressFinalize(this);
        }
    }

    #endregion

    #region domain layer

    public interface IDataService
    {
        object LoadData();
    }

    public class DomainService
    {
        private readonly IInjectionFactory<IDataService> _dataServiceFactory;

        public DomainService(IInjectionFactory<IDataService> dataServiceFactory)
        {
            _dataServiceFactory = dataServiceFactory;
        }

        public object GetData()
        {
            var dataService = _dataServiceFactory.Create();
            try
            {
                return dataService.LoadData();
            }
            finally
            {
                var disposableDataService = dataService as IDisposable;
                if (disposableDataService != null)
                {
                    disposableDataService.Dispose();
                }
            }
        }
    }

    #endregion
}

This depends on the DI framework. Some frameworks allow you to specify whether you want a shared instance (always using the same reference) for every dependency injected. In this case, you most likely do not want to dispose.

If you can specify that you want a unique instance injected, then you will want to dispose (since it was being constructed for you specifically). I'm not as familiar with Unity, though - you'd have to check the docs as to how to make this work there. It's part of the attribute with MEF and some others I've tried, though.


AutoFac handles this by allowing the creation of a nested container. When the container is finished with, it automatically disposes of all IDisposable objects within it. More here.

.. As you resolve services, Autofac tracks disposable (IDisposable) components that are resolved. At the end of the unit of work, you dispose of the associated lifetime scope and Autofac will automatically clean up/dispose of the resolved services.


You definitely do not want to call Dispose() on an object that was injected into your class. You can't make the assumption that you are the only consumer. Your best bet is to wrap your unmanaged object in some managed interface:

public class ManagedFileReader : IManagedFileReader
{
    public string Read(string path)
    {
        using (StreamReader reader = File.OpenRead(path))
        {
            return reader.ReadToEnd();
        }
    }
}

That is just an example, I would use File.ReadAllText(path) if I were trying to read a text file into a string.

Another approach is to inject a factory and manage the object yourself:

public void DoSomething()
{
    using (var resourceThatShouldBeDisposed = injectedFactory.CreateResource())
    {
        // do something
    }
}

Putting a facade in front of the container can resolve this as well. Plus you can extend it to keep track of a more rich life cycle like service shutdowns and startups or ServiceHost state transitions.

My container tends to live in an IExtension that implements the IServiceLocator interface. It is a facade for unity, and allows for easy access in WCf services. Plus I have access to the service events from the ServiceHostBase.

The code you end up with will attempt to see if any singleton registered or any type created implements any of the interfaces that the facade keeps track of.

Still does not allow for the disposing in a timely manner as you are tied to these events but it helps a bit.

If you want to dispose in a timely manner (aka, now v.s. upon service shutdown). You need to know that the item you get is disposable, it is part of the business logic to dispose of it, so IDisposable should be part of the interface of the object. And there probably should be verification of expectations untitests related to the dispose method getting called.





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