Udi Dahan   Udi Dahan – The Software Simplist
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Projects, Assemblies, and Namespaces – oh my

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

Every once in a while this topic pops up, and since the nServiceBus code base doesn’t follow the apparently accepted practice, and I do get asked about it, here goes.

First of all, the conventional wisdom:

“If you don’t choose assembly to represent component, the natural artifact candidate is then namespace.”

There’s only one minor assumption here that deserves being dragged out into the light.

While Visual Studio creates an assembly from every project by default, you can take those assemblies and merge them together into a single assembly using this nice little utility from Microsoft. It is likely that each project would have its own namespace too, so we should still be aligned with the conventional wisdom.

In other words, we could choose a Visual Studio project to represent a logical component and still be in the same camp as Jeremy:

“I’m very firmly in the camp that says you should only split assemblies by deployment targets”

What everyone agrees about seems to be that coupling hurts, and should be managed.

Where does coupling come from? Well, from references between two pieces of code. If we were to represent our logical components as Visual Studio projects, we could easily see those references without the help of any 3rd party tools. The compiler would even yell at us if we were to (accidentally) create an evil circular reference.

While some might complain about the long compile time when we have many projects in a single solution, good componentization often doesn’t require us to put all projects in a single solution. In fact, each component could theoretically have its own solution – since it’s reasonable to assume we’d really only be working on one component at a time. In which case, compile time per developer task would be a non-issue.

Going through the whole code base is usually only needed when doing a full-system debug when trying to track down a problem. This wouldn’t need to be done against a solution with all projects. We’d do this using PDBs of the merged projects (as that’s what actually got delivered, and where the bug was found). After spelunking through those PDBs, we’d eventually find the problematic component (or 2, or 3, or …), and open up developer tasks for each component.

Regardless of if we’re putting out a patch for an existing customer or rolling these changes into a release with other tasks, all the logical components would be built into a physical system (merged as necessary) and the system would be put through QA.

In short, it looks like just a bit of unconventional wisdom gets us a nice balance.

Unit Testing for Developers and Managers

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

image “We need to rewrite the system.”

Thus begins the story of yet another developer trying to convince their manager to adopt test-driven development (or any other methodology or technology). There’s a good chance this developer’s been reading all sorts of stuff on blogs (like those linked here) that have convinced him that salvation lies that way.

Don’t get me wrong.

There’s a good chance the developer’s right.

It’s just that that’s besides the point.

Developers and Managers

There’s a difference between how developers view a practice and how a manager (defined for the purposes of this post as someone in charge of delivering something) view that same practice. From a developer perspective, Ian’s point about unit testing is spot on:

“The problem is that the most important step is not doing it right, but doing it at all.”

Yet, as Ian himself points out in the title, this is a learning issue. If you want to learn to swim, there’s no replacement for jumping in the pool.

The manager’s perspective is a bit different.

Yes, we want our developers to improve their skill set. Yes, we understand that unit testing will ultimately improve quality. Yes, we know developers need to practice these skills as a part of their job. But, and it’s a big ole’ but, when it comes time to sink or swim, and we’ve got a deadline, those desires need to be balanced with delivering. Accounts of unit testing adoption efforts resulting in more (test) code to support with little apparent improvement in quality in the short term, well, they scare us. Arnon’s post gives more links supporting that feeling.

What’s a Unit Test anyway?

Is it any class that happens to have a TestFixture attribute on it?

If we are to “decouple” unit testing from good design, as Roy has described, that’s a not-improbable outcome. If the design of the system is such as there aren’t any real “units”, what exactly are we testing? Regardless of static or dynamic typing, replaceability of code, and other technological things, does the fact that all TestMethods in that TestFixture complete successfully mean anything? In other words, what did the test test?

It is clear that these tests cost something.

It’s more code to write. It’s more code to maintain.

The question is, what value are we getting from these “unit tests that any developer without design skills can write”?

The manager in me doesn’t like this return on investment.

By the way, TDD is as much the evolution of unit testing as the screw driver is the evolution of the hammer. But that’ll have to wait for a different post.

What’s Design Got To Do With It?

If you’re looking for the technical ability to write a test fixture and replace calls to other classes, then design has nothing to it.

If tests are to be valuable – design has everything to do with it.

The difficulty our developer is having unit-testing the system is a symptom of design problems. There’s a good chance that’s why he suggested a rewrite.

By the way, please do a search & replace in your vocabulary on the word “rewrite” with the word “redesign”. The code’s syntax isn’t the problem – it’s not the “m_”, camel case, or anything like that. It’s not that if the code was rewritten under the same design that all problems will go away.

Redesign, or do nothing.

The community’s been discussing the issues of coupling, interfaces, mocking, and tools at length in the context of testability. I won’t reiterate the debate here but I’ll tell you this:

If logic is duplicated, if the code is tightly coupled, if there is no separation of concerns, the unit tests will be useless – even if they “test” the class in isolation.

Cut the coverage crap

Metrics lie.

The fact that there’s a bunch of other code which calls 100% of the system’s code and doesn’t contain false assertions doesn’t mean that the code is high quality or doesn’t contain bugs.

In a well designed system, most “logic” will be contained in two “layers” – the controllers and the domain model. These classes should be independent of any and all technological concerns. You can and should get high unit test coverage on classes in these layers. Shoot for 100%, it’s worth it.

Testing domain models is all about asserting state. While using setters to get the domain objects into a necessary initial state is OK, setters should not be used beyond that. Testing controllers is primarily about interactions – mocks will probably be needed for views and service agents. Commands do not need to be mocked out.

Most other layers have some dependence on technology that makes unit tests relatively less valuable. Coverage on these layers is most meaningless. My guidance is to take the effort that would have been spent on unit testing these other layers and invest it all in automated integration tests. You’re likely to get a much higher return on investment. Much higher.


Everybody’s Right

Developers aren’t just born knowing good design, testing, or anything else. Universities, colleges, and most vendors do little to change that state of affairs. Books help, a bit, but when learning to swim, you’ve got to get your feet wet, and on the job training is, by and large, all there is. As such, lowering the barrier to entry is important.

Keeping in mind the Dreyfus model of knowledge acquisition, it’s not about “dumbing down” software development, it’s about bringing novices up to speed:

“In the beginning [novices] learn to recognize objective facts and features, relevant to the skill. Characteristic of relevant elements are that they can be recognized context-free, i.e. without reference to the overall situation. The novice acquire basic rules to follow, acting upon those facts and features. The rules are also context-free, i.e. no notice is taken to the surroundings. On account of this the novice feels very little responsibility for the result.” (emphasis mine)

Managers are ultimately responsible for the result.

Managers shouldn’t necessarily sacrifice their projects on this altar of learning. Organizations need to find ways for developers to safely practice these techniques as a part of developing their “human resources”. First of all, this needs to be communicated to everyone – that the organization understands the importance of these techniques, the desires of developers to adopt them, and the projects that need to be delivered.

Some projects may be allocated additional non-functional requirements: the software will be developed test-first, there will be at least 80% unit test coverage, etc. It can make sense to have developers spend some time on these projects after finishing one more delivery focused project and before going onto another one. As more developers become proficient with unit testing and design, the delivery focused projects can start to benefit from these skills.

It’s a gradual process.

The Important Bit

No matter how you go about unit testing, do periodic test reviews.

Just like code reviews.

That’s it.


Related Posts

Business Process Verification

Self documenting and Test-Driven Alien Artifacts

SOA Testing

Domain Events – Take 2

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Update: The next post in this series is now online here.

My previous post on how to create fully encapsulated domain models introduced the concept of events as a core pattern of communication from the domain back to the service layer. In that post, I put up enough code to get the idea across but didn’t address issues like memory leaks and multi-threading. This post will show the solution to those two critical points.

I’ve snipped out one of the events in the previous example for brevity.

Previous API

The previous API looked like this:

   1:  public static class DomainEvents
   2:  {
   3:       public static event EventHandler GameReportedLost;
   4:       public static void RaiseGameReportedLostEvent()
   5:       {
   6:             if (GameReportedLost != null)
   7:                 GameReportedLost(null, null);
   8:       }
  10:       public static event EventHandler CartIsFull;
  11:       public static void RaiseCartIsFull()
  12:       {
  13:             if (CartIsFull != null)
  14:                 CartIsFull(null, null);
  15:       }
  16:  }

One thing that we want to keep in the solution is that all the code to define events, their names, and the parameters they bring will be in one place – in this case, the DomainEvents class. One thing that we’d like to fix is the amount of code needed to define an event.

Previous Service Layer

Here’s what our previous service layer code looked like:

   1:  public class AddGameToCartMessageHandler :
   2:      BaseMessageHandler<AddGameToCartMessage>
   3:  {
   4:      public override void Handle(AddGameToCartMessage m)
   5:      {
   6:          using (ISession session = SessionFactory.OpenSession())
   7:          using (ITransaction tx = session.BeginTransaction())
   8:          {
   9:              ICart cart = session.Get<ICart>(m.CartId);
  10:              IGame g = session.Get<IGame>(m.GameId);
  12:              Domain.DomainEvents.GameReportedLost +=
  13:                gameReportedLost;
  14:              Domain.DomainEvents.CartIsFull +=
  15:                cartIsFull;
  17:              cart.Add(g);
  19:              Domain.DomainEvents.GameReportedLost -=
  20:                gameReportedLost;
  21:              Domain.DomainEvents.CartIsFull -=
  22:                cartIsFull;
  24:              tx.Commit();
  25:          }
  26:      }
  28:      private EventHandler gameReportedLost = delegate { 
  29:            Bus.Return((int)ErrorCodes.GameReportedLost);
  30:          };
  32:      private EventHandler cartIsFull = delegate { 
  33:            Bus.Return((int)ErrorCodes.CartIsFull);
  34:          };
  35:      }
  36:  }

Another thing that should be improved is the amount of code needed in the service layer.

Raising an event, though, should still be fairly simple – one line of code similar to DomainEvents.RaiseGameReportedLost().


Here’s what the new API looks like:

   1:  public static class DomainEvents
   2:  {
   3:       public static readonly DomainEvent<IGame> GameReportedLost = 
   4:                                            new DomainEvent<IGame>;
   6:       public static readonly DomainEvent<ICart> CartIsFull=
   7:                                            new DomainEvent<ICart>;
   8:  }

It looks like we’ve managed to bring down the complexity of defining an event.

Raising an event is slightly different, but still only one line of code (“this” refers to the Cart class that is calling this API): DomainEvents.CartIsFull.Raise(this);

New Service Layer

The advantage of having a disposable domain event allows us to use the “using” construct for cleanup.

   1:  public class AddGameToCartMessageHandler :
   2:      BaseMessageHandler<AddGameToCartMessage>
   3:  {
   4:      public override void Handle(AddGameToCartMessage m)
   5:      {
   6:          using (ISession session = SessionFactory.OpenSession())
   7:          using (ITransaction tx = session.BeginTransaction())
   8:          using (DomainEvents.GameReportedLost.Register(gameReportedLost))
   9:          using (DomainEvents.CartIsFull.Register(cartIsFull))
  10:          {
  11:              ICart cart = session.Get<ICart>(m.CartId);
  12:              IGame g = session.Get<IGame>(m.GameId);
  14:              cart.Add(g);
  16:              tx.Commit();
  17:          }
  18:      }
  20:      private Action<IGame> gameReportedLost = delegate { 
  21:            Bus.Return((int)ErrorCodes.GameReportedLost);
  22:          };
  24:      private Action<ICart> cartIsFull = delegate { 
  25:            Bus.Return((int)ErrorCodes.CartIsFull);
  26:          };
  27:      }
  28:  }

I also want to mention that you don’t necessarily have to have the same service layer object handle these events as that which calls the domain objects. In other words, we can have singleton objects handling these events for things like sending emails, notifying external systems, and auditing.

The Infrastructure

The infrastructure that makes all this possible (in a thread-safe way) is quite simple and made up of two parts, the DomainEvent that we saw being used above, and the DomainEventRegistrationRemover which handles the disposing:

   1:  using System;
   2:  using System.Collections.Generic;
   4:  namespace DomainEventInfrastructure
   5:  {
   6:      public class DomainEvent<E> 
   7:      {
   8:          [ThreadStatic] 
   9:          private static List<Action<E>> _actions; 
  11:          protected List<Action<E>> actions 
  12:          {
  13:              get { 
  14:                  if (_actions == null) 
  15:                      _actions = new List<Action<E>>(); 
  17:                  return _actions; 
  18:              }
  19:          }
  21:          public IDisposable Register(Action<E> callback) 
  22:          {
  23:              actions.Add(callback);
  24:              return new DomainEventRegistrationRemover(delegate
  25:                  {
  26:                      actions.Remove(callback);
  27:                  }
  28:              ); 
  29:          }
  31:          public void Raise(E args) 
  32:          {
  33:              foreach (Action<E> action in actions) 
  34:                  action.Invoke(args);
  35:          }
  36:      }
  37:  }

Note that the invocation list of the domain event is thread static, meaning that each thread gets its own copy – even though they’re all working with the same instance of the domain event.

Here’s the DomainEventRegistrationRemover – even simpler:

   1:  using System;
   3:  namespace DomainEventInfrastructure
   4:  {
   5:      public class DomainEventRegistrationRemover : IDisposable 
   6:      {
   7:          private readonly Action CallOnDispose;
   9:          public DomainEventRegistrationRemover(Action ToCall) 
  10:          {
  11:              this.CallOnDispose = ToCall; 
  12:          }
  14:          public void Dispose() 
  15:          {
  16:              this.CallOnDispose.DynamicInvoke();
  17:          }
  18:      }
  19:  }

For your convenience, I’ve made these available for download here.

I also want to add that if you haven’t looked at the comments on the original post – there’s some really good stuff there (36 comments so far). Take a look.

Logging – The Smart Way

Friday, August 1st, 2008


Not in applicative code anyway.

This follows up on Ayende’s post about the AOP way.

Now, I have nothing against AOP but some developers are leery of it.

In broader terms, all logging goes in framework-level code. For smart clients, one really good place to put logging is in your Command infrastructure – every time a command is invoked, log it and the args. For data access, well, any decent O/R Mapper has a lot of logging already, just use it. For communication, ditto. Funny that just last week this was one of the major bits of feedback I gave in a code review.

The Important Part image

Logging is useful for developers to find out why a system isn’t working correctly.

It is terrible for knowing that a system isn’t working correctly.

If you’re entire exception management strategy is “write it to the log”, how will an admin know that something’s wrong? Did you remember to configure your logging library that errors (and maybe warnings too) should be pushed out to a monitoring system? Do you have a monitoring system?

And if the admins don’t know anything’s wrong, they won’t know they need to increase the fidelity of the logs, will they? Are you planning on providing training for your admins telling them this (and all the other things they need to know)? Or maybe this will all be set up as an automatic script?

An Agile Digression

I hope all that’s on your agile (“we can ship at the end of every 2 week iteration”) product backlog (pardon my cynicism). I hope it’s at least something that you’re looking at per release and feeding the relevant features into your iterations. Yes, there’s project work to do (writing training manuals) that isn’t “development” that needs to be handled; if you don’t timebox it into the same iterations, it won’t get done.

Now, back to you’re regularly schedule logging…

Things Logging Doesn’t Addressimage

Logging is a mildly useless tool for pinpointing where in the system the source of a problem is.

“I know the entity isn’t in the database. I can see that. I want to know why it isn’t there.”

Sure, if you had every SQL statement logged you could figure these sorts of things out out. Of course, performance-wise, you wouldn’t put the system into production like that. In which case, the delete statement wouldn’t have been logged leaving you with precious little information to solve the root cause.

Also consider that the more logging you do, the more crap you’ll have to sift through to find the proverbial needle. Developers often don’t think twice about increasing the amount of crap logs they generate…

The Real Problem

The real problem is that developers think too much about logging and not at all nearly enough about designing the system in ways that it’ll be easy possible to answer questions like those above without having to know exactly how the system is built. One of the reasons that developers should care about this is that it’ll decrease the number of times they need to get up at 3:00 am to answer those questions.

A Path to the Solutionimage

Now, if you had some kind of business activity monitoring (BAM) capability in your system, an admin could do a simple search/query [WHEN entity DELETED] and find out answers to the questions above, find out the time that the relevant activities occurred, figure out what the problem is on their own, and maybe even fix it – especially if it has to do with some esoteric configuration variable.Regardless of whether you buy a BAM tool or roll what you need yourself, you need to understand what about the system needs to be monitored. That’s a very different thought-process to go through than “should we log this? Yeah, sure, why not.”

It’s called “Design for Operations”.

Take a holistic perspective on exception management, logging, monitoring, etc. Think about questions like those above and then analyse your use of the relevant tools in that context. Think about all the different kinds of users of the information that’s going to be generated and how quickly their going to need to act on that information. Admins in the data-center in the middle of a crisis are going to have different needs than developers analysing logs on their machine. Think about:

  • How will the administrator know that a server has been configured properly?
  • If the system is feeling slow, how can the administrator know which server/process is to blame?
    • So that maybe they can scale out that part of the system.

In Closingimage

It’s a mindset.

It takes time to make the shift.

It takes more time to bring the development process to this kind of maturity (god, I hate that word).

Writing exceptions to the log is not a strategy.

At the very best, its a tactic.

What’s your strategy?

External Value Configuration with IoC

Friday, June 13th, 2008

One of the things I haven’t like about using IoC containers, AKA dependency injection frameworks, was the string-based configuration model they exposed. In order to set these values, developers had 2 options: either use XML config (usually without the benefit of intellisense or refactoring support), or use code (still quoting property names – again, no intellisense or refactoring support).

In short, there seemed to be a hole in the development model.

Here’s an example from how nServiceBus used to do this:

builder.ConfigureComponent(typeof(HttpTransport), ComponentCallModelEnum.Singleton)
  .ConfigureProperty(“DefaultNumberOfWorkerThreads”, 10)
  .ConfigureProperty(“DefaultNumberOfSenderThreads”, 10);

The problem was that if a developer got the case of the property wrong, misspelled it in some way, or somebody later refactored/renamed that property, the system would break. It would also be very difficult to figure out why.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, it dawned on me.

This was the same problem we used to have with testing using mock objects – before we had today’s more advanced frameworks. So, the solution must be to use the same techniques. The container should give the developer an object that looks just like their class, but that would intercept all calls. Then, that interceptor could turn those into the config calls shown above. Here’s what the new config model looks like: 

HttpTransport transport = builder.ConfigureComponent<HttpTransport>

transport.DefaultNumberOfSenderThreads = 10;
transport.DefaultNumberOfWorkerThreads = 10; 

Granted, you’re not going to have tons of code like this. However, for all those parameters which are factory-configured and that customers/integrators shouldn’t tinker with, it makes a difference. The biggest difference is during that time of development where you’ve gotten into preliminary integration tests but the systems components are still being “polished”.

Aside: On the current project that has adopted this model, we’ve probably saved (conservatively) about 3 months of effort with this tiny (?) thing, and this isn’t a huge project. If that’s more than you would’ve thought, well, I was surprised myself. First, understand that in the old config model, everything still compiles and unit tests pass, even though its broken.

Just consider what happens in the lab when this occurs. You have N testers that can’t test the new version, waiting. You have the person who installed the version, trying to figure out what’s wrong. They then call in one of the developers where most of the new development occurred since the previous version. They fiddle around with it, looking at exception traces and whatnot. In the best case, we’re talking about 2 hours from noticing its broken until a new version comes out fixed. Multiply that by N+3 people. Then multiply by the number of versions you do integration tests on in the lab.

Caveat: In the current version, properties must be virtual in order for this to work.

For those of you who want just this feature without nServiceBus, I’ve put up all the binaries here. For the source, you’ll need to go to here.

Let me know what you think – especially if you can take the implementation to the point where it won’t need virtual properties to work 🙂

Prism – Occasionally Connected?

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Prism, AKA Composite Application Guidance + Composite Application Library, is rolling towards a release. I’ve been talking with Glenn Block quite a bit about Prism, and am even on the advisory board (what were they thinking?).

One of the topics not covered by Prism is occasional connectivity, and I would like to say a word or two about that. First of all, if you’re building a standalone client (one that doesn’t communicate with anything), then there’s a good chance that Prism isn’t for you, although you could be composing other standalone client modules. So, if your client isn’t communicating with anything, well, then this post probably won’t interest you that much. Let’s start with…


Networks fail. Period.

This means that your client machine will not always be connected to other servers.

Also, servers fail – critical Windows patches and just regular power outages.

Ergo, your “smart” client will be occasionally connected, whether you planned for it or not.

And please don’t take this post as a “dumping on Prism” post – it isn’t intended that way. Rather, it is about how you should think about designing modules in Prism, and why.

Modules and Connectivity

Consider the case where we have two modules being composed in a single client. Each module communicates with a different server. Let’s call these modules Ma and Mb, and the servers Sa and Sb respectively. Now, let’s discuss what occurs given that the modules weren’t designed with occasional connectivity in mind.

User clicks something in Mb which requires communication.

Mb tries to call Sb, say, over HTTP, using a regular web service invocation.

The calling thread, in this case, the one used for user interaction, is blocked waiting for a response from Sb.image

Sometime in this call, Sb fails, connectivity goes down, whatever.

30 seconds after the call, the HTTP connection times out.

If something important were happening in Ma at the same time, the user couldn’t even see it, let alone do anything about it since the user interaction thread is stuck. This is a serious concern for the financial services domain, but in many others as well.

You mean there’s more?

I can go on, but I think that that’s enough to paint the picture that if you are building a smart client, there are a lot more things to think about than just learning Prism. That’s my main concern after witnessing what happened around the CAB. Given the learning curve around these frameworks many developers don’t seek to deepen their understanding beyond just becoming proficient with them. This isn’t just centered on the developers, evangelists in Microsoft tend to paint the picture this way:

Once you understand X (CAB, Prism, BizTalk, whatever), all your problems are solved.

That’s not to say there aren’t good things in those technologies, but that’s just it, they’re just tools. Silver hammers and “laser” guided saws do not a master carpenter make. There’s actually a pretty good chance the regular guy will saw their arm off.


I do hope more “instruction manuals” will be coming out of Microsoft on these topics. That’s not to say there aren’t any. Specifically on the topic of occasional connectivity, there is Chapter 4 of the Smart Client Architecture & Design Guide. Unfortunately, it doesn’t say anything about how that connects with the MVC/MVP being used client side (the bits affected by Prism). Chapter 6 of the same guide deals with the client-side threading, but doesn’t address issues like:

  • Which model object instance are views bound to.
  • Do other threads have access to that object at the same time.
  • Which controller/presenter is responsible for giving that object to the view.
  • Do they need to clone it.
  • How deep should the clone be.
  • How do various controllers/presenters (which may be showing the same object in different views at the same time) communicate changes to their various independent clones.

I haven’t yet documented all the patterns that answer these questions, but until I do (or Microsoft does), let me offer these few resources which I’ve put out over the years:

There’s also some more links under the Smart Client link of my “First time here?” page.

Also, please join me in asking Microsoft for an update to these guides – comments below or your own blog posts would be great.

WCF, Smart Clients, and Deadlocks

Friday, April 11th, 2008

There’s a new article up on MSDN describing how to write Smart Clients using WCF. The author is none other than WCF-Master Lowy and he goes over the multitude of ways you can deadlock yourself.

Here’s a taste:

UI Thread and Concurrency Management

Whenever you use hosting on the UI thread, deadlocks are possible. For example, the following setup is guaranteed to result with a deadlock: A Windows Forms application is hosting a service with UseSynchronizationContext set to true, and UI thread affinity is established. The Windows Forms application then calls the service over one of its endpoints. The call to the service blocks the UI thread, while WCF posts a message to the UI thread to invoke the service. That message is never processed, because of the blocking UI thread—hence, the deadlock.

Another possible case for a deadlock occurs when a Windows Forms application is hosting a service with UseSynchronizationContext set to true and UI thread affinity is established. The service receives a call from a remote client. That call is marshaled to the UI thread and is eventually executed on that thread. If the service is allowed to call out to another service, that can result in a deadlock if the callout causality tries somehow to update the UI or call back to the service’s endpoint, because all of the service instances that are associated with any endpoint (regardless of the service-instancing mode) share the same UI thread.

Similarly, you risk a deadlock if the service is configured for reentrancy and it calls back to its client. You risk a deadlock if the callback causality tries to update the UI or enter the service, because that reentrance must be marshaled to the blocked UI thread.

Actually, I have difficulty believing that Juval would go so far as to suggest that even the forms should be services, but he does:

Form as a Service

The main motivation for hosting a WCF service on the UI thread is if the service must update the UI or the form. The problem is always: How does the service reach out and obtain a reference to the form? While the techniques and ideas that appear thus far in the listings certainly work, it would be simpler yet if the form were the service and hosted itself. For this to work, the form (or any window) must be a singleton service. The reason is that singleton is the only instancing mode that enables you to provide WCF with a live instance to host. In addition, you would not want a per-call form that exists only during a client call (which is usually very brief), nor would you want a per-session form that only a single client can establish a session with and update.

When a form is also a service, having that form as a singleton service is the best instancing mode all around.

I think that this article serves as a great treatise leading to only one conclusion – you’d have to be crazy to try to do this without some higher level framework, preferably with a different low-level framework too 🙂 . Sucks Microsoft didn’t put one out – nor is there a pending beta, CTP, or even word about some project with a codename handling this. From what I know about Prism, it doesn’t intend to handle this issue either.

One thing that isn’t covered in the article is that if you do choose not to tie the client-side service to the UI thread, you open yourself up to race conditions. Reasons you’d want to handle messages on a different thread center around UI responsiveness. I’ve written about these things before:

The more I read things like this, the more I feel that I have to get going with my nServiceBus based solution. I’m fairly swamped as it is, so if anyone is interested in helping get this project off the ground, I’d be most grateful – as I think anyone else that had to build a smart client would.

How to create fully encapsulated Domain Models

Friday, February 29th, 2008

image Update: The new and improved solution is now available: Domain Events, Take 2.

Most people getting started with DDD and the Domain Model pattern get stuck on this. For a while I tried answering this on the discussion groups, but here we have a nice example that I can point to next time.

The underlying problem I’ve noticed over the past few years is that developers are still thinking in terms of querying when they need more data. When moving to the Domain Model pattern, you have to “simply” represent the domain concepts in code – in other words, see things you aren’t used to seeing. I’ll highlight that part in the question below so that you can see where I’m going to go with this in my answer:

I have an instance where I believe I need access to a service or repository from my entity to evaluate a business rule but I’m using NHibernate for persistence so I don’t have a real good way to inject services into my entity. Can I get some viewpoints on just passing the services to my entity vs. using a facade?

Let me explain my problem to provide more context to the problem.

The core domain revolves around renting video games. I am working on a new feature to allow customers to trade in old video games. Customers can trade in multiple games at a time so we have a TradeInCart entity that works similar to most shopping carts that everybody is familiar with. However there are several rules that limit the items that can be placed into the TradeInCart. The core rules are:

1. Only 3 games of the same title can be added to the cart.
2. The total number of items in the cart cannot exceed 10.
3. No games can be added to the cart that the customer had previously reported lost with regards to their rental membership.
    a. If an attempt is made to add a previously reported lost game, then we need to log a BadQueueStatusAddAttempt to the persistence store.

So the first 2 rules are easily handled internally by the cart through an Add operation. Sample cart interface is below.

   1:  class TradeInCart{
   2:      Account Account{get;}
   3:      LineItem Add(Game game);
   4:      ValidationResult CanAdd(Game game);
   5:      IList<LineItems> LineItems{get;}
   6:  }

However the #3 rule is much more complicated and can’t be handled internally by the cart, so I have to depend on external services. Splitting up the validation logic for a cart add operation doesn’t seem very appealing to me at all. So I have the option of passing in a repository to get the previously reported lost games and a service to log bad attempts. This makes my cart interface ugly real quick.

   1:  class TradeInCart{
   2:      Account Account{get;}
   3:      LineItem Add(
   4:          Game game, 
   5:          IRepository<QueueHistory> repository, 
   6:          LoggingService service);
   8:      ValidationResult CanAdd(
   9:          Game game, 
  10:          IRepository<QueueHistory> repository, 
  11:          LoggingService service);
  13:      IList<LineItems> LineItems{get;}
  14:  }

The alternative option is to have a TradeInCartFacade that handles the validations and adding the items to the cart. The façade can have the repository and services injected though DI which is nice, but the big negative is that the cart ends up totally anemic.

Any thought on this would be greatly appreciated.


As I highlighted above, the thing that will help you with your business rules is to introduce the Customer object (that you probably already have) with the property GamesReportedLost (an IList<Game>). Your TradeInCart would have a reference to the Customer object and could then check the rule in the Add method.

Before I go into the code, it looks like your Account object might be used the same way, but your description of the domain doesn’t mention accounts, so I’m going to assume that that’s unrelated for now:

   1:  public class Customer{
   3:      /* other properties and methods */
   5:      private IList<Game> gamesReportedLost;
   6:      public virtual IList<Game> GamesReportedLost 
   7:      { 
   8:          get
   9:          {
  10:              return gamesReportedLost;
  11:          }
  12:          set
  13:          {
  14:              gamesReportedLost = value;
  15:          }
  16:      }
  17:  }

Keep in mind that the GamesReportedLost is a persistent property of Customer. Every time a customer reports a game lost, this list needs to be kept up to date. Here’s the TradeInCart now:

   1:  public class TradeInCart
   2:  {
   3:      /* other properties and methods */
   5:      private Customer customer;
   6:      public virtual Customer Customer
   7:      { 
   8:          get { return customer; }
   9:          set { customer = value; }
  10:      }
  12:      private IList<LineItem> lineItems;
  13:      public virtual IList<LineItem> LineItems
  14:      {
  15:          get { return lineItems; }
  16:          set { lineItems = value; }
  17:      }
  19:      public void Add(Game game)
  20:      {
  21:          if (lineItems.Count >= CONSTANTS.MaxItemsPerCart)
  22:          {
  23:              FailureEvents.RaiseCartIsFullEvent();
  24:              return;
  25:          }
  27:          if (NumberOfGameAlreadyInCart(game) >=
  28:              CONSTANTS.MaxNumberOfSameGamePerCart)
  29:          {
  30:              FailureEvents
  31:                .RaiseMaxNumberOfSameGamePerCartReachedEvent();
  32:              return;
  33:          }
  35:          if (customer.GamesReportedLost.Contains(game))
  36:              FailureEvents.RaiseGameReportedLostEvent();
  37:          else
  38:              this.lineItems.Add(new LineItem(game));
  39:      }
  41:      private int NumberOfGameAlreadyInCart(Game game)
  42:      {
  43:          int result = 0;
  45:          foreach(LineItem li in this.lineItems)
  46:              if (li.Game == game)
  47:                  result++;
  49:          return result;
  50:      }
  51:  }
  53:  public static class FailureEvents
  54:  {
  55:      public static event EventHandler GameReportedLost;
  56:      public static void RaiseGameReportedLostEvent()
  57:      {
  58:           if (GameReportedLost != null)
  59:               GameReportedLost(null, null);
  60:      }
  62:      public static event EventHandler CartIsFull;
  63:      public static void RaiseCartIsFullEvent()
  64:      {
  65:           if (CartIsFull != null)
  66:               CartIsFull(null, null);
  67:      }
  69:      public static event EventHandler MaxNumberOfSameGamePerCartReached;
  70:      public static void RaiseMaxNumberOfSameGamePerCartReachedEvent()
  71:      {
  72:           if (MaxNumberOfSameGamePerCartReached != null)
  73:               MaxNumberOfSameGamePerCartReached(null, null);
  74:      }
  75:  }

image Your service layer class that calls the Add method of TradeInCart would first subscribe to the relevant events in FailureEvents. If one of those events is raised, it would do the necessary logging, external system calls, etc.

As you can see, the API of TradeInCart doesn’t need to make use of any external repositories, nor do you need to inject any other external dependencies in.

One thing I didn’t do in the above code to keep it “short” is to define the relevant custom EventArgs for bubbling up the information as to which game was reported lost or already have 3 of those in the cart. That is something that definitely should be done so that the service layer can pass this information back to the client.

Here’s a look at Service Layer code:

   1:  public class AddGameToCartMessageHandler :
   2:      BaseMessageHandler<AddGameToCartMessage>
   3:  {
   4:      public override void Handle(AddGameToCartMessage m)
   5:      {
   6:          using (ISession session = SessionFactory.OpenSession())
   7:          using (ITransaction tx = session.BeginTransaction())
   8:          {
   9:              TradeInCart cart = session.Get<TradeInCart>(m.CartId);
  10:              Game g = session.Get<Game>(m.GameId);
  12:              Domain.FailureEvents.GameReportedLost +=
  13:                gameReportedLost;
  14:              Domain.FailureEvents.CartIsFull +=
  15:                cartIsFull;
  16:              Domain.FailureEvents.MaxNumberOfSameGamePerCartReached +=
  17:                maxNumberOfSameGamePerCartReached;
  19:              cart.Add(g);
  21:              Domain.FailureEvents.GameReportedLost -=
  22:                gameReportedLost;
  23:              Domain.FailureEvents.CartIsFull -=
  24:                cartIsFull;
  25:              Domain.FailureEvents.MaxNumberOfSameGamePerCartReached -=
  26:                maxNumberOfSameGamePerCartReached;
  28:              tx.Commit();
  29:          }
  30:      }
  32:      private EventHandler gameReportedLost = delegate { 
  33:            Bus.Return((int)ErrorCodes.GameReportedLost);
  34:          };
  36:      private EventHandler cartIsFull = delegate { 
  37:            Bus.Return((int)ErrorCodes.CartIsFull);
  38:          };
  40:      private EventHandler maxNumberOfSameGamePerCartReached = delegate { 
  41:            Bus.Return((int)ErrorCodes.MaxNumberOfSameGamePerCartReached);
  42:          };
  43:      }
  44:  }

It’s important to remember to clean up your event subscriptions so that your Service Layer objects get garbage collected. This is one of the primary causes of memory leaks when using static events in your Domain Model. I’m hoping to find ways to use lambdas to decrease this repetitive coding pattern. You might be thinking to yourself that non-static events on your Domain Model objects would be easier, since those objects would get collected, freeing up the service layer objects for collection as well. There’s just on small problem:

The problem is that if an event is raised by a child (or grandchild object), the service layer object may not even know that that grandchild was involved and, as such, would not have subscribed to that event. The only way the service layer could work was by knowing how the Domain Model worked internally – in essence, breaking encapsulation.

If you’re thinking that using exceptions would be better, you’d be right in thinking that that won’t break encapsulation, and that you wouldn’t need all that subscribe/unsubscribe code in the service layer. The only problem is that the Domain Model needs to know that the service layer had a default catch clause so that it wouldn’t blow up. Otherwise, the service layer (or WCF, or nServiceBus) may end up flagging that message as a poison message (Read more about poison messages). You’d also have to be extremely careful about in which environments you used your Domain Model – in other words, your reuse is shot.


I never said it would be easy 🙂

However, the solution is simple (not complex). The same patterns occur over and over. The design is consistent. By focusing on the dependencies we now have a domain model that is reusable across many environments (server, client, sql clr, silverlight). The domain model is also testable without resorting to any fancy mock objects.

One closing comment – while I do my best to write code that is consistent with production quality environments, this code is more about demonstrating design principles. As such, I focus more on the self-documenting aspects of the code and have elided many production concerns.

Do you have a better solution?

Something that I haven’t considered?

Do me a favour – leave me a comment. Tell me what you think.

From CRUD to Domain-Driven Fluency

Friday, February 15th, 2008

I got a question about how to stay away from CRUD based service interfaces when the logic itself is like that, and I’ve found that this shift in thinking really needs more examples, so I’ve decided to put this out there:

For instance, in an HR system, the process of interviewing candidates – wouldn’t you just insert, update, and delete these Appointment objects?

If I were to put on my domain-driven hat, I would describe those requirements differently – interview appointments have a lifecycle: proposed, accepted, cancelled, etc. It seems that only a user of the role HR Interviewer should be able to make appointments for themselves, so the service layer code would probably look something like this:

using (ISession session = SessionFactory.OpenSession())
using (ITransaction tx = session.BeginTransaction())
    ICandidateInterviewer interviewer = session.Get<ICandidateInterviewer>(message.InterviewerId);
    ICandidate candidate = session.Get<ICandidate>(message.CandidateId);


The “ScheduleInterviewWith” method accepts an ICandidate and returns an IAppointment. IAppointment has a method “At” which accepts a DateTime parameter and returns void – just changes the data of the appointment. The state of the appointment at creation time would probably be proposed. The appointment object would probably be added to the list of appointments for that interviewer – that’s what will cause it to be persisted automatically.

Later, when the candidate accepts the meeting, we could have the following method on ICandidate – void Accept(IAppointment); that would obviously check that the candidate is the right person for that interview, the appointment’s current state (not cancelled), etc – finally updating its state. What part of this looks like create, update, delete? If that’s what your service layer to domain interaction looks like, do you now know what your messages will be looking like?CRUD seems to be what most of us are familiar with. Moving to domain-driven thinking takes time and practice, but is well worth it. Contrast this with a more traditional O/R mapping solution:

using (ISession session = SessionFactory.OpenSession())
using (ITransaction tx = session.BeginTransaction())
    ICandidateInterviewer interviewer = session.Get<ICandidateInterviewer>(message.InterviewerId);
    ICandidate candidate = session.Get<ICandidate>(message.CandidateId); 

    Appointment a = new Appointment(); 

    a.Interviewer = interviewer; 

    a.Candidate = candidate;

    a.Time = message.RequestedTime; 



As you can see, we’ve got simpler, more expressive, and more testable code when employing the domain model pattern, than using “just” O/R mapping. I’m not saying that the domain model pattern doesn’t need O/R mapping in the background for it to work. But that’s just it – the persistence gunk needs to be in the background and the business logic needs to be encapsulated.

So, while I’ll agree with Dave that the Domain Model is more lifestyle than pattern, I would argue against these conclusions:

If this post had a point, it’s only to share the idea that Domain Model is a big, big thing. It’s probably overkill in a lot of cases where you have simple applications that have very simple purposes.

As you just saw in the example above, there is no “overkill” to be seen. The domain model in the example wasn’t “a big, big thing”.

The domain model. Use it.

Why not have a better lifestyle?   ;-)

WCF Everywhere? Not on my watch.

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

silver bullets The other day I was at Juval’s presentation where the main message was WCF is a better .NET. In other words, if you use WCF on every one of your classes, you’ll benefit. I don’t know about you, but I’m quite wary of silver bullets – they tend to inflict quite a bit of pain when used indiscriminately. This post is my response to all the people who came up to me at the end of the presentation and wanted to know if I agreed with these far-reaching architectural statements.

oz First of all let me say that Juval is indeed a master presenter. The “looks like a class, walks like a class, quacks like a class” bit was excellent. I could tell that most people didn’t notice the speedy hands quickly deleting all attributes from the classes before the “looks like a class…” bit. At times, I got flashbacks from the Wizard of Oz – “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”. If all attributes in WCF only went on the interfaces, then this might actually fly, but we all know that that’s not the case.

One of the interesting comparisons Juval made with WCF was the introduction of .NET. Few people in the audience seemed to remember (or maybe were just professionally younger than .NET’s 8 years), but when it came out .NET was marketed as being mainly about XML Web Services. Juval stated that this was done to play down the fact that .NET made the previous Windows programming technologies obsolete. He then drew the same conclusion about WCF – that it’s as much .NET 3.0 as .NET was the next version of MFC; besides being written in a language that resembles the previous technology, it’s really all different. I don’t think that anyone would argue the difference, but is it really a “plain .NET” killer?

The answer seemed to come around the overhead of WCF – yet Juval deftly deflected that issue with a demo showing WCF doing 200 calls a second. And everybody just bought it – I was shocked. That’s 5ms per call. If you actually take Juval’s advice and use WCF on all your classes, you’ve bought yourself one hell of a performance nightmare. Say you have around 20 of your objects involved in a sequence to handle a user action – not that many actually. With a 5ms lag per object interaction, that user action is going to take 100ms – not including any database or webservice stuff you might be doing. If you do that in a server environment, you’ll be doing roughly 10 concurrent users per core. And that’s not even doing any heavy calculations or anything. Moderately sized systems are running upwards of 1000 concurrent users – if they needed 100 cores (or dozens of servers) for that, I’m guessing that they’d be out of business.

Let’s cut this short – WCF everywhere doesn’t scale, doesn’t perform, isn’t maintainable, or testable either. In other words – don’t do it. I know Juval is a brilliant guy, and an amazing presenter – but I don’t believe he would be employing this with his own clients. This actually bears repeating. WCF is a fine technology for your application’s boundaries, but don’t be pushing it in.

Don’t do it.


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“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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