WCF4 error message: server did not provide a meaningful reply

When setting up a WCF service with .Net4 using WCF I encountered the following error when passing large object graphs:
“The server did not provide a meaningful reply; this might be caused by a contract mismatch, a premature session shutdown or an internal server error.”

Obviously this error was due to the very minimal default quotas defined by WCF – I thought  I just had to increase the values in the config file to solve my problem. So I immediately went to the app.config file but I was rather surprised discovering that the configuration file was empty.

When inspecting the new features of WCF4 I discovered that Microsoft has put efforts to make the overall WCF experience just as easy as ASMX (this is at least what they claim) . Therefore WCF4 comes with a new “default configuration” model. In my opinion this default configuration scheme only obfuscates the inherent complexity of WCF4 and result is just more confusion.

Of course now your config file is empty but this does not simplify its use because the standard binding & behaviors quota’s are still targeted to minimal values. As soon as you try to do some real work with WCF you will get the error message described here above. This is error message mostly mean that you’ve to increase some of the default configuration values.

Here is an article describing the new configuration model of WCF4: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee354381.aspx

This is the configuration (using very permissive values) I use when developing WCF3 (to be adapted when you go in production)

Client:

  <system.serviceModel>
    <bindings>
      <basicHttpBinding>
        <binding name="BasicHttpBinding_IGroupService" closeTimeout="00:01:00"
            openTimeout="00:01:00" receiveTimeout="00:30:00" sendTimeout="00:01:00"
            allowCookies="false" bypassProxyOnLocal="false" hostNameComparisonMode="StrongWildcard"
            maxBufferSize="655360000"
                 maxReceivedMessageSize="655360000"
            maxBufferPoolSize="524288"
            messageEncoding="Text" textEncoding="utf-8" transferMode="Buffered"
            useDefaultWebProxy="true">
          <readerQuotas maxDepth="32" maxStringContentLength="8192" maxArrayLength="16384"
              maxBytesPerRead="4096" maxNameTableCharCount="16384" />
          <security mode="None">
            <transport clientCredentialType="None" proxyCredentialType="None"
                realm="" />
            <message clientCredentialType="UserName" algorithmSuite="Default" />
          </security>
        </binding>
      </basicHttpBinding>
    </bindings>
    <behaviors>
      <endpointBehaviors>
        <behavior name="largeObjectGraphBehavior">
          <dataContractSerializer maxItemsInObjectGraph="214748364" />
        </behavior>
      </endpointBehaviors>
    </behaviors>
    <client>
      <endpoint address="http://localhost:1763/GroupService.svc" binding="basicHttpBinding"
          bindingConfiguration="BasicHttpBinding_IGroupService" contract="GroupService.IGroupService"
          name="BasicHttpBinding_IGroupService" behaviorConfiguration="largeObjectGraphBehavior" />
    </client>
  </system.serviceModel>

Server:

<system.serviceModel>
    <bindings>
      <basicHttpBinding>
        <binding maxBufferSize="655360000" maxReceivedMessageSize="655360000" >
          <readerQuotas maxArrayLength="1000000" />
        </binding>
      </basicHttpBinding>
<!-- notice there’s no name attribute -->
    </bindings>
    <behaviors>
      <serviceBehaviors>
        <behavior>
          <!-- To avoid disclosing metadata information, set the value below to false and remove the metadata endpoint above before deployment -->
          <serviceMetadata httpGetEnabled="true" />
          <!-- To receive exception details in faults for debugging purposes, set the value below to true.  Set to false before deployment to avoid disclosing exception information -->
          <serviceDebug includeExceptionDetailInFaults="true" />
          <dataContractSerializer
                 maxItemsInObjectGraph="1000000" />

        </behavior>
      </serviceBehaviors>
    </behaviors>
    <serviceHostingEnvironment multipleSiteBindingsEnabled="true" />
  </system.serviceModel>

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