Comparing JSON Serializers

by Dennis 2. May 2019 13:44

As you might be aware, SphinxConnector.NET’s fluent API uses JSON.NET as its default JSON serializer when dealing with JSON attributes. As the old saying goes “No one has ever been fired for using JSON.NET” ;-) Choosing JSON.NET was obvious, because it has been the de-facto standard in the .NET world since, well, forever. Even Microsoft adopted it as the default library for handling JSON in ASP.NET (MVC/Web API), so it’s probably not even an additional dependency for most people, which is a bonus.

There are however a bunch of other JSON libraries out there that do better in terms of performance and memory usage than JSON.NET, so I decided to test some them with real world data of a customer. I’ll be comparing

to JSON.NET 12.0.1.

Switching JSON serializers in SphinxConnector.NET’s fluent API is pretty easy, just inherit from JsonObjectSerializer, implement Serialize and Deserialize, register your class by setting the JsonObjectSerializer property and you are good to go. Here’s how the ServiceStackJsonSerializer looks like:

class ServiceStackJsonSerializer : JsonObjectSerializer
    public override string Serialize(object obj) => ServiceStack.Text.JsonSerializer.SerializeToString(obj);

    public override object Deserialize(string json, Type type) => ServiceStack.Text.JsonSerializer.DeserializeFromString(json, type);

As mentioned earlier, I’m using real world data that is used in production and is pretty JSON heavy. For the benchmark I’m just querying the JSON data, to better isolate the effect of using the different libraries with regards to execution speed (Op/s). Here are the results (data queried from Manticore 2.8.2):

BenchmarkDotNet=v0.11.5, OS=Windows 7 SP1 (6.1.7601.0)
Intel Core i5-3570 CPU 3.40GHz (Ivy Bridge), 1 CPU, 4 logical and 4 physical cores
Frequency=3420566 Hz, Resolution=292.3493 ns, Timer=TSC
  [Host]     : .NET Framework 4.7.2 (CLR 4.0.30319.42000), 64bit RyuJIT-v4.7.3324.0
  Job-FEFVFA : .NET Framework 4.7.2 (CLR 4.0.30319.42000), 64bit RyuJIT-v4.7.3324.0
InvocationCount=1  UnrollFactor=1  
Method Mean Error StdDev Op/s Ratio Gen 0 Gen 1 Gen 2 Allocated
JsonNet 205.2 ms 4.617 ms 7.456 ms 4.874 1.00 3000.0 1000.0 - 13.75 MB
ServiceStack.Text 195.9 ms 1.734 ms 1.537 ms 5.104 0.94 1000.0 - - 7.24 MB
Utf8Json 190.9 ms 1.335 ms 1.249 ms 5.239 0.92 2000.0 - - 9.45 MB
JilJson 190.0 ms 1.263 ms 1.182 ms 5.262 0.92 3000.0 1000.0 - 14.44 MB

The results are pretty impressive: Servicestack.Text is using nearly 50% less memory, causes less garbage collections and is also slightly faster than JSON.NET*. Utf8Json is even faster than Servicestack.Text but uses more memory. Jil performs best, albeit slightly, but does so at the cost of an even higher memory consumption than JSON.NET, which isn’t surprising as this an intentional design decision.

Could we do even better?

We can. In SphinxConnector.NET 4.2 we'll be adding two more overloads to the Deserialize method:

public virtual object Deserialize(ReadOnlyMemory<byte> json, Type type)
public virtual object Deserialize(ReadOnlyMemory<char> json, Type type)

Instead of passing a string containing the JSON data, we are passing an instance of ReadOnlyMemory of char or byte. This way, we’re avoiding the creation of an intermediate string and instead pass on the raw data we’ve read from the socket.

ServiceStack.Text supports deserializing JSON from ReadOnlyMemory<char>, Utf8Json accepts an array of bytes. Jil and JSON.NET don’t offer any methods to that work directly on chars or bytes, here we need to create a MemoryStream over ReadOnlyMemory<byte> which in turn gets passed into a TextReader which can then be passed to the corresponding Deserialize methods.

Method Mean Error StdDev Op/s Ratio Gen 0 Gen 1 Gen 2 Allocated
JsonNet 196.9 ms 2.050 ms 1.8170 ms 5.078 1.00 3000.0 1000.0 - 13.25 MB
ServiceStack.Text 191.3 ms 1.119 ms 0.9346 ms 5.228 0.97 1000.0 - - 5.56 MB
Utf8Json 189.4 ms 1.088 ms 1.0177 ms 5.279 0.96 2000.0 - - 7.75 MB
Jil 193.2 ms 1.295 ms 1.2116 ms 5.175 0.98 3000.0 1000.0 - 13.93 MB

After eliminating the intermediate string allocations and passing our chars/bytes directly to ServiceStack.Text / Utf8Json we can observe a further reduction in memory usage. JSON.NET and Jil see some improvement, but not as much as the other two. JSON.NET also is faster than before in terms of Op/s whereas Jil is slightly slower.

* The performance advantages of the tested libraries compared to JSON.NET don’t show that much in a benchmark like this, because there’s much more going on here than just deserializing JSON data (query execution, network transmission etc.). If you’d just compare the deserialization process, you’d see much more of a speed advantage these libraries provide (check out the benchmarks on the respective project sites).



Replacing JSON.NET with an alternative JSON serializer in SphinxConnector.NET’s fluent API can lead to a significant reduction in memory usage and a nice improvement in speed. Given that this can be done with just a few lines of code, this is something I’d seriously look into for applications that make use of JSON attributes. On a related note, I’d also consider replacing JSON.NET within ASP.NET MVC/Web API in case your application is build with these.

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