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Three Ways to Invoke Controllers in the Sitecore ASP.NET CMS

This blog post describes three ways that you can invoke controllers in with the Sitecore ASP.NET web Content Management System (CMS) and Experience Platform (XP). You can:

  1. Define a route that triggers a controller.
  2. Specify a controller in the Controller field in the Layout section defined by the standard template.
  3. Use a controller rendering.

In the first two cases, the controller generates a response to an HTTP request. In the third case, a controller composes a piece of a response to an HTTP request managed by another controller.

In the first two cases, ASP.NET constructs the controller and invokes its action method as in standalone ASP.NET. Sitecore overrides components used in these operations at certain levels (at least RouteHttpHandler and ActionInvoker). In the third case, Sitecore invokes the mvc.renderRendering pipeline to render the controller.

Standalone ASP.NET MVC

First, consider standalone ASP.NET MVC, without Sitecore, and with the default {controller}/{action}/{id} route defined. A stack trace from the action method shows something interesting: it appears that something in EndProcessRequest invokes our action method.

lambda_method(Closure , ControllerBase , Object[] ) +79
System.Web.Mvc.ReflectedActionDescriptor.Execute(ControllerContext controllerContext, IDictionary`2 parameters) +258
System.Web.Mvc.ControllerActionInvoker.InvokeActionMethod(ControllerContext controllerContext, ActionDescriptor actionDescriptor, IDictionary`2 parameters) +39
System.Web.Mvc.Async.<>c__DisplayClass42.<BeginInvokeSynchronousActionMethod>b__41() +34
System.Web.Mvc.Async.<>c__DisplayClass39.<BeginInvokeActionMethodWithFilters>b__33() +124
System.Web.Mvc.Async.<>c__DisplayClass4f.<InvokeActionMethodFilterAsynchronously>b__49() +787435
System.Web.Mvc.Async.<>c__DisplayClass37.<BeginInvokeActionMethodWithFilters>b__36(IAsyncResult asyncResult) +15
System.Web.Mvc.Async.<>c__DisplayClass2a.<BeginInvokeAction>b__20() +33
System.Web.Mvc.Async.<>c__DisplayClass25.<BeginInvokeAction>b__22(IAsyncResult asyncResult) +787916
System.Web.Mvc.<>c__DisplayClass1d.<BeginExecuteCore>b__18(IAsyncResult asyncResult) +28
System.Web.Mvc.Async.<>c__DisplayClass4.<MakeVoidDelegate>b__3(IAsyncResult ar) +15
System.Web.Mvc.Controller.EndExecuteCore(IAsyncResult asyncResult) +65
System.Web.Mvc.Async.<>c__DisplayClass4.<MakeVoidDelegate>b__3(IAsyncResult ar) +15
System.Web.Mvc.Controller.EndExecute(IAsyncResult asyncResult) +51
System.Web.Mvc.<>c__DisplayClass8.<BeginProcessRequest>b__3(IAsyncResult asyncResult) +42
System.Web.Mvc.Async.<>c__DisplayClass4.<MakeVoidDelegate>b__3(IAsyncResult ar) +15
System.Web.Mvc.MvcHandler.EndProcessRequest(IAsyncResult asyncResult) +51
System.Web.CallHandlerExecutionStep.System.Web.HttpApplication.IExecutionStep.Execute() +606
System.Web.HttpApplication.ExecuteStep(IExecutionStep step, Boolean& completedSynchronously) +288

Sitecore with a Route

With Sitecore, to define a route that triggers a controller, you can implement an <initialize> pipeline processor such as the following example.

namespace SitecoreJohn.Pipelines.Loader
{
  using System.Web.Mvc;
  using System.Web.Routing;
 
  public class RegisterRoutes
  {
    public void Process(Sitecore.Pipelines.PipelineArgs args)
    {
      RouteTable.Routes.MapRoute("controller", "controller/{controller}/{action}", new
      {
        action = "Index"
      });
    }
  }
}

You can use a Web.config include file such as the following to enable this processor. The route should let us call a controller and action by name, such as /controller/ControllerName/ActionName.

<configuration xmlns:patch="https://www.sitecore.com/xmlconfig/">
  <sitecore>
    <pipelines>
      <initialize>
        <processor type="SitecoreJohn.Pipelines.Loader.RegisterRoutes, SitecoreJohn"
          patch:before="processor[@type='Sitecore.Mvc.Pipelines.Loader.InitializeControllerFactory, Sitecore.Mvc']" />
      </initialize>
    </pipelines>
  </sitecore>
</configuration>

The following stack trace shows what invokes the action method for our controller in this context.

at lambda_method(Closure , ControllerBase , Object[] )
at System.Web.Mvc.ReflectedActionDescriptor.Execute(ControllerContext controllerContext, IDictionary`2 parameters)
at System.Web.Mvc.ControllerActionInvoker.InvokeActionMethod(ControllerContext controllerContext, ActionDescriptor actionDescriptor, IDictionary`2 parameters)
at System.Web.Mvc.ControllerActionInvoker.<>c__DisplayClass15.<InvokeActionMethodWithFilters>b__12()
at System.Web.Mvc.ControllerActionInvoker.InvokeActionMethodFilter(IActionFilter filter, ActionExecutingContext preContext, Func`1 continuation)
at System.Web.Mvc.ControllerActionInvoker.InvokeActionMethodFilter(IActionFilter filter, ActionExecutingContext preContext, Func`1 continuation)
at System.Web.Mvc.ControllerActionInvoker.InvokeActionMethodWithFilters(ControllerContext controllerContext, IList`1 filters, ActionDescriptor actionDescriptor, IDictionary`2 parameters)
at System.Web.Mvc.ControllerActionInvoker.InvokeAction(ControllerContext controllerContext, String actionName)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Controllers.SitecoreActionInvoker.InvokeAction(ControllerContext controllerContext, String actionName)
at System.Web.Mvc.Controller.<>c__DisplayClass22.<BeginExecuteCore>b__1e()
at System.Web.Mvc.Async.AsyncResultWrapper.<.cctor>b__0(IAsyncResult asyncResult, Action action)
at System.Web.Mvc.Controller.EndExecuteCore(IAsyncResult asyncResult)
at System.Web.Mvc.Async.AsyncResultWrapper.WrappedAsyncVoid`1.CallEndDelegate(IAsyncResult asyncResult)
at System.Web.Mvc.MvcHandler.<BeginProcessRequest>b__5(IAsyncResult asyncResult, ProcessRequestState innerState)
at System.Web.Mvc.Async.AsyncResultWrapper.WrappedAsyncVoid`1.CallEndDelegate(IAsyncResult asyncResult)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Routing.RouteHttpHandler.EndProcessRequest(IAsyncResult result)
at System.Web.HttpApplication.CallHandlerExecutionStep.System.Web.HttpApplication.IExecutionStep.Execute()
at System.Web.HttpApplication.ExecuteStep(IExecutionStep step, Boolean& completedSynchronously)
at System.Web.HttpApplication.PipelineStepManager.ResumeSteps(Exception error)
at System.Web.HttpApplication.BeginProcessRequestNotification(HttpContext context, AsyncCallback cb)
at System.Web.HttpRuntime.ProcessRequestNotificationPrivate(IIS7WorkerRequest wr, HttpContext context)
at System.Web.Hosting.PipelineRuntime.ProcessRequestNotificationHelper(IntPtr rootedObjectsPointer, IntPtr nativeRequestContext, IntPtr moduleData, Int32 flags)
at System.Web.Hosting.PipelineRuntime.ProcessRequestNotification(IntPtr rootedObjectsPointer, IntPtr nativeRequestContext, IntPtr moduleData, Int32 flags)
at System.Web.Hosting.UnsafeIISMethods.MgdIndicateCompletion(IntPtr pHandler, RequestNotificationStatus& notificationStatus)
at System.Web.Hosting.UnsafeIISMethods.MgdIndicateCompletion(IntPtr pHandler, RequestNotificationStatus& notificationStatus)
at System.Web.Hosting.PipelineRuntime.ProcessRequestNotificationHelper(IntPtr rootedObjectsPointer, IntPtr nativeRequestContext, IntPtr moduleData, Int32 flags)
at System.Web.Hosting.PipelineRuntime.ProcessRequestNotification(IntPtr rootedObjectsPointer, IntPtr nativeRequestContext, IntPtr moduleData, Int32 flags)

Populate the Controller Field

The Device Editor will not allow you to bind presentation components to placeholders unless you specify a layout. To use the Controller field in the Layout section and drop components into placeholders, layout details must specify an MVC layout (.cshtml file). The only purposes of this layout are to allow the Device Editor to allow you to bind presentation components to placeholders and to trigger MVC processing for the request. The Controller overrides the layout, which Sitecore does not process.

The stack trace from an action in this context is almost identical to that described previously when routing to a controller.
at lambda_method(Closure , ControllerBase , Object[] )
at System.Web.Mvc.ReflectedActionDescriptor.Execute(ControllerContext controllerContext, IDictionary`2 parameters)
at System.Web.Mvc.ControllerActionInvoker.InvokeActionMethod(ControllerContext controllerContext, ActionDescriptor actionDescriptor, IDictionary`2 parameters)
at System.Web.Mvc.ControllerActionInvoker.<>c__DisplayClass15.<InvokeActionMethodWithFilters>b__12()
at System.Web.Mvc.ControllerActionInvoker.InvokeActionMethodFilter(IActionFilter filter, ActionExecutingContext preContext, Func`1 continuation)
at System.Web.Mvc.ControllerActionInvoker.InvokeActionMethodFilter(IActionFilter filter, ActionExecutingContext preContext, Func`1 continuation)
at System.Web.Mvc.ControllerActionInvoker.InvokeActionMethodWithFilters(ControllerContext controllerContext, IList`1 filters, ActionDescriptor actionDescriptor, IDictionary`2 parameters)
at System.Web.Mvc.ControllerActionInvoker.InvokeAction(ControllerContext controllerContext, String actionName)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Controllers.SitecoreActionInvoker.InvokeAction(ControllerContext controllerContext, String actionName)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Controllers.SitecoreActionInvoker.InvokeAction(ControllerContext controllerContext, String actionName)
at System.Web.Mvc.Controller.<>c__DisplayClass22.<BeginExecuteCore>b__1e()
at System.Web.Mvc.Async.AsyncResultWrapper.<.cctor>b__0(IAsyncResult asyncResult, Action action)
at System.Web.Mvc.Controller.EndExecuteCore(IAsyncResult asyncResult)
at System.Web.Mvc.Async.AsyncResultWrapper.WrappedAsyncVoid`1.CallEndDelegate(IAsyncResult asyncResult)
at System.Web.Mvc.MvcHandler.<BeginProcessRequest>b__5(IAsyncResult asyncResult, ProcessRequestState innerState)
at System.Web.Mvc.Async.AsyncResultWrapper.WrappedAsyncVoid`1.CallEndDelegate(IAsyncResult asyncResult)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Routing.RouteHttpHandler.EndProcessRequest(IAsyncResult result)
at System.Web.HttpApplication.CallHandlerExecutionStep.System.Web.HttpApplication.IExecutionStep.Execute()
at System.Web.HttpApplication.ExecuteStep(IExecutionStep step, Boolean& completedSynchronously)
at System.Web.HttpApplication.PipelineStepManager.ResumeSteps(Exception error)
at System.Web.HttpApplication.BeginProcessRequestNotification(HttpContext context, AsyncCallback cb)
at System.Web.HttpRuntime.ProcessRequestNotificationPrivate(IIS7WorkerRequest wr, HttpContext context)
at System.Web.Hosting.PipelineRuntime.ProcessRequestNotificationHelper(IntPtr rootedObjectsPointer, IntPtr nativeRequestContext, IntPtr moduleData, Int32 flags)
at System.Web.Hosting.PipelineRuntime.ProcessRequestNotification(IntPtr rootedObjectsPointer, IntPtr nativeRequestContext, IntPtr moduleData, Int32 flags)
at System.Web.Hosting.UnsafeIISMethods.MgdIndicateCompletion(IntPtr pHandler, RequestNotificationStatus& notificationStatus)
at System.Web.Hosting.UnsafeIISMethods.MgdIndicateCompletion(IntPtr pHandler, RequestNotificationStatus& notificationStatus)
at System.Web.Hosting.PipelineRuntime.ProcessRequestNotificationHelper(IntPtr rootedObjectsPointer, IntPtr nativeRequestContext, IntPtr moduleData, Int32 flags)
at System.Web.Hosting.PipelineRuntime.ProcessRequestNotification(IntPtr rootedObjectsPointer, IntPtr nativeRequestContext, IntPtr moduleData, Int32 flags)

Controller Rendering

As described previously, ASP.NET lets us use controllers to service entire HTTP requests. Additionally, Sitecore lets us use controllers as renderings, to implement components within pages similar to nested views.

Because controller renderings run late in the page lifecycle, and because Sitecore uses the <mvc.renderRendering> pipeline to invoke controller renderings, a stack trace from within the action method of a controller rendering is significantly different from those shown previously. Here you can see the structure of the page above the rendering, which in this case consists of a view and two view renderings that mimic the default Web Forms layout and two sublayouts.

at lambda_method(Closure , ControllerBase , Object[] )
at System.Web.Mvc.ReflectedActionDescriptor.Execute(ControllerContext controllerContext, IDictionary`2 parameters)
at System.Web.Mvc.ControllerActionInvoker.InvokeActionMethod(ControllerContext controllerContext, ActionDescriptor actionDescriptor, IDictionary`2 parameters)
at System.Web.Mvc.ControllerActionInvoker.<>c__DisplayClass15.<InvokeActionMethodWithFilters>b__12()
at System.Web.Mvc.ControllerActionInvoker.InvokeActionMethodFilter(IActionFilter filter, ActionExecutingContext preContext, Func`1 continuation)
at System.Web.Mvc.ControllerActionInvoker.InvokeActionMethodFilter(IActionFilter filter, ActionExecutingContext preContext, Func`1 continuation)
at System.Web.Mvc.ControllerActionInvoker.InvokeActionMethodWithFilters(ControllerContext controllerContext, IList`1 filters, ActionDescriptor actionDescriptor, IDictionary`2 parameters)
at System.Web.Mvc.ControllerActionInvoker.InvokeAction(ControllerContext controllerContext, String actionName)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Controllers.SitecoreActionInvoker.InvokeAction(ControllerContext controllerContext, String actionName)
at System.Web.Mvc.Controller.ExecuteCore()
at System.Web.Mvc.ControllerBase.Execute(RequestContext requestContext)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Controllers.ControllerRunner.ExecuteController(Controller controller)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Controllers.ControllerRunner.Execute()
at Sitecore.Mvc.Presentation.ControllerRenderer.Render(TextWriter writer)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Pipelines.Response.RenderRendering.ExecuteRenderer.Render(Renderer renderer, TextWriter writer, RenderRenderingArgs args)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Pipelines.Response.RenderRendering.ExecuteRenderer.Process(RenderRenderingArgs args)
at (Object , Object[] )
at Sitecore.Pipelines.CorePipeline.Run(PipelineArgs args)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Pipelines.PipelineService.RunPipeline[TArgs](String pipelineName, TArgs args)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Pipelines.Response.RenderPlaceholder.PerformRendering.Render(String placeholderName, TextWriter writer, RenderPlaceholderArgs args)
at (Object , Object[] )
at Sitecore.Pipelines.CorePipeline.Run(PipelineArgs args)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Pipelines.PipelineService.RunPipeline[TArgs](String pipelineName, TArgs args)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Helpers.SitecoreHelper.Placeholder(String placeholderName)
at ASP._Page_views_MVCSampleInnerSublayout_cshtml.Execute() in c:\inetpub\sitecore\sc141212\Website\Views\MVCSampleInnerSublayout.cshtml:line 11
at System.Web.WebPages.WebPageBase.ExecutePageHierarchy()
at System.Web.Mvc.WebViewPage.ExecutePageHierarchy()
at System.Web.WebPages.WebPageBase.ExecutePageHierarchy(WebPageContext pageContext, TextWriter writer, WebPageRenderingBase startPage)
at System.Web.Mvc.Html.PartialExtensions.Partial(HtmlHelper htmlHelper, String partialViewName, Object model, ViewDataDictionary viewData)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Presentation.ViewRenderer.Render(TextWriter writer)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Pipelines.Response.RenderRendering.ExecuteRenderer.Render(Renderer renderer, TextWriter writer, RenderRenderingArgs args)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Pipelines.Response.RenderRendering.ExecuteRenderer.Process(RenderRenderingArgs args)
at (Object , Object[] )
at Sitecore.Pipelines.CorePipeline.Run(PipelineArgs args)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Pipelines.PipelineService.RunPipeline[TArgs](String pipelineName, TArgs args)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Pipelines.Response.RenderPlaceholder.PerformRendering.Render(String placeholderName, TextWriter writer, RenderPlaceholderArgs args)
at (Object , Object[] )
at Sitecore.Pipelines.CorePipeline.Run(PipelineArgs args)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Pipelines.PipelineService.RunPipeline[TArgs](String pipelineName, TArgs args)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Helpers.SitecoreHelper.Placeholder(String placeholderName)
at ASP._Page_views_MVCSampleSublayout_cshtml.Execute() in c:\inetpub\sitecore\sc141212\Website\Views\MVCSampleSublayout.cshtml:line 5
at System.Web.WebPages.WebPageBase.ExecutePageHierarchy()
at System.Web.Mvc.WebViewPage.ExecutePageHierarchy()
at System.Web.WebPages.WebPageBase.ExecutePageHierarchy(WebPageContext pageContext, TextWriter writer, WebPageRenderingBase startPage)
at System.Web.Mvc.Html.PartialExtensions.Partial(HtmlHelper htmlHelper, String partialViewName, Object model, ViewDataDictionary viewData)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Presentation.ViewRenderer.Render(TextWriter writer)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Pipelines.Response.RenderRendering.ExecuteRenderer.Render(Renderer renderer, TextWriter writer, RenderRenderingArgs args)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Pipelines.Response.RenderRendering.ExecuteRenderer.Process(RenderRenderingArgs args)
at (Object , Object[] )
at Sitecore.Pipelines.CorePipeline.Run(PipelineArgs args)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Pipelines.PipelineService.RunPipeline[TArgs](String pipelineName, TArgs args)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Pipelines.Response.RenderPlaceholder.PerformRendering.Render(String placeholderName, TextWriter writer, RenderPlaceholderArgs args)
at (Object , Object[] )
at Sitecore.Pipelines.CorePipeline.Run(PipelineArgs args)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Pipelines.PipelineService.RunPipeline[TArgs](String pipelineName, TArgs args)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Helpers.SitecoreHelper.Placeholder(String placeholderName)
at ASP._Page_Views_SitecoreJohn_index_cshtml.Execute() in c:\inetpub\sitecore\sc141212\Website\Views\SitecoreJohn\index.cshtml:line 4
at System.Web.WebPages.WebPageBase.ExecutePageHierarchy()
at System.Web.Mvc.WebViewPage.ExecutePageHierarchy()
at System.Web.WebPages.WebPageBase.ExecutePageHierarchy(WebPageContext pageContext, TextWriter writer, WebPageRenderingBase startPage)
at System.Web.Mvc.ViewResultBase.ExecuteResult(ControllerContext context)
at System.Web.Mvc.ControllerActionInvoker.InvokeActionResultFilterRecursive(IList`1 filters, Int32 filterIndex, ResultExecutingContext preContext, ControllerContext controllerContext, ActionResult actionResult)
at System.Web.Mvc.ControllerActionInvoker.InvokeActionResultFilterRecursive(IList`1 filters, Int32 filterIndex, ResultExecutingContext preContext, ControllerContext controllerContext, ActionResult actionResult)
at System.Web.Mvc.ControllerActionInvoker.InvokeActionResultFilterRecursive(IList`1 filters, Int32 filterIndex, ResultExecutingContext preContext, ControllerContext controllerContext, ActionResult actionResult)
at System.Web.Mvc.ControllerActionInvoker.InvokeActionResultWithFilters(ControllerContext controllerContext, IList`1 filters, ActionResult actionResult)
at System.Web.Mvc.ControllerActionInvoker.InvokeAction(ControllerContext controllerContext, String actionName)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Controllers.SitecoreActionInvoker.InvokeAction(ControllerContext controllerContext, String actionName)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Controllers.SitecoreActionInvoker.InvokeAction(ControllerContext controllerContext, String actionName)
at System.Web.Mvc.Controller.<>c__DisplayClass22.<BeginExecuteCore>b__1e()
at System.Web.Mvc.Async.AsyncResultWrapper.<.cctor>b__0(IAsyncResult asyncResult, Action action)
at System.Web.Mvc.Controller.EndExecuteCore(IAsyncResult asyncResult)
at System.Web.Mvc.Async.AsyncResultWrapper.WrappedAsyncVoid`1.CallEndDelegate(IAsyncResult asyncResult)
at System.Web.Mvc.MvcHandler.<BeginProcessRequest>b__5(IAsyncResult asyncResult, ProcessRequestState innerState)
at System.Web.Mvc.Async.AsyncResultWrapper.WrappedAsyncVoid`1.CallEndDelegate(IAsyncResult asyncResult)
at Sitecore.Mvc.Routing.RouteHttpHandler.EndProcessRequest(IAsyncResult result)
at System.Web.HttpApplication.CallHandlerExecutionStep.System.Web.HttpApplication.IExecutionStep.Execute()
at System.Web.HttpApplication.ExecuteStep(IExecutionStep step, Boolean& completedSynchronously)
at System.Web.HttpApplication.PipelineStepManager.ResumeSteps(Exception error)
at System.Web.HttpApplication.BeginProcessRequestNotification(HttpContext context, AsyncCallback cb)
at System.Web.HttpRuntime.ProcessRequestNotificationPrivate(IIS7WorkerRequest wr, HttpContext context)
at System.Web.Hosting.PipelineRuntime.ProcessRequestNotificationHelper(IntPtr rootedObjectsPointer, IntPtr nativeRequestContext, IntPtr moduleData, Int32 flags)
at System.Web.Hosting.PipelineRuntime.ProcessRequestNotification(IntPtr rootedObjectsPointer, IntPtr nativeRequestContext, IntPtr moduleData, Int32 flags)
at System.Web.Hosting.UnsafeIISMethods.MgdIndicateCompletion(IntPtr pHandler, RequestNotificationStatus& notificationStatus)
at System.Web.Hosting.UnsafeIISMethods.MgdIndicateCompletion(IntPtr pHandler, RequestNotificationStatus& notificationStatus)
at System.Web.Hosting.PipelineRuntime.ProcessRequestNotificationHelper(IntPtr rootedObjectsPointer, IntPtr nativeRequestContext, IntPtr moduleData, Int32 flags)
at System.Web.Hosting.PipelineRuntime.ProcessRequestNotification(IntPtr rootedObjectsPointer, IntPtr nativeRequestContext, IntPtr moduleData, Int32 flags)

Resources

  • There's one more way that I know of. Routed controllers can render pages but can also be POST-ed to. You can also POST to the SitecoreController route and use @Html.Sitecore().FormHandler() to "route" to a controller of your choice. You can pass in controller/action combination right into this helper method or specify it on the view rendering's definition item (Form Controller Name and Form Controller Action fields).  I think I can name one more way :) WFFM MVC, for example, defines their own Renderer and their own Controller Runner. While their form rendering is a controller rendering, they (WFFM) use a customized runner to execute it. Their reason is "unobtrusive" DI and you probably won't / shouldn't roll your own renderer/runner just to call your controller but there you go - another technique to complete your list.