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Archive for the ‘NHibernate’ Category



Progressive .NET Wrap-up

Monday, September 7th, 2009

So, I’ve gotten back from a most enjoyable couple of days in Sweden where I gave two half-day tutorials, the first being the SOA and UI composition talk I gave at the European Virtual ALT.NET meeting (which you can find online here) and the other on DDD in enterprise apps (the first time I’ve done this talk).

I’ve gotten some questions about my DDD presentation there based on Aaron Jensen’s pictures:

cqs_udi_dahan_presentation

Yes – I talk with my hands. All the time.

That slide is quite an important one – I talked about it for at least 2 hours.

Here it is again, this time in full:

cqs

You may notice that the nice clean layered abstraction that the industry has gotten so comfortable with doesn’t quite sit right when looking at it from this perspective. The reason for that is that this perspective takes into account physical distribution while layers don’t.

I’ll have some more posts on this topic as well as giving a session in TechEd Europe this November.

Oh – and please do feel free to already send your questions in.



Don’t Create Aggregate Roots

Monday, June 29th, 2009

roots

My previous post on Domain Events left some questions about how aggregate roots should be created unanswered. It would actually be more accurate to say how aggregate roots should *not* be created. It turns out that this is one of the less intuitive parts of domain-driven design and has been the source of many arguments on the matter. Let’s start with the wrong way:

   1:  using (ISession s = sf.OpenSession())
   2:  using (ITransaction tx = s.BeginTransaction())
   3:  {
   4:      Customer c = new Customer();
   5:      c.Name = "udi dahan";
   6:   
   7:      s.Save(c);
   8:      tx.Commit();
   9:  }

I understand that the code above is representative of how much code is written when using an object-relational mapper. Many would consider this code to follow DDD principles – that Customer is an aggregate root. Unfortunately – that is not the case. The code above is missing the real aggregate root.

There’s also the inevitable question of validation – if the customer object isn’t willing to accept a name with a space in it, should we throw an exception? That would prevent an invalid entity from being saved, which is good. On the other hand, exceptions should be reserved for truly exceptional occurrences. But if we don’t use exceptions, using Domain Events instead, how do we prevent the invalid entity from being saved?

All of these issues are handled auto-magically once we have a true aggregate root.

Always Get An Entity

Let’s start with the technical guidance – always get an entity. At least one. Also, don’t add any objects to the session or unit of work explicitly – rather, have some other already persistent domain entity create the new entity and add it to a collection property.

Looking at the code above, we see that we’re not following the technical guidance.

But the question is, which entity could we possibly get from the database in this case? All we’re doing is adding a customer.

And that’s exactly where the technical guidance leads us to the business analysis that was missing in this scenario…

Business Analysis

Customers don’t just appear out of thin air.

Blindingly obvious – isn’t it.

So why would we technically model our system as if they did? My guess is that we never really thought about it – it wasn’t our job. So here’s the breaking news – if we want to successfully apply DDD we do need to think about it, it is our job.

Going back to the critical business question:

Where do customers come from?

In the real world, they stroll into the store. In our overused e-commerce example, they navigate to our website. New customers that haven’t used our site before don’t have any cookies or anything we can identify them with. They navigate around, browsing, maybe buying something in the end, maybe not.

Yet, the browsing process is interesting in its own right:

  • Which products did they look at?
  • Did they use the search feature?
  • How long did they spend on each page?
  • Did they scroll down to see the reviews?

If and when they do finally buy something, all that history is important and we’d like to maintain a connection to it.

Actually, even before they buy something, what they put in their cart is the interesting piece. The transition from cart to checkout is another interesting piece. Do they actually complete the checkout process, or do they abandon it midway through?

Add to that when we ask/force them to create a user/login in our system.

Are they actually a customer if they haven’t bought anything?

We’re beginning to get an inkling that almost every activity that results in the creation of an entity or storing of additional information can be traced to a transition from a previous business state.

In any transition, the previous state is the aggregate root.

In the beginning…

Let’s start at the very beginning then – someone came to our site. Either they navigated here from some other web page, they clicked on an email link someone sent them, or they typed in our URL. This can be designed as follows:

   1:  using (ISession s = sf.OpenSession())
   2:  using (ITransaction tx = s.BeginTransaction())
   3:  {
   4:     var referrer = s.Get<Referrer>(msg.URL);
   5:     referrer.BroughtVisitorWithIp(msg.IpAddress);
   6:   
   7:     tx.Commit();
   8:  }
   9:   

And our referrer code could look something like this:

   1:  public void BroughtVisitorWithIp(string ipAddress)
   2:  {
   3:     var visitor = new Visitor(ipAddress);
   4:     this.NewVisitors.Add(visitor);
   5:  }
   6:   

This follows the technical guidance we saw at the beginning.

It also allows us to track which referrer is bringing us which visitors, through tracking those visitors as they become shoppers (by putting stuff in their cart), finally seeing which become customers.

We can solve the situation of not having a referrer by implementing the null object pattern which is well supported by all the standard object-relational mappers these days.

How it works internally

When we call a method on a persistent entity retrieved by the object-relational mapper, and the entity modifies its state like when it adds a new entity to one of its collection properties, when the transaction commits, here’s what happens:

The mapper sees that the persistent entity is dirty, specifically, that its collection property was modified, and notices that there is an object in there that isn’t persistent. At that point, the mapper knows to persist the new entity without us ever having to explicitly tell it to do so. This is sometimes known as “persistence by reachability”.

Where validation happens

Let’s consider the relatively trivial rule that says that a user name can’t contain a space.

Also, keep in mind that a registered user is the result of a transition from a visitor.

Here’s *one* way of doing that:

   1:  public class Visitor
   2:  {
   3:     public void Register(string username, string password)
   4:     {
   5:        if (username.Contains(" "))
   6:        {
   7:           DomainEvents.Raise<UsernameCantContainSpace>();
   8:           return;
   9:        }
  10:   
  11:        var user = new User(username, password);
  12:        this.RegisteredUser = u;
  13:     }
  14:  }
  15:   

This actually isn’t representative of most of the rules that will be found in the domain model, but it illustrates a way of preventing an entity from being created without our service layer needing to know anything. All the service layer does is get the visitor object and call the Register method.

Validation of string lengths, data ranges, etc is not domain logic and is best handled elsewhere (and a topic for a different post). The same goes for uniqueness.

Summary

The most important thing to keep in mind is that if your service layer is newing up some entity and saving it – that entity isn’t an aggregate root *in that use case*. As we saw above, in the original creation of the Visitor entity by the Referrer, the visitor class wasn’t the aggregate root. Yet, in the user registration use case, the Visitor entity was the aggregate root.

Aggregate roots aren’t a structural property of the domain model.

And in any case, don’t go saving entities in your service layer – let the domain model manage its own state. The domain model doesn’t need any references to repositories, services, units of work, or anything else to manage its state.

If you do all this, you’ll also be able to harness the technique of fetching strategies to get the best performance out of your domain model by representing your use cases as interfaces on the domain model like IRegisterUsers (implemented by Visitor) and IBringVisitors (implemented by Referrer).

And spending some time on business analysis doesn’t hurt either – unless customers really do fall out of the sky in your world :-)



DDD & Many to Many Object Relational Mapping

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

many to many The ability to map entity relationships is broadly supported by many O/RM tools. For some reason, though, many developers run into issues when trying to map a many-to-many relationship between entities. Although much has already been written about the technological aspects of it, I thought I’d take more of an architectural / DDD perspective on it here.

Value Objects Don’t Count

While the canonical example presented is Customer -> Address, and has a good treatment here for nHibernate, it isn’t architecturally representative.

Addresses are value objects. What this means is that if we have to instance of the Address class, and they both have the same business data, they are semantically equivalent. Customers, on the other had, are not value objects – they’re entities. If we have two customers with the same business data (both of them called Bob Smith), that does not mean they are semantically equivalent – they are not the same person.

All Entities

Therefore, for our purposes here we’ll use something different. Say we have an entity called Job which is something that a company wants to hire for. It has a title, description, skill level, and a bunch of other data. Say we also have another entity called Job Board which is where the company posts jobs so that applicants can see them, like Monster.com. A job board has a name, description, web site, referral fee, and a bunch of other data.

A job can be posted to multiple job boards. And a job board can have multiple jobs posted. A regular many to many relationship. At this point, we’re not even going to complicate the association.

This is simply represented in the DB with an association table containing two columns for each of the entity tables’ ids.

In the domain model, developers can also represent this with the Job class containing a list of JobBoard instances, and the JobBoard class containing a list of jobs.

It’s intuitive. Simple. Easy to implement. And wrong.

In order to make intelligent DDD choices, we’re going to first take what may seem to be a tangential course, but I assure you that your aggregate roots depend on it.

Moving forward with our example

Let’s say the user picks a job, and then ticks off the job boards where they want the job posted, and clicks submit.

For simplicity’s sake, at this point, let’s ignore the communication with the actual job sites, assuming that if we can get the association into the DB, magic will happen later causing the job to appear on all the sites.

Our well-intentioned developer takes the job ID, and all the job board IDs, opens a transaction, gets the job object, gets the job board objects, adds all the job board objects to the job, and commits, as follows:

   1:          public void PostJobToBoards(Guid jobId, params Guid[] boardIds)
   2:          {
   3:              using (ISession s = this.SessionFactory.OpenSession())
   4:              using (ITransaction tx = s.BeginTransaction())
   5:              {
   6:                  var job = s.Get<Job>(jobId);
   7:                  var boards = new List<JobBoard>();
   8:   
   9:                  foreach(Guid id in boardIds)
  10:                      boards.Add(s.Get<JobBoard>(id));
  11:   
  12:                  job.PostTo(boards);
  13:   
  14:                  tx.Commit();
  15:              }
  16:          }

In this code, Job is our aggregate root. You can see that is the case since Job is the entry point that the service layer code uses to interact with the domain model. Soon we’ll see why this is wrong.

** Notice that in this service layer code, our well-intentioned developer is following the rule that while you can get as many objects as you like, you are only allowed one method call on one domain object. The code called in line 12 is what you’d pretty much expect:

   1:          public void PostTo(IList<JobBoard> boards)
   2:          {
   3:              foreach(JobBoard jb in boards)
   4:              {
   5:                  this.JobBoards.Add(jb);
   6:                  jb.Jobs.Add(this);
   7:              }
   8:          }

Only that as we were committing, someone deleted one of the job boards just then. Or that someone updated the job board causing a concurrency conflict. Or anything that would cause one single association to not be created.

That would cause the whole transaction to fail and all changes to roll back.

Rightly so, thinks our well-intentioned developer.

But users don’t think like well-intentioned developers.

Partial Failures

If I were to go to the grocery store with the list my wife gave me, finding that they’re out of hazelnuts (the last item on the list), would NOT buy all the other groceries and go home empty handed, what do you think would happen?

Right. That’s how users look at us developers. Before running off and writing a bunch of code, we need to understand the business semantics of users actions, including asking about partial failures.

The list isn’t a unit of work that needs to succeed or rollback atomically. It’s actually many units of work. I mean, I wouldn’t want my wife to send me to the store 10 times to buy 10 items, so the list is really just a kind of user shortcut. Therefore, in the job board scenario, each job to job board connection is its own transaction.

This is more common than you might think.

Once you go looking for cases where the domain is forgiving of partial failures, you may start seeing more and more of them.

Aggregate Roots

In the original transaction where we tried to connect many job boards to a single job, we saw that the single job is the aggregate root. However, once we have multiple transactions, each connecting one job and one job board, the job board is just as likely an aggregate root as the job.

We can do   jobBoard.Post(job);    or     job.PostTo(jobBoard);

But we need just a bit more analysis to come to the right decision.

While we could just leave the bi-directional/circular dependency between them, it would be preferable if we could make it uni-directional instead. To do that, we need to understand their relationship:

If there was no such thing as “job”, would there be meaning to “job board” ? Probably not.

If there was no such thing as “job board”, would there be meaning to “job” ? Probably. Yes. Our company can handle the hiring process of a job regardless of whether the candidate came in through Monster.com or not.

From this we understand that the uni-directional relationship can be modelled as one-to-many from job board to job. The Job class would no longer have a collection of Job Board objects. In fact, it could even be in an assembly separate from Job Board and not reference Job Board in any way. Job Board, on the other hand, would still have a collection of Job objects.

Going back to the code above we see that the right choice is   jobBoard.Post(job);   

Job Board is the aggregate root in this case. Also, the many-to-many mapping has now dissolved, leaving behind a single one-to-many mapping.

Let that sink in a second.

But Wait…

While the GUI showing which jobs are posted on a given job board are well served by the above decision (simply traversing the object graph from Job Board to its collection of Jobs), that’s not the whole story. Another GUI needs to show administrative users which Job Boards a given Job has been posted to. Since we no longer have the domain-level connection, we can’t traverse myJob.JobBoards.

Our only option is to perform a query. That’s not so bad, but not as pretty as object traversal.

The real benefit is in chopping apart the Gordian M-to-N mapping knot and getting a cleaner, more well factored domain model.

That gives us much greater leverage for bigger, system-level decomposition.

We’re now all set to move up to a pub/sub solution between these aggregate roots, effectively upgrading them to Bounded Contexts. From there, we can move to full-blown internet-scale caching with REST for extra scalability on showing a job board with all its jobs.

In Closing

We often look at many-to-many relationships just like any other relationship. And from a purely technical perspective, we’re not wrong. However, the business reality around these relationships is often very different – forgiving of partial failures, to the point of actually requiring them.

Since the business folks who provide us with requirements rarely think of failure scenarios, they don’t specify that “between these two entities here, I don’t want transactional atomicity” (rolling our technical eyes – the idiots [sarcasm, just to make sure you don’t misread me]).

Yet, if we were to spell out what the system will do under failure conditions when transactionally atomic, those same business folks will be rolling our eyes back to us.

What I’ve found surprises some DDD practitioners is how critical this issue really is to arriving at the correct aggregate roots and bounded contexts.

It’s also simple, and practical, so you won’t be offending the YAGNI police.


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Fetching Strategy NHibernate Implementation Available

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

A couple of months ago I put out a post discussing one way to implement custom fetching strategies. Anyway, I finally got around to putting my money where my mouth was…

So, I’ve implemented the pattern in NHibernate, adding the following method to ISession:

T Create<T>();

As well as adding the following interface to the NHibernate package:

public interface IFetchingStrategy<T>
{
ICriteria AddFetchJoinTo(ICriteria criteria);
}

All this enables you to have a stronger separation between your service layer classes and your domain model class, as well as for you to express each service-level use case as a domain concept – an interface.

Once you have such an interface, you can create a fetching strategy for that use case and define exactly how deep of an object graph you want to load so that you only hit the DB once for that use case.

The nice thing is that its all configured with Spring. In other words, if you the entry for your fetching strategy class exists, you get the improved performance, if it doesn’t, you don’t. All without touching your service layer classes.

Just as an example, when I’m in the use case modeled by “ICustomer”, I want to get all the customer’s orders, and their orderlines. This would be done by having a class like this:

public class CustomerFetchingStrategy : IFetchingStrategy<ICustomer>
{
public ICriteria AddFetchJoinTo(ICriteria criteria)
{
criteria.SetFetchMode(“orders”, FetchMode.Eager).
SetFetchMode(“orders.orderLines”, FetchMode.Eager);

return criteria;
}
}

And the configuration would look like this (as a part of the regular spring template):

<object id=”CustomerFetchingStrategy” type=”Domain.Persistence.CustomerFetchingStrategy, Domain.Persistence” />

If you want to take a look at the full solution, you can find it here. For some reason, the combined file was too big for the upload on my blog so it’s split into two. Unzip both packages into the same directory. You’ll find a file called “db_scripts.sql” which contains the schema for the DB. Don’t forget to update your connection string in the “hibernate.cfg.xml”. If you’re looking for the changes I made to the NHibernate source, you can find it in the “Updated NHibernate Files” directory. The only real change is to the “SessionImpl.cs” file.

Relevant NHibernate and Spring binaries.

Source code of example.

BTW, there is some intelligent thread-safe caching going on in SessionImpl now so that you get a much smaller performance hit (in terms of code that uses reflection) on subsequent usages of the same interfaces.

Let me know what you think.



Performant and Explicit Domain Models

Monday, June 4th, 2007

Some Technical Difficulties

Ayende and I had an email conversation that started with me asking what would happen if I added an Order to a Customer’s “Orders” collection, when that collection was lazy loaded. My question was whether the addition of an element would result in NHibernate hitting the database to fill that collection. His answer was a simple “yes”. In the case where a customer can have many (millions) of Orders, that’s just not a feasible solution. The technical solution was simple – just define the Orders collection on the Customer as “inverse=true”, and then to save a new Order, just write:

session.Save( new Order(myCustomer) );

Although it works, it’s not “DDD compliant” :)

In Ayende’s post Architecting for Performance he quoted a part of our email conversation. The conclusion I reached was that in order to design performant domain models, you need to know the kinds of data volumes you’re dealing with. It affects both internals and the API of the model – when can you assume cascade, and when not. It’s important to make these kinds of things explicit in the Domain Model’s API.

How do you make “transparent persistence” explicit?

The problem occurs around “transparent persistence”. If we were to assume that the Customer object added the Order object to its Orders collection, then we wouldn’t have to explicitly save orders it creates, so we would write service layer code like this:

using (IDBScope scope = this.DbServices.GetScope(TransactionOption.On))
{
IOrderCreatingCustomer c = this.DbServices.Get<IOrderCreatingCustomer>(msg.CustomerId);
c.CreateOrder(message.OrderAmount);

scope.Complete();
}

On the other hand, if we designed our Domain Model around the million orders constraint, we would need to explicitly save the order, so we would write service layer code like this:

using (IDBScope scope = this.DbServices.GetScope(TransactionOption.On))
{
IOrderCreatingCustomer c = this.DbServices.Get<IOrderCreatingCustomer>(msg.CustomerId);
IOrder o = c.CreateOrder(message.OrderAmount);
this.DbServices.Save(o);

scope.Complete();
}

But the question remains, how do we communicate these guidelines to service layer developers from the Domain Model? There are a number of ways, but it’s important to decide on one and use it consistently. Performance and correctness require it.

Solution 1: Explicitness via Return Type

The first way is a little subtle, but you can do it with the return type of the “CreateOrder” method call. In the case where the Domain Model wishes to communicate that it handles transparent persistence by itself, have the method return “void”. Where the Domain Model wishes to communicate that it will not handle transparent persistence, have the method return the Order object created.

Another way to communicate the fact that an Order has been created that needs to be saved is with events. There are two sub-ways to do so:

Solution 2: Explicitness via Events on Domain Objects

The first is to just define the event on the customer object and have the service layer subscribe to it. It’s pretty clear that when the service layer receives a “OrderCreatedThatRequiresSaving” event, it should save the order passed in the event arguments.

The second realizes that the call to the customer object may come from some other domain object and that the service layer doesn’t necessarily know what can happen as the result of calling some method on the aggregate root. The change of state as the result of that method call may permeate the entire object graph. If each object in the graph raises its own events, its calling object will have to propagate that event to its parent – resulting in defining the same events in multiple places, and each object being aware of all things possible with its great-grandchild objects. That is clearly bad.

What [ThreadStatic] is for

So, the solution is to use thread-static events.

[Sidebar] Thread-static events are just static events defined on a static class, where each event has the ThreadStaticAttribute applied to it. This attribute is important for server-side scenarios where multiple threads will be running through the Domain Model at the same time. The easiest thread-safe way to use static data is to apply the ThreadStaticAttribute.

Solution 3: Explicitness via Static Events

Each object raises the appropriate static event according to its logic. In our example, Customer would call:

DomainModelEvents.RaiseOrderCreatedThatRequiresSavingEvent(newOrder);

And the service layer would write:

DomainModelEvents.OrderCreatedThatRequiresSaving +=
delegate(object sender, OrderEventArgs e) { this.DbServices.Save(e.Order); };

The advantage of this solution is that it requires minimal knowledge of the Domain Model for the Service Layer to correctly work with it. It also communicates that anything that doesn’t raise an event will be persisted transparently behind the appropriate root object.

Statics and Testability

I know that many of you are wondering if I am really advocating the use of statics. The problem with most static classes is that they hurt testability because they are difficult to mock out. Often statics are used as Facades to hide some technological implementation detail. In this case, the static class is an inherent part of the Domain Model and does not serve as a Facade for anything.

When it comes to testing the Domain Model, we don’t have to mock anything out since the Domain Model is independent of all other concerns. This leaves us with unit testing at the single Domain Class level, which is pretty useless unless we’re TDD-ing the design of the Domain Model, in which case we’ll still be fiddling around with a bunch of classes at a time. Domain Models are best tested using State-Based Testing; get the objects into a given state, call a method on one of them, assert the resulting state. The static events don’t impede that kind of testing at all.

What if we used Injection instead of Statics?

Also, you’ll find that each Service Layer class will need to subscribe to all the Domain Model’s events, something that is easily handled by a base class. I will state that I have tried doing this without a static class, and injecting that singleton object into the Service Layer classes, and in that setter having them subscribe to its events. This was also pulled into a base class. The main difference was that the Dependency Injection solution required injecting that object into Domain Objects as well. Personally, I’m against injection for domain objects. So all in all, the static solution comes with less overhead than that based on injection.

Summary

In summary, beyond the “technical basics” of being aware of your data volumes and designing your Domain Model to handle each use case performantly, I’ve found these techniques useful for designing its API as well as communicating my intent around persistence transparency. So give it a try. I’d be grateful to hear your thoughts on the matter as well as what else you’ve found that works.

Related posts:



NHibernate will rule, because Ayende already does

Sunday, May 20th, 2007

First I find out that NHibernate does support “Persistence by Reachability”, even though the docs say it doesn’t. Next, Ayende makes it support multiple queries in a single DB roundtrip, something I’ve been asking all the other O/R mappers out there to do. To top it off, he’s got his sights set on solving the issues I raised in my talk on Complex Business Logic with DDD and O/R Mapping at DevTeach. That’s right, he’s going to give me my decorators and state machines.

I love you, Oren.

I know that the ADO.NET Entity Framework guys are open to this as well, but I’m pretty sure that the “Entity Model” thinking will hold them back. You just can’t divorce data and behavior – not when employing state machines or decorators.

I’m sold.



Fetching Strategy Design

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

Following up on my previous post on Better Domain-Driven Design Implementation, I wanted to show some more detail on how this actually works. There are two main concepts here.

The first is that of keeping Service Layer classes independent of Domain Model classes. The reason this is desirable is that the two families change on independent axis. Service Layer classes are affected by changes to the service’s external interface, as well as the interfaces of other services it depends on. Domain Model classes change to support changing business rules internal to the service. The solution is quite simply to introduce a set of interfaces between the two.

The second is tied to performance. When retrieving data from the database, we’d like to cross the wire only once bringing with us all the data we need in order to perform the work required. Lazy loading helps us in one way while hurting us in another. For connected objects that we don’t need when retrieving our target object, lazy loading prevents them from being loaded. However, for connected objects that we do need, lazy loading will cause us to return to the database to retrieve each of those objects in turn (sets of the same kind of object are still one DB call). If those objects need to be traversed as well in order to retrieve other objects, we can see that one simple request can cause many (MANY!) calls to the DB. These problems of latency and throughput are solved by eagerly (in one DB call) fetching and loading all the objects we need.

Here’s the package diagram for the solution so that we’ll have a reference for the following discussion.

fetching strategy package diagram - opens in a new window

Now, the class that is best suited to issue this call to eagerly load all objects is the service layer class, since it is aware of what specific use case we’re in. However, the service layer class does not necessarily know exactly what classes will be used in the domain to handle that request. Obviously, this set of classes may change as the domain model and the database schema change. We can therefore say that is not the service layer class’ responsibility to handle the definition of which classes need to be loaded. Only the Domain Model has that knowledge. So we need some way to pass the knowledge of the request type into the Domain Model.

In Object/Role Modeling terms, we represent that request type as a role. And roles are represented by interfaces. So we create an interface in the Domain Model which represents the request type. That interface will most likely contain only one method – the method which the service layer class will call.

After we have the first role, we can build other things around it, like fetching strategies. We can then define other classes who fullfil the role of “I’m his fetching strategy”. Those classes will expose a property defining the exact set of classes to load, when using NHibernate we use HQL.

Here’s the sequence diagram showing how this works.

fetching strategy sequence diagram - opens in a new window

One question that you might ask is what if there is more than one class that implements the same interface? How could the infrastructure know which class it should be loading? The answer is simple. You shouldn’t do that. Having two classes fulfilling the same role will get you in trouble even if you don’t use this design. The Single Responsibility Principle should be our guiding light.

In summary, achieving high performance is possible when using Domain Models and Object/Relational Mapping, but requires minimizing calls to the database. This design decreases coupling between all the cooperating parts of the solution without giving up the ability to optimize over a specific technology.

Download the full detailed design (in HTML format). I’ll be offering the edittable Enterprise Architect format shortly.



Domain Model Pattern

Saturday, April 21st, 2007

When implementing a domain model, often object-relational mapping technologies are used. Like many tools, with their use comes the danger of abuse – abuse to the point of invalidating the benefits of the pattern itself.

From some pointers about how to use (and not to use) these tools, see why object-relational mapping sucks.

Martin Fowler’s has this to say about the Domain Model Pattern:

At its worst business logic can be very complex. Rules and logic describe many different cases and slants of behavior, and it’s this complexity that objects were designed to work with. A Domain Model creates a web of interconnected objects, where each object represents some meaningful individual, whether as large as a corporation or as small as a single line on an order form.

In short, using Object-Oriented techniques to handle the complexity.

A more comprehensive discussion about what happens when it is not used can be found under the Anemic Domain Model Anti-Pattern:

The basic symptom of an Anemic Domain Model is that at first blush it looks like the real thing. There are objects, many named after the nouns in the domain space, and these objects are connected with the rich relationships and structure that true domain models have. The catch comes when you look at the behavior, and you realize that there is very little behavior on these objects. Indeed often these models come with design rules that say that you are not to put any domain logic in the the domain objects. Instead there are a set of service objects which capture all the domain logic. These services live on top of the domain model and use the domain model for data.

The fundamental horror of this anti-pattern is that it’s so contrary to the basic idea of object-oriented design; which is to combine data and process together. The anemic domain model is really just a procedural style design…

In terms of Domain-Driven Design, this pattern is also known as Domain Layer.

Domain Models do a lot for encapsulating Business Rules, thus making them amenable to automated testing. This hinges on keeping the Domain Model independent of things related to Data Access.

It is therefore almost required to use some kind of Object/Relational Mapping tool to make it possible to persist objects belonging to the domain model to databases and other kinds of storage.

The use of DataSets in .NET is often a sign of the Anemic Domain Model Anti-Pattern.

One thing to keep in mind when working on a domain model is that you probably won’t get it “right” the first time, and will have re-work the division of responsibility a couple of times. Techniques like Test-Driven Development help out immensely for that.



Object/Relational Mapping and Scalability

Saturday, April 21st, 2007

“How come there is no talk about scaling these ORMs?”.

The answer is simple.

You don’t have to.

Or, if you think you do, you’re probably using them wrong.

An O/R mapper should NOT live in its own tier.

Object/Relational Mappers never stand alone. They are used to provide persistence for something else – either for the Domain Model Pattern or for the Active Record pattern.

In terms of scalability, again these patterns usually don’t stand by themselves, but rather are hosted by something else. When used on the client side, say in a smart client application, then scalability isn’t often considered. There are some kinds of smart clients where hitting the database on most user interactions will bring the system to its knees, but that’s again an issue of database scalability. The common solution is some kind of client-side caching.

Anyway, the two main parameters you need to look at for your common and high-load scenarios when using an O/R mapper are these:

  • How many times do you hit the DB per business action.
  • How many objects/records/rows/columns do you bring into memory per business action.

You should be looking at appropriate uses of Lazy Loading for both of them.

Finally, keep in mind that O/R mappers are only part of your solution. Measure and optimize wisely.



Lazy-Loading and How Messaging Fixes Everything Again

Sunday, April 15th, 2007

In a previous post I described the two common scenarios for fetching an object from the database. More importantly, I showed the importance of having a different fetching strategy in the case of retrieving data for the purposes of passing it to someone else, and in the case of going to update that same data. Ayende and others looked at the solution I described and wanted something simpler. So here it is.

When working in a tiered deployment, client code needs to talk to some “service” (and I use the term lightly) to get the data. That same service may also contain a rich domain model which handles the business logic around updating its data. In this case, the lazy loading behavior of the domain model will be such as to bring the highest performance to the business logic of updating the data. The question then becomes, how do we retrieve that same data with lazy-loading behavior that will yield high performance or is suitable for serializing and sending back to the client.

Were we to model the interaction between client and service using message-exchange patterns, and used a design that kept those messages (and their data structures) independent of any other implementation details (POJO/POCO/PONO style), we could just O/R map those classes too.

What this means is that the class GetAllCustomersMessageHandler would respond with a CustomersDataMessage that contained a list of CustomerInfo objects. The CustomerInfo class is separate from the Customer class found within the service’s domain model. However, this does not mean that the message handler cannot write the following line of code:

IList<CustomerInfo> customersToSerialize = mySession.GetAll<CustomerInfo>();

This is Message/Relational Mapping without going all the way to XML/Relational Mapping as Jesse suggest here (although he ignores the whole issue of implementing Domain Models or Active Records using an O/R Mapper).

What this solution enables us to do is to define different lazy-loading behaviors for the Customer and CustomerInfo classes. Other things that are nice about this solution is that it builds on all the existing design patterns already found in a message-based, domain-driven system without adding anything new. On the other hand, if you do require numerous lazy-loading behaviors for performance reasons, the more generic fetching strategy I described before is your best bet.



   


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“So far, I heard about Service Oriented architecture all over. Everyone mentions it – the big buzz word. But, when I actually asked someone for what does it really mean, no one managed to give me a complete satisfied answer. Finally in his excellent course “Advanced Distributed Systems”, I got the answers I was looking for. Udi went over the different motivations (principles) of Services Oriented, explained them well one by one, and showed how each one could be technically addressed using NService bus. In his course, Udi also explain the way of thinking when coming to design a Service Oriented system. What are the questions you need to ask yourself in order to shape your system, place the logic in the right places for best Service Oriented system.

I would recommend this course for any architect or developer who deals with distributed system, but not only. In my work we do not have a real distributed system, but one PC which host both the UI application and the different services inside, all communicating via WCF. I found that many of the architecture principles and motivations of SOA apply for our system as well. Enough that you have SW partitioned into components and most of the principles becomes relevant to you as well. Bottom line – an excellent course recommended to any SW Architect, or any developer dealing with distributed system.”

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