Micro-JSON - a JSON parser for the .Net Micro Framework


Today's Hardware Friday project is from Mario Vernari who shows us how we can build a JSON parser that lives happily on a Netduino device.

If you're Micro Framework app is talking to a JSON end point (and what isn't these days?) this project might come in real handy.

Micro-JSON for Netduino (and PC)

As soon you want to deal with web-services, JSON is a must-have format for serializing data. Although Netduino does not use Javascript, the JSON format is very compact, at least when compared to XML. By the way, XML is richer as structure and schema, and JSON is sometimes blurry about the data format (e.g. date and time).
The small software library comes with both a parser and a serializer. The parser rules strictly rely on the specification as in the official JSON portal.
The parser deserializes a JSON string to a DOM of specific objects. I’ve been deeply inspired by the JLinq of the awesome library JSON.Net by James Newton-King.

The problem.

Create a JSON parser isn’t a really complex task, unless you have to work on very-low resources devices. In that case, everything should be optimized at best.
My first attempt to create a decent parser and serializer was successful, but the result was not what I’d expected. Although the code runs surprisingly fast on a normal PC, on the Netduino Plus 2 runs pretty slow and takes a lot (i.e. too much) RAM. That leaded me to adjust and optimized several parts of the code, at least to solve the memory occupation issue. The second release is pretty better.

How it works.

The approach is functional-like, although it’s normal C# highly optimized for low-resources platform. However, the same code works on any .Net platform without any problem.
As stated, the first attempt wasn’t the best one. I used several resource-heavy components, which de-facto prohibits the usage on the Netduino. So, it turned to a different yet trivial solution using as less resources as possible. Not sure that’s the very best achievement possible, though.



I performed the test with several JSON strings. The longest is about 9kiB, while the shortest is roughly 500 bytes.

Using the first release, the longest string is almost impossible to parse: the parser runs out of RAM very quickly.

Here are some results.

In the following picture there is the complete JSON “roundtrip” (parsing+serializing) of the shortest string (about 500 bytes), using the FIRST release.

The upper plot shows the parsing duration (high level) and takes about 170ms to complete. The serialization of the resulting object is way faster and requires a little more than 20ms (lower plot).


Hereinafter, the charts are all related to the SECOND library release.

Here is the same 500 bytes-string parsed then serialized. Despite on the PC the revision takes a little longer to perform, on the Netduino is a little faster instead. I suppose all the benefits derive from the less RAM usage



Finally, the “huge” 9kiB-JSON taking looooong to parse: almost 25 seconds!!!. There’s no serialization in this chart, because after a while the Netduino runs out of RAM. I believe there’s something to trim yet…


The J-DOM.

I don’t know how to call it. The reference JSON.Net library where I inspired from offers a complete DOM support together with Linq, but that’s not possible in a tiny context as the Micro Framework is. By the way, the DOM I defined is JSON-specific: is the result of the serialization, and allows to manipulate the resulting object with ease. Once the DOM is complete, you can serialize it to have back a JSON string.

As stated, a must-have tool for any web-related application.


[Click through for the .Net and .Net Micro Framework source]

The Discussion

  • User profile image

    where did you get the performance graphs?

  • User profile image

    @MichaelJoB:The graphs are the screen dumps of a scope connected to a digital output of the board. That's the simplest yet effective way to measure the actual performance.

    I also performed a *brief* test on a normal PC, and the code performs way faster than the referred JSON.Net. Of course, this is a very small implementation and offers minimal features than the mentioned package.


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