FeatureManagement-Dotnet

by microsoft

Microsoft.FeatureManagement provides standardized APIs for enabling feature flags within application...

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ASP.NET Core Feature Flags

Feature flags provide a way for ASP.NET Core applications to turn features on or off dynamically. Developers can use feature flags in simple use cases like conditional statements to more advanced scenarios like conditionally adding routes or MVC filters. Feature flags build on top of the .NET Core configuration system. Any .NET Core configuration provider is capable of acting as the back-bone for feature flags.

Here are some of the benefits of using this library:

  • A common convention for feature management
  • Low barrier-to-entry
    • Built on
      IConfiguration
    • Supports JSON file feature flag setup
  • Feature Flag lifetime management
    • Configuration values can change in real-time, feature flags can be consistent across the entire request
  • Simple to Complex Scenarios Covered
    • Toggle on/off features through declarative configuration file
    • Dynamically evaluate state of feature based on call to server
  • API extensions for ASP.NET Core and MVC framework
    • Routing
    • Filters
    • Action Attributes

API Reference: https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?linkid=2091700

Feature Flags

Feature flags are composed of two parts, a name and a list of feature-filters that are used to turn the feature on.

Feature Filters

Feature filters define a scenario for when a feature should be enabled. When a feature is evaluated for whether it is on or off, its list of feature-filters are traversed until one of the filters decides the feature should be enabled. At this point the feature is considered enabled and traversal through the feature filters stops. If no feature filter indicates that the feature should be enabled, then it will be considered disabled.

As an example, a Microsoft Edge browser feature filter could be designed. This feature filter would activate any features it is attached to as long as an HTTP request is coming from Microsoft Edge.

Registration

The .NET Core configuration system is used to determine the state of feature flags. The foundation of this system is

IConfiguration
. Any provider for IConfiguration can be used as the feature state provider for the feature flag library. This enables scenarios ranging from appsettings.json to Azure App Configuration and more.

Feature Flag Declaration

The feature management library supports appsettings.json as a feature flag source since it is a provider for .NET Core's IConfiguration system. Below we have an example of the format used to set up feature flags in a json file.

{
    "Logging": {
        "LogLevel": {
            "Default": "Warning"
        }
    },

// Define feature flags in a json file
"FeatureManagement": {
    "FeatureT": {
        "EnabledFor": [
            {
                "Name": "AlwaysOn"
            }
        ]
    },
    "FeatureU": {
        "EnabledFor": []
    },
    "FeatureV": {
        "EnabledFor": [
            {
                "Name": "TimeWindow",
                "Parameters": {
                    "Start": "Wed, 01 May 2019 13:59:59 GMT",
                    "End": "Mon, 01 July 2019 00:00:00 GMT"
                }
            }
        ]
    }
}

}

The

FeatureManagement
section of the json document is used by convention to load feature flag settings. In the section above, we see that we have provided three different features. Features define their feature filters using the
EnabledFor
property. In the feature filters for
FeatureT
we see
AlwaysOn
. This feature filter is built-in and if specified will always enable the feature. The
AlwaysOn
feature filter does not require any configuration so it only has the Name property.
FeatureU
has no filters in its
EnabledFor
property and thus will never be enabled. Any functionality that relies on this feature being enabled will not be accessible as long as the feature filters remain empty. However, as soon as a feature filter is added that enables the feature it can begin working.
FeatureV
specifies a feature filter named
TimeWindow
. This is an example of a configurable feature filter. We can see in the example that the filter has a parameter's property. This is used to configure the filter. In this case, the start and end times for the feature to be active are configured.

On/Off Declaration

The following snippet demonstrates an alternative way to define a feature that can be used for on/off features. ``` JavaScript { "Logging": { "LogLevel": { "Default": "Warning" } },

// Define feature flags in config file
"FeatureManagement": {
    "FeatureT": true, // On feature
    "FeatureX": false // Off feature
}

} ```

Referencing

To make it easier to reference these feature flags in code, we recommend to define feature flag variables like below.

// Define feature flags in an enum
public enum MyFeatureFlags
{
    FeatureT,
    FeatureU,
    FeatureV
}

Service Registration

Feature flags rely on .NET Core dependency injection. We can register the feature management services using standard conventions.

using Microsoft.FeatureManagement;
using Microsoft.FeatureManagement.FeatureFilters;

public class Startup { public void ConfigureServices(IServiceCollection services) { services.AddFeatureManagement() .AddFeatureFilter() .AddFeatureFilter(); } }

This tells the feature manager to use the "FeatureManagement" section from the configuration for feature flag settings. It also registers two built-in feature filters named

PercentageFilter
and
TimeWindowFilter
. When filters are referenced in feature flag settings (appsettings.json) the Filter part of the type name can be omitted.

Advanced: The feature manager looks for feature definitions in a configuration section named "FeatureManagement". If the "FeatureManagement" section does not exist, it falls back to the root of the provided configuration.

Consumption

The simplest use case for feature flags is to do a conditional check for whether a feature is enabled to take different paths in code. The uses cases grow from there as the feature flag API begins to offer extensions into ASP.NET Core.

Feature Check

The basic form of feature management is checking if a feature is enabled and then performing actions based on the result. This is done through the

IFeatureManager
's
IsEnabledAsync
method.
…
IFeatureManager featureManager;
…
if (await featureManager.IsEnabledAsync(nameof(MyFeatureFlags.FeatureU)))
{
    // Do something
}

Dependency Injection

When using the feature management library with MVC, the

IFeatureManager
can be obtained through dependency injection.
public class HomeController : Controller
{
    private readonly IFeatureManager _featureManager;

public HomeController(IFeatureManager featureManager)
{
    _featureManager = featureManager;
}

}

Controllers and Actions

MVC controller and actions can require that a given feature, or one of any list of features, be enabled in order to execute. This can be done by using a

FeatureGateAttribute
, which can be found in the
Microsoft.FeatureManagement.Mvc
namespace.
[FeatureGate(MyFeatureFlags.FeatureX)]
public class HomeController : Controller
{
    …
}

The

HomeController
above is gated by "FeatureX". "FeatureX" must be enabled before any action the
HomeController
contains can be executed.
[FeatureGate(MyFeatureFlags.FeatureY)]
public IActionResult Index()
{
    return View();
}

The

Index
MVC action above requires "FeatureY" to be enabled before it can execute.

Disabled Action Handling

When an MVC controller or action is blocked because none of the features it specifies are enabled, a registered

IDisabledFeaturesHandler
will be invoked. By default, a minimalistic handler is registered which returns HTTP 404. This can be overridden using the
IFeatureManagementBuilder
when registering feature flags.
public interface IDisabledFeaturesHandler
{
    Task HandleDisabledFeature(IEnumerable features, ActionExecutingContext context);
}

View

In MVC views

 tags can be used to conditionally render content based on whether a feature is enabled or not.
  

This can only be seen if 'FeatureX' is enabled.

The

 tag requires a tag helper to work. This can be done by adding the feature management tag helper to the ViewImports.cshtml file.
HTML+Razor
@addTagHelper *, Microsoft.FeatureManagement.AspNetCore

MVC Filters

MVC action filters can be set up to conditionally execute based on the state of a feature. This is done by registering MVC filters in a feature aware manner. The feature management pipeline supports async MVC Action filters, which implement

IAsyncActionFilter
.
services.AddMvc(o => 
{
    o.Filters.AddForFeature(nameof(MyFeatureFlags.FeatureV));
});

The code above adds an MVC filter named

SomeMvcFilter
. This filter is only triggered within the MVC pipeline if the feature it specifies, "FeatureV", is enabled.

Application building

The feature management library can be used to add application branches and middleware that execute conditionally based on feature state.

app.UseMiddlewareForFeature(nameof(MyFeatureFlags.FeatureU));

With the above call, the application adds a middleware component that only appears in the request pipeline if the feature "FeatureU" is enabled. If the feature is enabled/disabled during runtime, the middleware pipeline can be changed dynamically.

This builds off the more generic capability to branch the entire application based on a feature.

app.UseForFeature(featureName, appBuilder => 
{
    appBuilder.UseMiddleware();
});

Implementing a Feature Filter

Creating a feature filter provides a way to enable features based on criteria that you define. To implement a feature filter, the

IFeatureFilter
interface must be implemented.
IFeatureFilter
has a single method named
EvaluateAsync
. When a feature specifies that it can be enabled for a feature filter, the
EvaluateAsync
method is called. If
EvaluateAsync
returns
true
it means the feature should be enabled.

Feature filters are registered by the

IFeatureManagementBuilder
when
AddFeatureManagement
is called. These feature filters have access to the services that exist within the service collection that was used to add feature flags. Dependency injection can be used to retrieve these services.

Parameterized Feature Filters

Some feature filters require parameters to decide whether a feature should be turned on or not. For example a browser feature filter may turn on a feature for a certain set of browsers. It may be desired that Edge and Chrome browsers enable a feature, while Firefox does not. To do this a feature filter can be designed to expect parameters. These parameters would be specified in the feature configuration, and in code would be accessible via the

FeatureFilterEvaluationContext
parameter of
IFeatureFilter.EvaluateAsync
.
public class FeatureFilterEvaluationContext
{
    /// 
    /// The name of the feature being evaluated.
    /// 
    public string FeatureName { get; set; }

/// <summary>
/// The settings provided for the feature filter to use when evaluating whether the feature should be enabled.
/// </summary>
public IConfiguration Parameters { get; set; }

}

FeatureFilterEvaluationContext
has a property named
Parameters
. These parameters represent a raw configuration that the feature filter can use to decide how to evaluate whether the feature should be enabled or not. To use the browser feature filter as an example once again, the filter could use
Parameters
to extract a set of allowed browsers that would have been specified for the feature and then check if the request is being sent from one of those browsers.
[FilterAlias("Browser")]
public class BrowserFilter : IFeatureFilter
{
    … Removed for example

public Task<bool> EvaluateAsync(FeatureFilterEvaluationContext context)
{
    BrowserFilterSettings settings = context.Parameters.Get<browserfiltersettings>() ?? new BrowserFilterSettings();

    //
    // Here we would use the settings and see if the request was sent from any of BrowserFilterSettings.AllowedBrowsers
}

}

Filter Alias Attribute

When a feature filter is registered to be used for a feature flag, the alias used in configuration is the name of the feature filter type with the filter suffix, if any, removed. For example

MyCriteriaFilter
would be referred to as MyCriteria in configuration.
"MyFeature": {
    "EnabledFor": [
        {
            "Name": "MyCriteria"
        }
    ]
}

This can be overridden through the use of the

FilterAliasAttribute
. A feature filter can be decorated with this attribute to declare the name that should be used in configuration to reference this feature filter within a feature flag.

Missing Feature Filters

If a feature is configured to be enabled for a specific feature filter and that feature filter hasn't been registered, then an exception will be thrown when the feature is evaluated. The exception can be disabled by using the feature management options.

services.Configure(options =>
{
    options.IgnoreMissingFeatureFilters = true;
});

Using HttpContext

Feature filters can evaluate whether a feature should be enabled based off the properties of an HTTP Request. This is performed by inspecting the HTTP Context. A feature filter can get a reference to the HTTP Context by obtaining an

IHttpContextAccessor
through dependency injection.
public class BrowserFilter : IFeatureFilter
{
    private readonly IHttpContextAccessor _httpContextAccessor;

public BrowserFilter(IHttpContextAccessor httpContextAccessor)
{
    _httpContextAccessor = httpContextAccessor ?? throw new ArgumentNullException(nameof(httpContextAccessor));
}

}

The

IHttpContextAccessor
must be added to the dependency injection container on startup for it to be available. It can be registered in the
IServiceCollection
using the following method.
public void ConfigureServices(IServiceCollection services)
{
    …
    services.TryAddSingleton();
    …
}

Providing a Context For Feature Evaluation

In console applications there is no ambient context such as

HttpContext
that feature filters can acquire and utilize to check if a feature should be on or off. In this case, applications need to provide an object representing a context into the feature management system for use by feature filters. This is done by using
IFeatureManager.IsEnabledAsync(string featureName, TContext appContext)
. The appContext object that is provided to the feature manager can be used by feature filters to evaluate the state of a feature.
MyAppContext context = new MyAppContext
{
    AccountId = current.Id;
}

if (await featureManager.IsEnabledAsync(feature, context)) { … }

Contextual Feature Filters

Contextual feature filters implement the

IContextualFeatureFilter
interface. These special feature filters can take advantage of the context that is passed in when
IFeatureManager.IsEnabledAsync
is called. The
TContext
type parameter in
IContextualFeatureFilter
describes what context type the filter is capable of handling. This allows the developer of a contextual feature filter to describe what is required of those who wish to utilize it. Since every type is a descendant of object, a filter that implements
IContextualFeatureFilter
can be called for any provided context. To illustrate an example of a more specific contextual feature filter, consider a feature that is enabled if an account is in a configured list of enabled accounts.
public interface IAccountContext
{
    string AccountId { get; set; }
}

[FilterAlias("AccountId")] class AccountIdFilter : IContextualFeatureFilter { public Task EvaluateAsync(FeatureFilterEvaluationContext featureEvaluationContext, IAccountContext accountId) { // // Evaluate if the feature should be on with the help of the provided IAccountContext } }

We can see that the

AccountIdFilter
requires an object that implements
IAccountContext
to be provided to be able to evalute the state of a feature. When using this feature filter, the caller needs to make sure that the passed in object implements
IAccountContext
.

Note: Only a single feature filter interface can be implemented by a single type. Trying to add a feature filter that implements more than a single feature filter interface will result in an

ArgumentException
.

Built-In Feature Filters

There a few feature filters that come with the

Microsoft.FeatureManagement
package. These feature filters are not added automatically, but can be referenced and registered as soon as the package is registered.

Each of the built-in feature filters have their own parameters. Here is the list of feature filters along with examples.

Microsoft.Percentage

This filter provides the capability to enable a feature based on a set percentage.

"EnhancedPipeline": {
    "EnabledFor": [
        {
            "Name": "Microsoft.Percentage",
            "Parameters": {
                "Value": 50
            }
        }
    ]
}

Microsoft.TimeWindow

This filter provides the capability to enable a feature based on a time window. If only

End
is specified, the feature will be considered on until that time. If only start is specified, the feature will be considered on at all points after that time.
"EnhancedPipeline": {
    "EnabledFor": [
        {
            "Name": "Microsoft.TimeWindow",
            "Parameters": {
                "Start": "Wed, 01 May 2019 13:59:59 GMT",
                "End": "Mon, 01 July 2019 00:00:00 GMT"
            }
        }
    ]
}

Microsoft.Targeting

This filter provides the capability to enable a feature for a target audience. An in-depth explanation of targeting is explained in the targeting section below. The filter parameters include an audience object which describes users, groups, and a default percentage of the user base that should have access to the feature. Each group object that is listed in the target audience must also specify what percentage of the group's members should have access. If a user is specified in the users section directly, or if the user is in the included percentage of any of the group rollouts, or if the user falls into the default rollout percentage then that user will have the feature enabled.

"EnhancedPipeline": {
    "EnabledFor": [
        {
            "Name": "Microsoft.Targeting",
            "Parameters": {
                "Audience": {
                    "Users": [
                        "Jeff",
                        "Alicia"
                    ],
                    "Groups": [
                        {
                            "Name": "Ring0",
                            "RolloutPercentage": 100
                        },
                        {
                            "Name": "Ring1",
                            "RolloutPercentage": 50
                        }
                    ],
                    "DefaultRolloutPercentage": 20
                }
            }
        }
    ]
}

Feature Filter Alias Namespaces

All of the built-in feature filter alias' are in the 'Microsoft' feature filter namespace. This is to prevent conflicts with other feature filters that may share the same simple alias. The segments of a feature filter namespace are split by the '.' character. A feature filter can be referenced by its fully qualified alias such as 'Microsoft.Percentage' or by the last segment which in the case of 'Microsoft.Percentage' is 'Percentage'.

Targeting

Targeting is a feature management strategy that enables developers to progressively roll out new features to their user base. The strategy is built on the concept of targeting a set of users known as the target audience. An audience is made up of specific users, groups, and a designated percentage of the entire user base. The groups that are included in the audience can be broken down further into percentages of their total members.

The following steps demonstrate an example of a progressive rollout for a new 'Beta' feature:

  1. Individual users Jeff and Alicia are granted access to the Beta
  2. Another user, Mark, asks to opt-in and is included.
  3. Twenty percent of a group known as "Ring1" users are included in the Beta.
  4. The number of "Ring1" users included in the beta is bumped up to 100 percent.
  5. Five percent of the user base is included in the beta.
  6. The rollout percentage is bumped up to 100 percent and the feature is completely rolled out.

This strategy for rolling out a feature is built in to the library through the included Microsoft.Targeting feature filter.

Targeting in a Web Application

An example web application that uses the targeting feature filter is available in the FeatureFlagDemo example project.

To begin using the

TargetingFilter
in an application it must be added to the application's service collection just as any other feature filter. Unlike other built in filters, the
TargetingFilter
relies on another service to be added to the application's service collection. That service is an
ITargetingContextAccessor
.

The implementation type used for the

ITargetingContextAccessor
service must be implemented by the application that is using the targeting filter. Here is an example setting up feature management in a web application to use the
TargetingFilter
with an implementation of
ITargetingContextAccessor
called
HttpContextTargetingContextAccessor
.
services.AddSingleton();

services.AddFeatureManagement(); .AddFeatureFilter();

ITargetingContextAccessor

To use the

TargetingFilter
in a web application an implementation of
ITargetingContextAccessor
is required. This is because when a targeting evaluation is being performed information such as what user is currently being evaluated is needed. This information is known as the targeting context. Different web applications may extract this information from different places. Some common examples of where an application may pull the targeting context are the request's HTTP context or a database.

An example that extracts targeting context information from the application's HTTP context is included in the FeatureFlagDemo example project. This method relies on the use of

IHttpContextAccessor
which is discussed here.

Targeting in a Console Application

The targeting filter relies on a targeting context to evaluate whether a feature should be turned on. This targeting context contains information such as what user is currently being evaluated, and what groups the user in. In console applications there is typically no ambient context available to flow this information in to the targeting filter, thus it must be passed directly when

FeatureManager.IsEnabledAsync
is called. This is supported through the use of the
ContextualTargetingFilter
. Applications that need to float the targeting context into the feature manager should use this instead of the
TargetingFilter.
services.AddFeatureManagement()
        .AddFeatureFilter();

Since

ContextualTargetingFilter
is an
IContextualTargetingFilter
, an implementation of
ITargetingContext
must be passed in to
IFeatureManager.IsEnabledAsync
for it to be able to evaluate and turn a feature on.
IFeatureManager fm;
…
// userId and groups defined somewhere earlier in application
TargetingContext targetingContext = new TargetingContext
{
   UserId = userId,
   Groups = groups;
}

await fm.IsEnabledAsync(featureName, targetingContext);

The

ContextualTargetingFilter
still uses the feature filter alias Microsoft.Targeting, so the configuration for this filter is consistent with what is mentioned in that section.

An example that uses the

ContextualTargetingFilter
in a console application is available in the TargetingConsoleApp example project.

Targeting Evaluation Options

Options are available to customize how targeting evaluation is performed across all features. These options can be configured when setting up feature management.

services.Configure(options =>
{
    options.IgnoreCase = true;
});

Caching

Feature state is provided by the IConfiguration system. Any caching and dynamic updating is expected to be handled by configuration providers. The feature manager asks IConfiguration for the latest value of a feature's state whenever a feature is checked to be enabled.

Snapshot

There are scenarios which require the state of a feature to remain consistent during the lifetime of a request. The values returned from the standard

IFeatureManager
may change if the
IConfiguration
source which it is pulling from is updated during the request. This can be prevented by using
IFeatureManagerSnapshot
.
IFeatureManagerSnapshot
can be retrieved in the same manner as
IFeatureManager
.
IFeatureManagerSnapshot
implements the interface of
IFeatureManager
, but it caches the first evaluated state of a feature during a request and will return the same state of a feature during its lifetime.

Custom Feature Providers

Implementing a custom feature provider enable developers to pull feature flags from sources such as a database or a feature management service. The included feature provider that is used by default pulls feature flags from .NET Core's configuration system. This allows for features to be defined in an appsettings.json file or in configuration providers like Azure App Configuration. This behavior can be substituted to provide complete control of where feature definitions are read from.

To customize the loading of feature definitions, one must implement the

IFeatureDefinitionProvider
interface.
public interface IFeatureDefinitionProvider
{
    Task GetFeatureDefinitionAsync(string featureName);

IAsyncEnumerable<featuredefinition> GetAllFeatureDefinitionsAsync();

}

To use an implementation of

IFeatureDefinitionProvider
it must be added into the service collection before adding feature management. The following example adds an implementation of
IFeatureDefinitionProvider
named
InMemoryFeatureDefinitionProvider
.
services.AddSingleton()
        .AddFeatureManagement()

Contributing

This project welcomes contributions and suggestions. Most contributions require you to agree to a Contributor License Agreement (CLA) declaring that you have the right to, and actually do, grant us the rights to use your contribution. For details, visit https://cla.microsoft.com.

When you submit a pull request, a CLA-bot will automatically determine whether you need to provide a CLA and decorate the PR appropriately (e.g., label, comment). Simply follow the instructions provided by the bot. You will only need to do this once across all repos using our CLA.

This project has adopted the Microsoft Open Source Code of Conduct. For more information see the Code of Conduct FAQ or contact [email protected] with any additional questions or comments.

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