ASP.NET MVC app warm-up

I’m pretty sure you have seen application slow down just after deploying yet another release into production. Yeah, that’s a side effect of using one of the just-in-time compilation-based languages such as C# or Java. But not only JIT is guilty in a slow cold start. But also an initialization logic which usually is run on the first call.

To get rid of slow cold start, the application is warmed-up after deploying a new release but before routing production traffic into it. The simplest possible way to warm-up is to open URLs belong to the app. Go ahead, if it works for you. But what if that URLs cannot be accessible without a sign-in? For example, multi-factor authentication is enabled for every user so it is not possible to sign-in via one of headless browser or just HttpClient.

Let’s see how I managed to warm-up ASP.NET MVC using built-in @Html.RenderAction("Action", "Controller"). For sure RenderAction can help us but before that, we have to fake a sign-in so a page would think the current user is legitimate.

The very 1st step is HttpContext creation. Here is how to create a new one.

HttpContext NewHttpContext(string requestUrl, IPrincipal currentUser)
    var request = new HttpRequest("", requestUrl, "");
    var response = new HttpResponse(TextWriter.Null);
    return new HttpContext(request, response) {User = currentUser};

requestUrl must point to a real request URL. For instance, if you are in ASP.NET MVC controller, Request.Url.AbsoluteUri is perfect for this. Otherwise, you may see the following exception.

System.ArgumentException: The virtual path '/' maps to another application, which is not allowed.
   at System.Web.CachedPathData.GetVirtualPathData(VirtualPath virtualPath, Boolean permitPathsOutsideApp)
   at System.Web.HttpContext.GetFilePathData()
   at System.Web.Configuration.RuntimeConfig.GetConfig(HttpContext context)
   at System.Web.Configuration.HttpCapabilitiesBase.GetBrowserCapabilities(HttpRequest request)
   at System.Web.HttpRequest.get_Browser()
   at System.Web.Mvc.HttpHandlerUtil.ServerExecuteHttpHandlerWrapper.Wrap[TResult](Func`1 func)
   at System.Web.HttpServerUtility.ExecuteInternal(IHttpHandler handler, TextWriter writer, Boolean preserveForm, Boolean setPreviousPage, VirtualPath path, VirtualPath filePath, String physPath, Exception error, String queryStringOverride)

In my case, the authenticated user will be like the following. As you can see it is super easy to change a set of roles or user name.

class WarmUpUser : IPrincipal, IIdentity
    public bool IsInRole(string role) => true;
    public IIdentity Identity => this;
    public string Name { get; } = "Warm-up user";
    public string AuthenticationType { get; } = "";
    public bool IsAuthenticated { get; } = true;

Most probably, you have played with @Html in Razor view. But I will use it in a controller. Since @Html is a type of HtmlHelper let’s try to create it. The following code is not trivial, however, it is as short as I could do.

static HtmlHelper CreateHtmlHelper(HttpContext httpContext)
    var controller = new NullController();
    var requestContext = new RequestContext(
        new HttpContextWrapper(httpContext),
        new RouteData());
    var controllerContext = new ControllerContext(requestContext, controller);
    controller.ControllerContext = controllerContext;
    var viewContext = new ViewContext(
        new NullView(),
        new ViewDataDictionary(),
        new TempDataDictionary(),
    return new HtmlHelper(viewContext, new ViewPage());

class NullController : ControllerBase
    protected override void ExecuteCore()
        => throw new NotImplementedException();

class NullView : IView
    public void Render(ViewContext _, TextWriter __)
        => throw new NotImplementedException();

Finally, we can get all the pieces together and warm-up.

public class WarmUpController : Controller
    public async Task Index()
        await Task.WhenAll(
            WarmUp(html => html.RenderAction("Index", "Home")),
            WarmUp(html => html.RenderAction("About", "Home")),
            WarmUp(html => html.RenderAction("Contact", "Home"))

    Task WarmUp(Action<HtmlHelper> act)
        return Task.Factory.StartNew(() =>
            var requestUrl = Request.Url.AbsoluteUri;
            var httpContext = NewHttpContext(requestUrl, new WarmUpUser());
            System.Web.HttpContext.Current = httpContext;
            var htmlHelper = CreateHtmlHelper(httpContext);
        }, TaskCreationOptions.LongRunning);

Task.Factory.StartNew executes the warm-up within good thread isolation. Remember that the warm-up renders controller actions in TextWriter.Null, in our case that’s okay. Bonus feature: Intellisense can still navigate you to the сorresponding controller action!

Be careful, this approach is applicable for .NET Framework only and I have not tested on .NET Core!

Source code of simple ASP.NET MVC app with the warm-up controller is in here Gaev.Blog.Examples.WarmUpAspNetMvc. Don’t forget to let me know how do you warm-up :)

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