The term “saga” was first used in a 1987 research paper by Hector Garcia-Molina and Kenneth Salem. It was introduced as a conceptual alternative for long lived database transactions. A saga represents a high-level business process that comprises of several low-level requests/tasks. These tasks may take a long time to run and may span multiple services. There are instances where some tasks will need to be triggered by humans. Sagas manage data consistency across microservices in distributed transaction scenarios. A saga acts as an orchestrator for such requests, ensuring that they are executed in a predetermined sequence, and knows how to roll back or compensate in case one of the steps in the sequence fails.

In this post I am going to show you how you can implement sagas using NServiceBus. By the end of this four minute read, you will have basic understanding of how sagas work in NServiceBus as well has how you can implement specific actions such as sending replies to saga callers.

Sagas in NServiceBus

NServiceBus has out-of-the-box support for sagas. To implement a saga, you need to create a class that inherits from Saga<T>, where T is the saga data class. The saga data class needs to inherit from the ContainSagaData class. The saga data must contain a property that uniquely identifies the corresponding saga instance. You will see why this is important in the correlation section. Most, if not all sagas have some state. This state may be useful in instances where you need to run compensating actions in case of a failure. Since sagas can run for a very long time, the state needs to be persisted somewhere where the saga will be able to rehydrate it when it needs it. The saga data class is the saga’s state. This is how you configure persistence for you sagas:


Starting a saga

The trigger to start a saga is the arrival of one or more specified message types. This is declared by adding IAmStartedByMessages<TMessage> to your saga class. When a message of the specified type is received, a new saga instance is created, if there isn’t one already that correlates to the message. In NServiceBus, a saga requires at least one message to start it.

Adding behavior to a saga

You can add more behavior to a saga by implementing the IHandleMessages<TMessage> interface for other message types other than the one that starts the saga. These handlers will be responsible for orchestrating the transaction and/or determining whether or not the transaction is complete.

Message correlation

When a message arrives from the message broker, NServiceBus needs to know which saga instance will handle it. The Saga<T> class contains an abstract method ConfigureHowToFindSaga in which you will map properties of your messages to a property on the saga data. This is the reason why your saga data must have a unique property that will be used to correlate to an instance of the saga. Below is an example of how you can configure your saga correlation:

protected override void ConfigureHowToFindSaga(SagaPropertyMapper<OrderSagaData> mapper)
	mapper.MapSaga(saga => saga.OrderId)
		.ToMessage<StartOrder>(message => message.OrderId)
		.ToMessage<CompleteOrder>(message => message.OrderId);


There are instances where you don’t need to manually configure how to find your saga for a given message. This is true when dealing with replies. A reply is a message that is sent by a message handler to the originator of the message when it is done handling the message. This is a classic request/reply implementation. In the case of sagas, all messages sent from a saga contain a header that can be used to identify the saga instance. Likewise, all replies sent back to the saga will contain the same correlation header. NServiceBus will use this header to identify the saga so there’s no need to manually configure correlation inside the ConfigureHowToFindSaga method.

Note: A limitation of this feature is that it doesn’t support auto-correlation between sagas. If the request is handled by another saga, relevant message properties must be added and mapped to the requesting saga using the syntax described above.

Notifying saga callers of status

Imagine this fictitious business process: an employee needs to be issued a company device. Before they can be issued that device, they need to get approval from their manager as well as the procurement manager. A saga can be used to implement this workflow. Now imagine the calling system, let’s call it the device management system, needs to be updated of the status of the process so it can update it’s UI or something. NServiceBus sagas are able to notify calling systems with ease. This is because the saga data contains the original system’s endpoint address, as well as the original message ID. All you need to do is call the ReplyToOriginator message:

public async Task Handle(ManagerApprovalCommand message, IMessageHandlerContext context)
	await MarkAsApproved(message);

	var statusMessage = new StatusMessage
		Id = "<some-id>",
        Status = "manager approved"

	ReplyToOriginator(context, statusMessage);

Completing a saga

To end a saga, call the MarkAsComplete() method. This tells the saga infrastructure that the instance is no longer needed and can be cleaned up.


In this post I introduces NServiceBus sagas and how you can use them to orchestrate complex business processes. Feel free to leave a comment, question or suggestion below.