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Large Data Sources: Server and Instant Feedback Modes

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Demos (links require the DevExpress Demo Center of version 16.2 or newer to be installed)


What are Server Modes?

In regular data binding modes, a data-aware control loads an entire data set at once, which, in cases of large data volumes, significantly slows down application startup and consumes a considerable amount of memory. The overall application performance depends on a customer's rig, and data shaping operations (sorting, grouping or filtering) may cause a bottleneck.


The primitive way to deal with this issue is to implement pagination, that is, to split a data set into discrete portions and display Previous, page numbers and Next buttons to switch between records. DevExpress Data Grid offers a more elegant solution that allows you to navigate between data portions on demand without any navigation buttons, and carry out all data shaping operations on the server side - Server Modes.


The "server modes" term includes two separate modes:

  • a regular (synchronous) server mode locks the GUI and does not respond to end-users' actions when data is retrieved;
  • an Instant Feedback mode (asynchronous server mode) loads data in a background thread, so that the GUI remains responsive in the process. This mode is not supported in the GridLookUpEdit control.

Feature Limitations and Specifics

In server modes, grid controls (GridControl, GridLookUpEdit, and SearchLookUpEdit) do not have simultaneous access to bound data in its entirety. This imposes certain limitations on the grid's features that are still available in a regular binding mode. Please see the list below for information on features that are not supported/not recommended in server mode.

  • Do not use BindingSource when binding to data.
  • Adding/deleting records from the Grid Control when data is grouped.
  • Sorting, grouping and filtering data by displayed values (not by editing values).
  • Data searching in the Find Panel against columns whose data type is neither string nor numeric.
  • When searching using the Find Panel, the grid always converts a search string to lower-case. Thus, when binding the Grid Control to a case-sensitive data source, data search results do not contain target entries that have text in upper case.

    You can overcome this issue by using a case-insensitive data source. See the following article to learn more:How to make the Grid's filter case- and accent-insensitive in Server Mode.

  • Filtering rows using the ColumnView.CustomRowFilter event.
  • Adding custom items to the Filter Dropdown list in Instant Feedback mode.
  • Custom sorting using the ColumnView.CustomColumnSort event.
  • Custom grouping using the GridView.CustomColumnGroup event.
  • Merged grouping in all server-aware data sources, except for XPServerCollectionSource and XPInstantFeedbackSource.
  • Group intervals (GridColumn.GroupInterval) when binding with WcfInstantFeedbackSource and WcfServerModeSource.
  • In Instant Feedback mode, the maximum number of visible data groups is limited to 10000.
  • Calculating custom summaries using the GridView.CustomSummaryCalculate event is limited: the event fires only once, when the CustomSummaryProcess parameter returns "Finalize".
  • Sorting, grouping, filtering and summary calculation for unbound columns whose values are provided with the ColumnView.CustomUnboundColumnData event. These features are still supported for unbound columns that are populated using expressions (see GridColumn.UnboundExpression).
  • Master-detail mode.
  • Preserving the position of the focused row when data is grouped or sorted.
  • Preserving row selection when data is sorted, grouped or filtered.
  • WcfInstantFeedbackSource and WcfServerModeSource do not support compound keys.
  • The server mode data source may be reloaded after changes to the underlying database. For instance, known scenarios include, but are not limited to: database changes caused by an external process, changes resulting from the code in the same process, in place editing, etc.
  • Actions that involve operating on all Data Grid rows should be avoided since processing every row sends an individual query to a SQL server. Thus, performing such actions may cause severe performance issues and UI freezes. The actions that most negatively affect Data Grid performance are expanding all group rows (GridOptionsBehavior.AutoExpandAllGroups, GridView.ExpandAllGroups) and selecting all data records (GridView.SelectAll).

To learn about known issues when using Entity Framework data sources in Server Mode and how to overcome them, please refer to Entity Framework 4.0+ Server Mode Specifics.

Server Mode Data Sources

To enable a specific server mode for your data-aware control, you need to use an appropriate data source. You can use data sources provided by the eXpress Persistent Objects (XPO) library, or use dedicated data sources tailored to work with 'LINQ to SQL Classes'. Thus, choose one of the following data sources for your control.

Data Access Technology

Server Mode Data Source

Instant Feedback UI Data Source

Entity Framework 4+











Parallel LINQ to Objects



WCF Data Services



OData v4



Note that you should bind to data without the BindingSource component. Otherwise, all data is loaded into memory and Server Modes are rendered useless.

Infinite Scrolling - Virtual (Event-Based) Server Mode

In addition to two "classic" data-on-demand Grid modes (Server Mode & Instant Feedback), you can use the event-based VirtualServerModeSource component to manually implement the batch data loading. A Data Grid bound to this data source component supports the Infinite Scrolling feature.


Refer to the Infinite Scrolling demo for an example.