Circular reference detected exception while serializing object to JSON c# entity-framework json serialization


Just as mentioned in this post, I am getting a Json serialization error while serializing an Entity Framework Proxy:

A circular reference was detected while serializing an object of type 'System.Data.Entity.DynamicProxies.PurchaseOrder_446B939192F161CDBC740067F174F7A6059B0F9C0EEE68CD3EBBD63CF9AF5BD0'.

But the difference is, I don't have a circular reference in my entities, and it only occurs in our production environment. Locally everything works fine...

My Entities:

public interface IEntity
    Guid UniqueId { get; }
    int Id { get; }

public class Entity : IEntity
    public int Id { get; set; }
    public Guid UniqueId { get; set; }

public class PurchaseOrder : Entity
    public string Username { get; set; }
    public string Company { get; set; }

    public string SupplierId { get; set; }
    public string SupplierName { get; set; }

    public virtual ICollection<PurchaseOrderLine> Lines { get; set; }

public class PurchaseOrderLine : Entity
    public string Code { get; set; }
    public string Name { get; set; }
    public decimal Quantity { get; set; }

The GetCurrent action on my PurchaseOrderController throwing the exception:

public class PurchaseOrderController : Controller
    private readonly IUnitOfWork _unitOfWork;

    public PurchaseOrderController(IUnitOfWork unitOfWork)
        _unitOfWork = unitOfWork;

    public JsonResult GetCurrent()
        return Json(EnsurePurchaseOrder(), JsonRequestBehavior.AllowGet);

    private PurchaseOrder EnsurePurchaseOrder()
        var company = RouteData.GetRequiredString("company");
        var repository = _unitOfWork.GetRepository<PurchaseOrder>();

        var purchaseOrder = repository
                .Include(p => p.Lines)
                    p => p.Company == company && 
                         p.Username == User.Identity.Name

        if (purchaseOrder == null)
            purchaseOrder = repository.Create();
            purchaseOrder.UniqueId = Guid.NewGuid();
            purchaseOrder.Company = company;
            purchaseOrder.Username = User.Identity.Name;

        return purchaseOrder;
5/23/2017 11:47:32 AM

Accepted Answer

Your POCO entities are perfectly serializable. Your problem is that the dynamic proxies the EF runtime creates for you are usually not. You can set the context.Configuration.ProxyCreationEnabled to false but then you lose lazy loading. My strong recommendation to you is to use Json.NET which supports serialization for EF entities:

ADO.NET Entity Framework support accidently added to Json.NET

Popular high-performance JSON framework for .NET

8/18/2016 7:22:16 AM

Popular Answer

Option 1 (recommended)

Try turning off Proxy object creation on your DbContext.

DbContext.Configuration.ProxyCreationEnabled = false;

Typically this scenario is because the application is using POCO objects (Either T4 Generated or Code-First). The problem arises when Entity Framework wants to track changes in your object which is not built into POCO objects. To resolve this, EF creates proxy objects which lack the attributes in the POCO objects, and aren't serializable.

The reasons why I recommend this approach; using a website means that you probably don't need change tracking (stateful) on Entity Framework objects, it free's up memory and cpu because change tracking is disabled and it will work consistantly on all your objects the same way.

Option 2

Use a serializer (like JSON.Net which is already included in ASP.Net 4) that allows customization to serialize the object(s).

The reasons I do not recommend this approach is that eventually custom object serialization logic will be need to serial proxy objects as other objects types. This means you have a dependency on logic to deliver a result downstream. Changing the object means changing logic, and in an ASP.Net MVC project (any version) instead of only changing a View you have some thing else to change that is not readily known outside of whoever wrote the logic first.

Option 3 (Entity Framework 5.x +)

Use .AsNoTracking() which will disable the proxy objects on the specific query. If you need to use change tracking, this allows a nice intermediate solution to solution #1.

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