Udi Dahan   Udi Dahan – The Software Simplist
Enterprise Development Expert & SOA Specialist
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Archive for the ‘Workflow’ Category

Watch out for superficial invariants

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

superficialAs I was reading a blog post on CQRS, Aggregate Roots, and Invariants here, I became aware of a mistake I’ve seen many developers make over the years and I thought I’d call it out real quick.

Superficial Invariants

Taken from the blog post mentioned above: “For example, an employee cannot take more annual leave than they have.”

This falls into the trap of applying mathematical thinking (which we developers possess in great quantities) to the business world. The business world isn’t that mathematical (in general), and tends to have many more shades of gray expressed as “business rules” which can, and do, change.

Rules – not invariants

Employees can’t take more annual leave than they have.
… unless their manager approves.
… but that’s only up to 2 days.
… unless their manager is a VP, and then it’s up to 5 days.
… and that negative balance will be deducted from next year’s leave.
… Oh, and if the employee leaves the company before then, then the value of those negative days will be deducted from their final paycheck.

Impact on your domain

First of all, I hope you see that this isn’t something that you would trivially implement on an Employee object.

If you read these rules more carefully, you’ll probably notice that they’re speaking about a long-running process.

First, there is a request for leave. Then there’s an approval (with certain rules) which may come sometime later. And the approval itself may not even end the process – if the balance becomes negative.

And, as you’ve probably heard me say before, you end up with sagas as your aggregate roots (see Race conditions don’t exist from 4 years ago).

And a word about Bounded Contexts

Notice that these rules don’t care very much about things like the employee’s name, phone number, email, etc. Similarly, logic that deals with that data probably doesn’t care about the number of days of leave an employee takes.

In other words, these sets of data and logic can be said to belong to different Sub-Domains (in DDD terminology).

As such, it can make sense to take the annual leave logic and put it in a bounded context separate from the one responsible for the contact info.

In closing

In many of the samples and blog posts I see online, an overly simplified problem domain is implemented showing how the given implementation technique would be applied.

The problem is that developers then use that implementation technique as a “cookie cutter”, trying to fit real-world requirements into it, and then end up making a pretty big mess.

The more you delve into real-world requirements of business domains, the less you’ll see of mathematical invariants (unless, maybe, you’re building a physics engine for a game or something) and the more you’ll see long-running processes unfolding in front of you.

Regardless of whether you use NServiceBus sagas or not, start looking at the world as dynamic long-running processes rather than static noun-centric entities.

NSBcon London 2014

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

NSBconSince my last post announcing NSBcon you probably haven’t gone to take a look at what’s happening.

The speaker lineup for NSBcon London 2014 is now complete and we’ve got a really great mix of talks, if I do say so myself.

I’ve already mentioned that Oren and Greg will be there, but I wanted to talk a bit about the rest of the roster:

First up – Wonga

If you’re living in the UK, you almost can’t avoid seeing these ads.


What you probably didn’t know is that Wonga has been running on NServiceBus for years now.
(No – we had nothing to do with the ads, and there’s nothing we can do about them.)

Charlie Barker was there from the beginning and has lived to tell the tale:

We faced the problem of scaling our platform to meet rapid growth in customers whilst at the same time increasing the team from 15 to 200 people spread across five countries. We did this by transitioning from N-Tier to SOA even as we were delivering new features and keeping the platform stable. No small feat.

This is an interesting story to hear, not only from the point of view of NServiceBus, and I’d definitely recommend grabbing Charlie over lunch or over a beer. This is probably one of the higher profile startup successes in the UK you’ll find and, as always, the behind the scenes story is just fascinating.

And to the cloud!

No self-respecting technology conference these days can go without spending at least some time talking about the cloud – and we won’t be the ones to buck the trend, even though we have a healthy disrespect for all sorts of things, including the ourselves :-)

You’ll hear from one of the foremost Azure MVPs and all around cloudy Belgian Yves Goeleven (whose last name nobody is really sure how to pronounce). Yves has been the driving force behind getting all the various bits of Azure infrastructure integrated into NServiceBus and, if you get him to just the right level of inebriation, will spill all the dirty little secrets of the Azure platform that Microsoft doesn’t want anyone to know.

Dylan Beattie will then relate his tales of creating loosely-coupled encoding workflows for audio and video on the cloud at Spotlight – one of the world’s leading resources for professional actors, casting directors, and production professionals. It ain’t easy making ordinary people into stars.

And so much more

To see the complete lineup, go to NSBcon.com.

And me – what will I be talking about? That’s a good question.

Not to steal my own thunder (after stealing everybody else’s), but you’ll hear about the deeper integration we’ve got planned for SignalR, making your event-driven architecture extend from the back of your systems all the way to the browser, so much simpler and smoother than you ever thought possible.

I’ll also tell you about how we’re going to enable you to run on queues that don’t support distributed transactions (like Service Bus for Windows Server) without having to worry about making your logic idempotent. For some background, see my blog post on Life without distributed transactions.

In short – it’s going to be a kick-ass conference.

Check it out.

* and for those of you paying out of pocket, contact nsbcon@particular.net for a discount.

The Danger of Centralized Workflows

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

It isn’t uncommon for me to have a client or student at one of my courses ask me about some kind of workflow tool. This could be Microsoft Workflow Foundation, BizTalk, K2, or some kind of BPEL/orchestration engine. The question usually revolves around using this tool for all workflows in the system as opposed to the SOA-EDA-style publish/subscribe approach I espouse.

The question

The main touted benefit of these workflow-centric architectures is that we don’t have to change the code of the system in order to change its behavior resulting in ultimate flexibility!

Some of you may have already gone down this path and are shaking your heads remembering how your particular road to hell was paved with the exact same good intentions.

Let me explain why these things tend to go horribly wrong.

What’s behind the curtain

It starts with the very nature of workflow – a flow chart, is procedural in nature. First do this, then that, if this, then that, etc. As we’ve experienced first hand in our industry, procedural programming is fine for smaller problems but isn’t powerful enough to handle larger problems. That’s why we’ve come up with object-oriented programming.

I have yet to see an object-oriented workflow drag-and-drop engine. Yes, it works great for simple demo-ware apps. But if you try to through your most complex and volatile business logic at it, it will become a big tangled ball of spaghetti – just like if you were using text rather than pictures to code it.

And that’s one of the fundamental fallacies about these tools – you are still writing code. The fact that it doesn’t look like the rest of your code doesn’t change that fact. Changing the definition of your workflow in the tool IS changing your code.

On productivity

Sometimes people mention how much more productive it would be to use these tools than to write the code “by hand”. Occasionally I hear about an attempt to have “the business” use these tools to change the workflows themselves – without the involvement of developers (“imagine how much faster we could go without those pesky developers!”).

For those of us who have experienced this first-hand, we know that’s all wrong.

If “the business” is changing the workflows without developer involvement, invariably something breaks, and then they don’t know what to do. They haven’t been trained to think the way that developers have – they don’t really know how to debug. So the developers are brought back in anyway and from that point on, the business is once again giving requirements and the devs are the one implementing it.

Now when it comes to developer productivity, I can tell you that the keyboard is at least 10x more productive than the mouse. I can bang out an if statement in code much faster than draggy-dropping a diamond on the canvas, and two other activities for each side of the clause.

On maintainability

Sometimes the visualization of the workflow is presented as being much more maintainable than “regular code”.

When these workflows get to be to big/nested/reused, it ends up looking like the wiring diagram of an Intel chip (or worse). Check out the following diagram taken from the DailyWTF on a customer friendly system:


The bigger these get, the less maintainable they are.

Now, some would push back on this saying that a method with 10,000 lines of code in it may be just as bad, if not worse. The thing is that these workflow tools guide developers down a path where it is very likely to end up with big, monolithic, procedural, nested code. When working in real code, we know we need to take responsibility for the cleanliness of our code using object-orientation, patterns, etc and refactoring things when they get too messy.

Here is where I’d bring up the SOA/pub-sub approach as an alternative – there is no longer this idea of a centralized anything. You have small pieces of code, each encapsulating a single business responsibility, working in concert with each other – reacting to each others events.

Productivity take 2: testing and version control

If you’re going to take your most complex and volatile business logic and put it into these workflow tools, have you thought about how your going to test it? How do you know that it works correctly? It tends to be VERY difficult to unit-test these kinds of workflows.

When a developer is implementing a change request, how do they know what other workflows might have been broken? Do they have to manually go through each and every scenario in the system to find out? How’s that for productivity?

Assuming something did break and the developer wants to see a diff – what’s different in the new workflow from the old one, what would that look like? When working with a team, the ability to diff and merge code is at the base of the overall team productivity.

What would happen to your team if you couldn’t diff or merge code anymore?
In this day and age, it should be considered irresponsible to develop without these version control basics.

In closing

There are some cases where these tools might make sense, but those tend to be much more rare than you’d expect (and there are usually better alternatives anyway). Regardless, the architectural analysis should start without the assumption of centralized workflow, database, or centralized anything for that matter.

If someone tries to push one of these tools/architectures on you, don’t walk away – run!

Race Conditions Don’t Exist

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

crossing-the-finish-lineNot in the business world anyway.

The problem is that, as software developers, we’re all too quick to accept them at face value. We don’t question the requirements – in all fairness, it was never our job to do so. We were the ones that implemented them, preferably quickly.

For example

Let’s say we get the requirement the following requirements:

1. If the order was already shipped, don’t let the user cancel the order.
2. If the order was already cancelled, don’t let the user ship the order.

The race condition here is when we have two users who are looking at the same order, which is neither cancelled nor shipped yet, and each submits a command – one to ship the order, the other to cancel it.

In these cases, the code is simple – just an if statement before performing the relevant command.

So what’s the problem

A microsecond difference in timing shouldn’t make a difference to core business behaviors. Which means that we’ve actually got here is a bug in the requirements. Users are actually dictating solutions here rather than requirements.

Let’s ask our stakeholders, “why shouldn’t we let users cancel a shipped order? I mean, the users don’t want the products.”

And the stakeholders would respond with something like, “well, we don’t want to refund the user’s money then. Or, at least, not all their money. Well, maybe if they return the products in their original packaging, *then* we could give a full refund.”

And as we drilled deeper, “when do refunds need to be given? Right away, in the same transaction?”

The stakeholders would explain, “no, refunds don’t need to be given right away.”

It turns out we were missing the concept of a refund, as well as assuming that all things needed to be processed and enforced immediately. Once we dug into the requirements, we found that there is actually plenty of time to allow both transactions to go through. We just need to add some checks during shipping’s long-running process to see if the order was cancelled, and then to cut the process short.

So is everything a long-running process then?

That’s actually a fair question – long-running processes are a lot more common than at first appears.

What we’re seeing is that cancellation is now a command that has no reason to fail – just like CQRS tells us. When this command is performed, it publishes the OrderCancelled event, which the billing service subscribes to.

Billing then starts a long-running process (a saga, in NServiceBus lingo), also listening to events from the shipping process, ultimately making a decision when a refund should be given, and for how much.

Deeper business analysis

As we discuss matters more with our business stakeholders, we hear that most orders are actually cancelled within an hour of being submitted. It is quite rare for orders to be cancelled days later.

In which case, we could look at modeling the acceptance of an order as a long-running process itself.

When a user places an order, we don’t immediately publish an event indicating the acceptance of an order, instead a saga is kicked off – which opens up a timeout for an hour later. If a cancellation command arrives during that period of time, the user gets a full refund (seeing as we didn’t charge anything since billing didn’t get the accepted event to begin with), and the saga just shuts itself down. If the timeout occurs an hour later, and the saga didn’t get a cancel command, then the order is actually accepted and the event is published.

Yes, sagas are everywhere, once you learn to see with business eyes, and no race conditions are left.

In closing

Any time you see requirements that indicate a race condition, dig deeper.

What you’re likely to find are some additional business concepts as well as the introduction of time and the creation of long-running business processes. The implementation at that point will pivot from being trivial if-statements to being richer sagas.

Keep an eye out.

Make WCF and WF as Scalable and Robust as NServiceBus

Monday, June 30th, 2008

This topic is getting more play as more people are using WCF and WF in real-world scenarios, so I thought I’d pull the things that I’ve been watching in this space together:


Locking in SqlWorkflowPersistenceService (via Ron Jacobs) where, if you want predictable persistence (MS: ‘none of our customers asked for this to be easy’), you need to use a custom activity (which Ron was kind enough to supply).

“Given what I learned today I’d have to say that I’d be very careful about using workflows with an optimistic locking.  Detecting these types of situations is not that simple.”

Let’s think about that. If we’re doing pessimistic locking, we get into the problem of, if a host restarts (as the result of a critical windows patch or some other unexpected occurrence), that the workflow won’t be able to be handled by any other host in the meantime (you didn’t care so much about your SLA, did you?).

Luckily, someone’s come up with a hack that works around this robustness problem in Scalable Workflow Persistence and Ownership.

“So this code will attempt to load workflow instances with expired locks every second. Is it a hack? Yes. But without one of two things in the SqlWorkflowPersistenceService its the sort of code you have to write to pick up unlocked workflow instances robustly.”

This will seriously churn the table used to store your workflows, decreasing performance of workflows that haven’t timed out. Oh well.


Implementing WCF Services without Referencing WCF (via Mark Seemann):

“More than a year ago, I wrote my first post on unit testing WCF services. One of my points back then was that you have to be careful that the service implementation doesn’t use any of the services provided by the WCF runtime environment (if you want to keep the service testable). As soon as you invoke something like OperationContext.Current, your code is not going to work in a unit testing scenario, but only when hosted by WCF.”

After pointing out some of the more basic difficulties in testability a straightforward WCF implementation brings, Mark turns the heat up in his follow-up post, Modifying Behavior of WCF-Free Service Implementations:

“Perhaps you need to control the service’s ConcurrencyMode, or perhaps you need to set UseSynchronizationContext. These options are typically controlled by the ServiceBehaviorAttribute. You may also want to provide an IInstanceProvider via a custom attribute that implements IContractBehavior. However, you can’t set these attributes on the service implementation itself, since it mustn’t have a reference to System.ServiceModel.”

Wow – all the things required to make a WCF service scalable and thread-safe make it difficult to test. In the end, we’re beginning to see how many hoops we have to go through in order to get separation of concerns, but until we can take all this and get it out of our application code, it’s an untenable solution. I hope Mark will continue with this series, if only so I can take the framework that might grow out of it and use it as a generic WCF transport for NServiceBus.

Comparisonapples and oranges

After the Neuron-NServiceBus comparison that Sam and I had, we talked some more. After going through some of the rational and thinking, Sam even put nServiceBus into his WCF-Neuron comparison talk. Sam had this to say about nServiceBus:

“The bottom line is: I like what I see. Although it’s a framework, not an ESB product like Neuron, it’s a powerful framework that takes the right approach on SOA and enforces a paradigm of reliable one-way, *non-blocking* calls. That is the point of the talk tonight overall; we need to get away from the stack world of synchronous RPC calls to true asynchronous non-blocking message based SOA systems.”

The main concern I have with a WCF+WF based solution is that developers need to know a lot in order to make it testable, scalable, and robust. In nServiceBus, that’s baked into the design. It would be extremely difficult for a developer writing application logic to interfere with when persistence needs to happen, or the concurrency strategy of long-running workflows. The fact that message handlers in the service layer don’t need concurrency modes, instance providers, or any of that junk make them testable by default.

Sagas Solve Stupid Transaction Timeouts

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

It turns out that there was a subtle, yet dangerous problem in the use of System.Transactions – a transaction could timeout, rollback, and the connection bound to that transaction could still change data in the database. image

Think about that a second.

Scary, isn’t it?

At TechEd Israel I had a discussion with Manu on this very issue, just under a different hat:

What’s the difference between a short-running workflow and a long-running one?

Manu suggested that we look at the actual time that things ran to differentiate between them. I asserted that if any external communication was involved in some part of state-management logic, that logic should automatically be treated as long-running.

Manu’s reasoning was that the complexity involved in writing long-running workflows was not justified for things that ran quickly, even if there was communication involved. Many developers don’t think twice about synchronously calling some web services in the middle of their database transaction logic. In the many Microsoft presentations I’ve been at on WF, not once has it been mentioned that state machines should be used when external communication is involved.

The problem that I have with this guidance is how do you know how quickly a remote call will return?

Do you just run it all locally on your machine, measure, and if it doesn’t take more than a second or so, then you’re OK?

The fact of the matter is that we can never know what the response time of a remote call will be. Maybe the remote machine is down. Maybe the remote process is down. Maybe someone changed the firewall settings and now we’re doing 10KB/s instead of 10MB/s. Maybe the local service is down and we’re communicating with the backup on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

But the thing is, Manu’s right.

Writing long-running workflows (with WF) is more complex than is justified. My guess is that since WF wasn’t specifically designed for long-running workflows only, that this complexity crept in.nservicebus_logo_small

Sagas in nServiceBus were specifically designed for long-running workflows only.

Maybe that’s what kept them simple.

Since all external communication is done via one-way, non-blocking messaging only, each step of a saga runs as quick as if no communication were done at all. This keeps the time the transaction in charge of handling a message is open as short as possible. That, in turn, leads to the database being able to support more concurrent users.

In short, sagas are both more scalable and more robust.

No need to worry about garbaging-up your database.

Prevent technology blow-ups from killing your project

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Why should you put a 10 foot pole between yourself and technology?

Well, because Microsoft (or insert vendor of your choice here – they’re all equally guilty of this) tend to deprecate (as in kill) the technology they evangelised just last year/month/week.

Microsoft Sql Server Notification Services are the latest victim.

I hope you don’t have any application code tied to that technology.

Not that it’s the only one.

Workflow Foundation’s warts have started coming out from behind the shiny veneer. It turns out that the threading model is… problematic and requires all sorts of workarounds. Hope those are stable. It’s not like they could have known that we need a high performance way to run our business logic out of the box. I hope you don’t have to change your application code (sorry, pictures diagrams) when you get blocked threads when trying to cancel irrelevant workflows (customer no longer does business with us – cancel order processing workflows).

I forgot to mention that the solution above is for single-box parallelism – if you want true scale-out, you need to go back to solution that “require talented software developer use of call-external-method and handle-external-event activities along with the CLR thread-pool“. That’s OK – I have yet to meet a team/company who attests that they have below average developers.

I apologize for the somewhat sarcastic tone of this post.

It’s just that I’m sick of Microsoft handing developers razor-sharp knives, pointy end forward, and after the developer loses a couple of fingers mentions “oh yah, watch out for these pointy, sharp bits”.

To the developers out there – maybe we need kevlar suits before handling these hazardous materials.

To Microsoft – you think that this doesn’t alienate your customers?

We’re all in the same boat together.

I’m hoping that ALT.NET can help.

NServiceBus on Virtual TechEd

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

Well, I had almost forgot about that interview.

When I was at TechEd Barcelona last November (07), the morning after I flew in I experienced “the fish bowl” and Virtual TechEd for the first time. Anyway, after a short chat – and quite to my surprise, my interviewer, Paul Foster, decided that we should talk about nServiceBus.

So here it is. The Microsoft/Marketing friendly description of what nServiceBus is and how nicely it plays with things like WCF and WF. Always be a gracious guest. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. But a nibble here and there – well, that you can get away with :-)


Virtual TechEd site is gone and in it’s place is something else, not related to software.

Sagas and Unit Testing – Business Process Verification Made Easy

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Sagas have always been designed with unit testing in mind. By keeping them disconnected from any communications or persistence technology, it was my belief that it should be fairly easy to use mock objects to test them. I’ve heard back from projects using nServiceBus this way that they were pleased with their ability to test them, and thought all was well.

Not so.

The other day I sat down to implement and test a non-trivial business process, and the testing was far from easy. Now as developers go, I’m not great, or an expert on unit testing or TDD, but I’m above average. It should not have been this hard. And I tried doing it with Rhino.Mocks, TypeMock, and finally Moq. It seemed like I was in a no-mans-land, between trying to do state-based testing, and setting expectations on the messages being sent (as well as correct values in those messages), nothing flowed.

Until I finally stopped trying to figure out how to test, and focused on what needed to be tested. I mean, it’s not like I was trying to build a generic mocking framework like Daniel.

Here’s an example business process, or actually, part of one, and then we’ll see how that can be tested. By the way, there will be a post coming soon which describes how we go about analysing a system, coming up with these message types, and how these sagas come into being, so stay tuned. Either that, or just come to my tutorial at QCon.

On with the process:

1. When we receive a CreateOrderMessage, whose “Completed” flag is true, we’ll send 2 AuthorizationRequestMessages to internal systems (for managers to authorize the order), one OrderStatusUpdatedMessage to the caller with a status “Received”, and a TimeoutMessage to the TimeoutManager requesting to be notified – so that the process doesn’t get stuck if one or both messages don’t get a response.

2. When we receive the first AuthorizationResponseMessage, we notify the initiator of the Order by sending them a OrderStatusUpdatedMessage with a status “Authorized1”.

3. When we get “timed out” from the TimeoutManager, we check if at least one AuthorizationResponseMessage has arrived, and if so, publish an OrderAcceptedMessage, and notify the initator (again via the OrderStatusUpdatedMessage) this time with a status of “Accepted”.

And here’s the test:

    public class OrderSagaTests 
        private OrderSaga orderSaga = null; 
        private string timeoutAddress; 
        private Saga Saga;     

        public void Setup() 
            timeoutAddress = "timeout"; 
            Saga = Saga.Test(out orderSaga, timeoutAddress); 

        public void OrderProcessingShouldCompleteAfterOneAuthorizationAndOneTimeout() 
            Guid externalOrderId = Guid.NewGuid(); 
            Guid customerId = Guid.NewGuid(); 
            string clientAddress = "client";     

            CreateOrderMessage createOrderMsg = new CreateOrderMessage(); 
            createOrderMsg.OrderId = externalOrderId; 
            createOrderMsg.CustomerId = customerId; 
            createOrderMsg.Products = new List<Guid>(new Guid[] { Guid.NewGuid() }); 
            createOrderMsg.Amounts = new List<float>(new float[] { 10.0F }); 
            createOrderMsg.Completed = true;     

            TimeoutMessage timeoutMessage = null;     

                    delegate(AuthorizeOrderRequestMessage m) 
                        return m.SagaId == orderSaga.Id; 
                    delegate(AuthorizeOrderRequestMessage m) 
                        return m.SagaId == orderSaga.Id; 
                    delegate(string destination, OrderStatusUpdatedMessage m) 
                        return m.OrderId == externalOrderId && destination == clientAddress; 
                    delegate(string destination, TimeoutMessage m) 
                        timeoutMessage = m; 
                        return m.SagaId == orderSaga.Id && destination == timeoutAddress; 
                .When(delegate { orderSaga.Handle(createOrderMsg); });     


            AuthorizeOrderResponseMessage response = new AuthorizeOrderResponseMessage(); 
            response.ManagerId = Guid.NewGuid(); 
            response.Authorized = true; 
            response.SagaId = orderSaga.Id;     

                    delegate(string destination, OrderStatusUpdatedMessage m) 
                        return (destination == clientAddress && 
                                m.OrderId == externalOrderId && 
                                m.Status == OrderStatus.Authorized1); 
                .When(delegate { orderSaga.Handle(response); });     


                    delegate(string destination, OrderStatusUpdatedMessage m) 
                        return (destination == clientAddress && 
                                m.OrderId == externalOrderId && 
                                m.Status == OrderStatus.Accepted); 
                    delegate(OrderAcceptedMessage m) 
                        return (m.CustomerId == customerId); 
                .When(delegate { orderSaga.Timeout(timeoutMessage.State); });     


You might notice that this style is a bit similar to the fluent testing found in Rhino Mocks. That’s not coincidence. It actually makes use of Rhino Mocks internally. The thing that I discovered was that in order to test these sagas, you don’t need to actually see a mocking framework. All you should have to do is express how messages get sent, and under what criteria those messages are valid.

If you’re wondering what the OrderSaga looks like, you can find the code right here. It’s not a complete business process implementation, but its enough to understand how one would look like:

using System; 
using System.Collections.Generic; 
using ExternalOrderMessages; 
using NServiceBus.Saga; 
using NServiceBus; 
using InternalOrderMessages;     

namespace ProcessingLogic 
    public class OrderSaga : ISaga<CreateOrderMessage>, 
        #region config info     

        private IBus bus; 
        public IBus Bus 
            set { this.bus = value; } 

        private Reminder reminder; 
        public Reminder Reminder 
            set { this.reminder = value; } 


        private Guid id; 
        private bool completed; 
        public string clientAddress; 
        public Guid externalOrderId; 
        public int numberOfPendingAuthorizations = 2; 
        public List<CreateOrderMessage> orderItems = new List<CreateOrderMessage>();     

        public void Handle(CreateOrderMessage message) 
            this.clientAddress = this.bus.SourceOfMessageBeingHandled; 
            this.externalOrderId = message.OrderId;     


            if (message.Completed) 
                for (int i = 0; i < this.numberOfPendingAuthorizations; i++) 
                    AuthorizeOrderRequestMessage req = new AuthorizeOrderRequestMessage(); 
                    req.SagaId = this.id; 
                    req.OrderData = orderItems;     



            this.reminder.ExpireIn(message.ProvideBy - DateTime.Now, this, null); 

        public void Timeout(object state) 
            if (this.numberOfPendingAuthorizations <= 1) 

        public Guid Id 
            get { return id; } 
            set { id = value; } 

        public bool Completed 
            get { return completed; } 

        public void Handle(AuthorizeOrderResponseMessage message) 
            if (message.Authorized) 

                if (this.numberOfPendingAuthorizations == 1) 

        public void Handle(CancelOrderMessage message) 


        private void SendUpdate(OrderStatus status) 
            OrderStatusUpdatedMessage update = new OrderStatusUpdatedMessage(); 
            update.OrderId = this.externalOrderId; 
            update.Status = status;     

            this.bus.Send(this.clientAddress, update); 

        private void Complete() 
            this.completed = true;     


            OrderAcceptedMessage accepted = new OrderAcceptedMessage(); 
            accepted.Products = new List<Guid>(this.orderItems.Count); 
            accepted.Amounts = new List<float>(this.orderItems.Count);     

            this.orderItems.ForEach(delegate(CreateOrderMessage m) 
                                            accepted.CustomerId = m.CustomerId; 


All this code is online in the subversion repository under /Samples/Saga.

Questions, comments, and general thoughts are always appreciated.

[Presentation files] Asynchronous Systems Architecture for the Web

Monday, January 7th, 2008

We had a great turnout yesterday at the Web Developer Community (not user group <grin/>). I passed on the presentation files and code samples to Noam but figured that the rest of my readers might enjoy them as well.

The (pdf) presentation is here: Asynchronous Systems Architecture for the Web

The code sample is here: Asynchronous User Management Code Sample

In the sample, you can see the use of sagas to manage the user registration process; store user email and hashed password, send a confirmation “email”, when the user clicks the “link”, the web server will take the saga id found in the url, and send a message with that id. This will cause the saga to complete and the user to be written to the “database”.

Since I didn’t have an email component on my laptop, and I’m guessing you don’t either, the saga just writes the url to the console. Copy and paste it from there into the browser, and you’re good to go.

A Word on TimeoutExceptions

One other thing that I want to call to your attention. When stepping-through the code in the debugger, you’re liable to spend more time than the Transaction Coordinator likes, which will cause it to rollback and try the message again. This is supposed to happen and occurs by design.

When you’re actually working with a database in a high performance environment, there will be cases where one transaction locks a page of a table and may cause other transactions to either timeout or be chosen as victims and just tossed. The behavior that best handles this scenario is just to retry the transaction.

However, you don’t have to write ugly code that checks for the specific error codes of each specific database for your code to work properly. The infrastructure will automatically do that for you – just let the exception happen. No need to write any try-catch code.

The sample is built on the newly released version of nServiceBus (1.6.1) but already contains all the binaries so you don’t have to set anything up yourself.

What’s coming for nServiceBus

We’re working towards a 2.0 release in the June-July timeframe which, beyond having the necessary documentation, web site, samples and everything any self-respecting open-source project has, is going to have some amazing grid-style features that will make all the message-priority & dynamic-routing stuff look “so last year”. Stay tuned.


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Bryan Wheeler, Director Platform Development at msnbc.com
Udi Dahan is the real deal.

We brought him on site to give our development staff the 5-day “Advanced Distributed System Design” training. The course profoundly changed our understanding and approach to SOA and distributed systems.

Consider some of the evidence: 1. Months later, developers still make allusions to concepts learned in the course nearly every day 2. One of our developers went home and made her husband (a developer at another company) sign up for the course at a subsequent date/venue 3. Based on what we learned, we’ve made constant improvements to our architecture that have helped us to adapt to our ever changing business domain at scale and speed If you have the opportunity to receive the training, you will make a substantial paradigm shift.

If I were to do the whole thing over again, I’d start the week by playing the clip from the Matrix where Morpheus offers Neo the choice between the red and blue pills. Once you make the intellectual leap, you’ll never look at distributed systems the same way.

Beyond the training, we were able to spend some time with Udi discussing issues unique to our business domain. Because Udi is a rare combination of a big picture thinker and a low level doer, he can quickly hone in on various issues and quickly make good (if not startling) recommendations to help solve tough technical issues.” November 11, 2010

Sam Gentile Sam Gentile, Independent WCF & SOA Expert
“Udi, one of the great minds in this area.
A man I respect immensely.”

Ian Robinson Ian Robinson, Principal Consultant at ThoughtWorks
"Your blog and articles have been enormously useful in shaping, testing and refining my own approach to delivering on SOA initiatives over the last few years. Over and against a certain 3-layer-application-architecture-blown-out-to- distributed-proportions school of SOA, your writing, steers a far more valuable course."

Shy Cohen Shy Cohen, Senior Program Manager at Microsoft
“Udi is a world renowned software architect and speaker. I met Udi at a conference that we were both speaking at, and immediately recognized his keen insight and razor-sharp intellect. Our shared passion for SOA and the advancement of its practice launched a discussion that lasted into the small hours of the night.
It was evident through that discussion that Udi is one of the most knowledgeable people in the SOA space. It was also clear why – Udi does not settle for mediocrity, and seeks to fully understand (or define) the logic and principles behind things.
Humble yet uncompromising, Udi is a pleasure to interact with.”

Glenn Block Glenn Block, Senior Program Manager - WCF at Microsoft
“I have known Udi for many years having attended his workshops and having several personal interactions including working with him when we were building our Composite Application Guidance in patterns & practices. What impresses me about Udi is his deep insight into how to address business problems through sound architecture. Backed by many years of building mission critical real world distributed systems it is no wonder that Udi is the best at what he does. When customers have deep issues with their system design, I point them Udi's way.”

Karl Wannenmacher Karl Wannenmacher, Senior Lead Expert at Frequentis AG
“I have been following Udi’s blog and podcasts since 2007. I’m convinced that he is one of the most knowledgeable and experienced people in the field of SOA, EDA and large scale systems.
Udi helped Frequentis to design a major subsystem of a large mission critical system with a nationwide deployment based on NServiceBus. It was impressive to see how he took the initial architecture and turned it upside down leading to a very flexible and scalable yet simple system without knowing the details of the business domain. I highly recommend consulting with Udi when it comes to large scale mission critical systems in any domain.”

Simon Segal Simon Segal, Independent Consultant
“Udi is one of the outstanding software development minds in the world today, his vast insights into Service Oriented Architectures and Smart Clients in particular are indeed a rare commodity. Udi is also an exceptional teacher and can help lead teams to fall into the pit of success. I would recommend Udi to anyone considering some Architecural guidance and support in their next project.”

Ohad Israeli Ohad Israeli, Chief Architect at Hewlett-Packard, Indigo Division
“When you need a man to do the job Udi is your man! No matter if you are facing near deadline deadlock or at the early stages of your development, if you have a problem Udi is the one who will probably be able to solve it, with his large experience at the industry and his widely horizons of thinking , he is always full of just in place great architectural ideas.
I am honored to have Udi as a colleague and a friend (plus having his cell phone on my speed dial).”

Ward Bell Ward Bell, VP Product Development at IdeaBlade
“Everyone will tell you how smart and knowledgable Udi is ... and they are oh-so-right. Let me add that Udi is a smart LISTENER. He's always calibrating what he has to offer with your needs and your experience ... looking for the fit. He has strongly held views ... and the ability to temper them with the nuances of the situation.
I trust Udi to tell me what I need to hear, even if I don't want to hear it, ... in a way that I can hear it. That's a rare skill to go along with his command and intelligence.”

Eli Brin, Program Manager at RISCO Group
“We hired Udi as a SOA specialist for a large scale project. The development is outsourced to India. SOA is a buzzword used almost for anything today. We wanted to understand what SOA really is, and what is the meaning and practice to develop a SOA based system.
We identified Udi as the one that can put some sense and order in our minds. We started with a private customized SOA training for the entire team in Israel. After that I had several focused sessions regarding our architecture and design.
I will summarize it simply (as he is the software simplist): We are very happy to have Udi in our project. It has a great benefit. We feel good and assured with the knowledge and practice he brings. He doesn’t talk over our heads. We assimilated nServicebus as the ESB of the project. I highly recommend you to bring Udi into your project.”

Catherine Hole Catherine Hole, Senior Project Manager at the Norwegian Health Network
“My colleagues and I have spent five interesting days with Udi - diving into the many aspects of SOA. Udi has shown impressive abilities of understanding organizational challenges, and has brought the business perspective into our way of looking at services. He has an excellent understanding of the many layers from business at the top to the technical infrstructure at the bottom. He is a great listener, and manages to simplify challenges in a way that is understandable both for developers and CEOs, and all the specialists in between.”

Yoel Arnon Yoel Arnon, MSMQ Expert
“Udi has a unique, in depth understanding of service oriented architecture and how it should be used in the real world, combined with excellent presentation skills. I think Udi should be a premier choice for a consultant or architect of distributed systems.”

Vadim Mesonzhnik, Development Project Lead at Polycom
“When we were faced with a task of creating a high performance server for a video-tele conferencing domain we decided to opt for a stateless cluster with SQL server approach. In order to confirm our decision we invited Udi.

After carefully listening for 2 hours he said: "With your kind of high availability and performance requirements you don’t want to go with stateless architecture."

One simple sentence saved us from implementing a wrong product and finding that out after years of development. No matter whether our former decisions were confirmed or altered, it gave us great confidence to move forward relying on the experience, industry best-practices and time-proven techniques that Udi shared with us.
It was a distinct pleasure and a unique opportunity to learn from someone who is among the best at what he does.”

Jack Van Hoof Jack Van Hoof, Enterprise Integration Architect at Dutch Railways
“Udi is a respected visionary on SOA and EDA, whose opinion I most of the time (if not always) highly agree with. The nice thing about Udi is that he is able to explain architectural concepts in terms of practical code-level examples.”

Neil Robbins Neil Robbins, Applications Architect at Brit Insurance
“Having followed Udi's blog and other writings for a number of years I attended Udi's two day course on 'Loosely Coupled Messaging with NServiceBus' at SkillsMatter, London.

I would strongly recommend this course to anyone with an interest in how to develop IT systems which provide immediate and future fitness for purpose. An influential and innovative thought leader and practitioner in his field, Udi demonstrates and shares a phenomenally in depth knowledge that proves his position as one of the premier experts in his field globally.

The course has enhanced my knowledge and skills in ways that I am able to immediately apply to provide benefits to my employer. Additionally though I will be able to build upon what I learned in my 2 days with Udi and have no doubt that it will only enhance my future career.

I cannot recommend Udi, and his courses, highly enough.”

Nick Malik Nick Malik, Enterprise Architect at Microsoft Corporation
You are an excellent speaker and trainer, Udi, and I've had the fortunate experience of having attended one of your presentations. I believe that you are a knowledgable and intelligent man.”

Sean Farmar Sean Farmar, Chief Technical Architect at Candidate Manager Ltd
“Udi has provided us with guidance in system architecture and supports our implementation of NServiceBus in our core business application.

He accompanied us in all stages of our development cycle and helped us put vision into real life distributed scalable software. He brought fresh thinking, great in depth of understanding software, and ongoing support that proved as valuable and cost effective.

Udi has the unique ability to analyze the business problem and come up with a simple and elegant solution for the code and the business alike.
With Udi's attention to details, and knowledge we avoided pit falls that would cost us dearly.”

Børge Hansen Børge Hansen, Architect Advisor at Microsoft
“Udi delivered a 5 hour long workshop on SOA for aspiring architects in Norway. While keeping everyone awake and excited Udi gave us some great insights and really delivered on making complex software challenges simple. Truly the software simplist.”

Motty Cohen, SW Manager at KorenTec Technologies
“I know Udi very well from our mutual work at KorenTec. During the analysis and design of a complex, distributed C4I system - where the basic concepts of NServiceBus start to emerge - I gained a lot of "Udi's hours" so I can surely say that he is a professional, skilled architect with fresh ideas and unique perspective for solving complex architecture challenges. His ideas, concepts and parts of the artifacts are the basis of several state-of-the-art C4I systems that I was involved in their architecture design.”

Aaron Jensen Aaron Jensen, VP of Engineering at Eleutian Technology
Awesome. Just awesome.

We’d been meaning to delve into messaging at Eleutian after multiple discussions with and blog posts from Greg Young and Udi Dahan in the past. We weren’t entirely sure where to start, how to start, what tools to use, how to use them, etc. Being able to sit in a room with Udi for an entire week while he described exactly how, why and what he does to tackle a massive enterprise system was invaluable to say the least.

We now have a much better direction and, more importantly, have the confidence we need to start introducing these powerful concepts into production at Eleutian.”

Gad Rosenthal Gad Rosenthal, Department Manager at Retalix
“A thinking person. Brought fresh and valuable ideas that helped us in architecting our product. When recommending a solution he supports it with evidence and detail so you can successfully act based on it. Udi's support "comes on all levels" - As the solution architect through to the detailed class design. Trustworthy!”

Chris Bilson Chris Bilson, Developer at Russell Investment Group
“I had the pleasure of attending a workshop Udi led at the Seattle ALT.NET conference in February 2009. I have been reading Udi's articles and listening to his podcasts for a long time and have always looked to him as a source of advice on software architecture.
When I actually met him and talked to him I was even more impressed. Not only is Udi an extremely likable person, he's got that rare gift of being able to explain complex concepts and ideas in a way that is easy to understand.
All the attendees of the workshop greatly appreciate the time he spent with us and the amazing insights into service oriented architecture he shared with us.”

Alexey Shestialtynov Alexey Shestialtynov, Senior .Net Developer at Candidate Manager
“I met Udi at Candidate Manager where he was brought in part-time as a consultant to help the company make its flagship product more scalable. For me, even after 30 years in software development, working with Udi was a great learning experience. I simply love his fresh ideas and architecture insights.
As we all know it is not enough to be armed with best tools and technologies to be successful in software - there is still human factor involved. When, as it happens, the project got in trouble, management asked Udi to step into a leadership role and bring it back on track. This he did in the span of a month. I can only wish that things had been done this way from the very beginning.
I look forward to working with Udi again in the future.”

Christopher Bennage Christopher Bennage, President at Blue Spire Consulting, Inc.
“My company was hired to be the primary development team for a large scale and highly distributed application. Since these are not necessarily everyday requirements, we wanted to bring in some additional expertise. We chose Udi because of his blogging, podcasting, and speaking. We asked him to to review our architectural strategy as well as the overall viability of project.
I was very impressed, as Udi demonstrated a broad understanding of the sorts of problems we would face. His advice was honest and unbiased and very pragmatic. Whenever I questioned him on particular points, he was able to backup his opinion with real life examples. I was also impressed with his clarity and precision. He was very careful to untangle the meaning of words that might be overloaded or otherwise confusing. While Udi's hourly rate may not be the cheapest, the ROI is undoubtedly a deal. I would highly recommend consulting with Udi.”

Robert Lewkovich, Product / Development Manager at Eggs Overnight
“Udi's advice and consulting were a huge time saver for the project I'm responsible for. The $ spent were well worth it and provided me with a more complete understanding of nServiceBus and most importantly in helping make the correct architectural decisions earlier thereby reducing later, and more expensive, rework.”

Ray Houston Ray Houston, Director of Development at TOPAZ Technologies
“Udi's SOA class made me smart - it was awesome.

The class was very well put together. The materials were clear and concise and Udi did a fantastic job presenting it. It was a good mixture of lecture, coding, and question and answer. I fully expected that I would be taking notes like crazy, but it was so well laid out that the only thing I wrote down the entire course was what I wanted for lunch. Udi provided us with all the lecture materials and everyone has access to all of the samples which are in the nServiceBus trunk.

Now I know why Udi is the "Software Simplist." I was amazed to find that all the code and solutions were indeed very simple. The patterns that Udi presented keep things simple by isolating complexity so that it doesn't creep into your day to day code. The domain code looks the same if it's running in a single process or if it's running in 100 processes.”

Ian Cooper Ian Cooper, Team Lead at Beazley
“Udi is one of the leaders in the .Net development community, one of the truly smart guys who do not just get best architectural practice well enough to educate others but drives innovation. Udi consistently challenges my thinking in ways that make me better at what I do.”

Liron Levy, Team Leader at Rafael
“I've met Udi when I worked as a team leader in Rafael. One of the most senior managers there knew Udi because he was doing superb architecture job in another Rafael project and he recommended bringing him on board to help the project I was leading.
Udi brought with him fresh solutions and invaluable deep architecture insights. He is an authority on SOA (service oriented architecture) and this was a tremendous help in our project.
On the personal level - Udi is a great communicator and can persuade even the most difficult audiences (I was part of such an audience myself..) by bringing sound explanations that draw on his extensive knowledge in the software business. Working with Udi was a great learning experience for me, and I'll be happy to work with him again in the future.”

Adam Dymitruk Adam Dymitruk, Director of IT at Apara Systems
“I met Udi for the first time at DevTeach in Montreal back in early 2007. While Udi is usually involved in SOA subjects, his knowledge spans all of a software development company's concerns. I would not hesitate to recommend Udi for any company that needs excellent leadership, mentoring, problem solving, application of patterns, implementation of methodologies and straight out solution development.
There are very few people in the world that are as dedicated to their craft as Udi is to his. At ALT.NET Seattle, Udi explained many core ideas about SOA. The team that I brought with me found his workshop and other talks the highlight of the event and provided the most value to us and our organization. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to recommend him.”

Eytan Michaeli Eytan Michaeli, CTO Korentec
“Udi was responsible for a major project in the company, and as a chief architect designed a complex multi server C4I system with many innovations and excellent performance.”

Carl Kenne Carl Kenne, .Net Consultant at Dotway AB
“Udi's session "DDD in Enterprise apps" was truly an eye opener. Udi has a great ability to explain complex enterprise designs in a very comprehensive and inspiring way. I've seen several sessions on both DDD and SOA in the past, but Udi puts it in a completly new perspective and makes us understand what it's all really about. If you ever have a chance to see any of Udi's sessions in the future, take it!”

Avi Nehama, R&D Project Manager at Retalix
“Not only that Udi is a briliant software architecture consultant, he also has remarkable abilities to present complex ideas in a simple and concise manner, and...
always with a smile. Udi is indeed a top-league professional!”

Ben Scheirman Ben Scheirman, Lead Developer at CenterPoint Energy
“Udi is one of those rare people who not only deeply understands SOA and domain driven design, but also eloquently conveys that in an easy to grasp way. He is patient, polite, and easy to talk to. I'm extremely glad I came to his workshop on SOA.”

Scott C. Reynolds Scott C. Reynolds, Director of Software Engineering at CBLPath
“Udi is consistently advancing the state of thought in software architecture, service orientation, and domain modeling.
His mastery of the technologies and techniques is second to none, but he pairs that with a singular ability to listen and communicate effectively with all parties, technical and non, to help people arrive at context-appropriate solutions. Every time I have worked with Udi, or attended a talk of his, or just had a conversation with him I have come away from it enriched with new understanding about the ideas discussed.”

Evgeny-Hen Osipow, Head of R&D at PCLine
“Udi has helped PCLine on projects by implementing architectural blueprints demonstrating the value of simple design and code.”

Rhys Campbell Rhys Campbell, Owner at Artemis West
“For many years I have been following the works of Udi. His explanation of often complex design and architectural concepts are so cleanly broken down that even the most junior of architects can begin to understand these concepts. These concepts however tend to typify the "real world" problems we face daily so even the most experienced software expert will find himself in an "Aha!" moment when following Udi teachings.
It was a pleasure to finally meet Udi in Seattle Alt.Net OpenSpaces 2008, where I was pleasantly surprised at how down-to-earth and approachable he was. His depth and breadth of software knowledge also became apparent when discussion with his peers quickly dove deep in to the problems we current face. If given the opportunity to work with or recommend Udi I would quickly take that chance. When I think .Net Architecture, I think Udi.”

Sverre Hundeide Sverre Hundeide, Senior Consultant at Objectware
“Udi had been hired to present the third LEAP master class in Oslo. He is an well known international expert on enterprise software architecture and design, and is the author of the open source messaging framework nServiceBus. The entire class was based on discussion and interaction with the audience, and the only Power Point slide used was the one showing the agenda.
He started out with sketching a naive traditional n-tier application (big ball of mud), and based on suggestions from the audience we explored different solutions which might improve the solution. Whatever suggestions we threw at him, he always had a thoroughly considered answer describing pros and cons with the suggested solution. He obviously has a lot of experience with real world enterprise SOA applications.”

Raphaël Wouters Raphaël Wouters, Owner/Managing Partner at Medinternals
“I attended Udi's excellent course 'Advanced Distributed System Design with SOA and DDD' at Skillsmatter. Few people can truly claim such a high skill and expertise level, present it using a pragmatic, concrete no-nonsense approach and still stay reachable.”

Nimrod Peleg Nimrod Peleg, Lab Engineer at Technion IIT
“One of the best programmers and software engineer I've ever met, creative, knows how to design and implemet, very collaborative and finally - the applications he designed implemeted work for many years without any problems!

Jose Manuel Beas
“When I attended Udi's SOA Workshop, then it suddenly changed my view of what Service Oriented Architectures were all about. Udi explained complex concepts very clearly and created a very productive discussion environment where all the attendees could learn a lot. I strongly recommend hiring Udi.”

Daniel Jin Daniel Jin, Senior Lead Developer at PJM Interconnection
“Udi is one of the top SOA guru in the .NET space. He is always eager to help others by sharing his knowledge and experiences. His blog articles often offer deep insights and is a invaluable resource. I highly recommend him.”

Pasi Taive Pasi Taive, Chief Architect at Tieto
“I attended both of Udi's "UI Composition Key to SOA Success" and "DDD in Enterprise Apps" sessions and they were exceptionally good. I will definitely participate in his sessions again. Udi is a great presenter and has the ability to explain complex issues in a manner that everyone understands.”

Eran Sagi, Software Architect at HP
“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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Guest Authored Books
Chapter: Introduction to SOA    Article: The Enterprise Service Bus and Your SOA

97 Things Every Software Architect Should Know

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