donderdag 2 februari 2006

Business Objects Framework - Part 3: Lazy Loading

This is the 3rd part of my 'Business Objects' serie. In this article, I'll discuss the LazyLoadCollection. (Part 1 and 2 can be found here and here.

Introduction


Suppose you have a class Customer. This Customer class has collection of 'Orders'. Each Order contains a collection of OrderLines.
Now, if you retrieve one or more Customers out of the database, it is maybe not such a good idea that you retrieve all the Orders and OrderLines with it. It is probable that the user is not interested in all the orders or all the orderlines of each customer that you have retrieved.
If you do this, it means that a lot of objects will be loaded into memory; objects you might not need.
Therefore, it is sometimes a good idea to load this information only when you need it. In the scenario I've described here, I think it is a good idea that, when you load a Customer out of the database you should also get his Orders.
In most cases, you want to have an overview of the Orders of a Customer. This means that you will need the Orders of the Customer in most of the cases.
However, you're only interested in the OrderLines of an Order, once you decide to view the details of an Order. Here, you should only retrieve the OrderLines out of the database, when they're needed. This is where the Lazy Loading comes in.

The LazyBusinessObjectCollection class


The Lazy Load functionality must be transparant to the user of our Order class. This means that, the user must be able to Add, Remove and see the OrderLines of an Order just like he/she can do with a normal collection class.
Even if the OrderLines of an Order have not been loaded yet, it must be possible that OrderLines are being added.

So, how can we do that ? The Proxy Design Pattern offers us a way to do that.
Instead of giving the Order class a 'real collection' as a member to hold it's orderlines, we will give it a proxy object that acts as a collection.

This means that we must create a class that has all functionality of a collection. The easy way to do so, is to create a class that is a wrapper around a Collection object, and acts as a Collection as well.
We can create a class that is a wrapper around the BusinessObjectCollection class that we've created earlier. This wrapper class must also implement the ICollection interface so that it can act as a collection. We also want Undo-support, so this class must implement our IUndoable interface as well.

The skeleton of our LazyBusinessObjectCollection will look like this:
[Serializable]
public class LazyBusinessObjectCollection<T> : IUndoable, ICollection<T>
where T : BusinessObject
{
}


Earlier, I said that the LazyBusinessObjectCollection class would be a wrapper around the BusinessObjectCollection class. This means that the LazyBusinessObjectCollection class should have a member of type BusinessObjectCollection.
[Serializable]
public class LazyBusinessObjectCollection<T> : IUndoable, ICollection<T>
where T : BusinessObject
{
private BusinessObjectCollection _collection = null;

private BusinessObjectCollection CollectionObj
{
if( _collection == null )
{
// initialize and load the items.
}
return _collection;
}

}

I've also created a property that accesses the BusinessObjectCollection member. This property should be used everytime we access our BusinessObjectCollection from within the LazyBusinessObjectCollection class, since this property will take care that the BusinessObjectCollection is loaded if this is necessary.

To be able to populate the collection, we need something that can loads the data for us. We want to decouple the LazyBusinessObjectCollection from the code that retrieves the items for us, since, this 'data retrieval code' will be most likely in some kind of Data Access Layer.

So, I decided to create an interface ILazyLoader
This interface looks like this:
public interface ILazyLoader<T> where T : BusinessObject
{
List<T> GetObjects();
}


This interface defines only one method that gives us a list of BusinessObjects. This means that the class that implements this interface is responsible for retrieving and returning the BusinessObjects.

So, we can give an ILazyLoader to our LazyBusinessCollection class. This ILazyLoader can be provided by the constructor of the LazyBusinessObjectsCollection class, and the property that we've created earlier, can access the GetObjects method which will give the Objects that the collection must contain:

[Serializable]
public class LazyBusinessObjectCollection<T> : IUndoable, ICollection<T>
where T : BusinessObject
{
private BusinessObjectCollection _collection = null;
private ILazyLoader<T> _loader;

private BusinessObjectCollection CollectionObj
{
if( _collection == null )
{
_collection = new BusinessObjectCollection<T> ();

foreach( T item in _loader.GetObjects () )
{
_collection.Add (item);
}
}
return _collection;
}

public BusinessObjectCollection( ILazyLoader<T> loader )
{
if( loader == null )
{
throw new ArgumentException ("You must provide an ILazyLoader",
"loader");
}
_loader = loader;
}

}


Pretty simple huh ?

Now, an ILazyLoader can look like this:
public OrderLinesLoader : ILazyLoader<OrderLine>
{
private int _orderId;

public OrderLinesLoader( int orderId )
{
_orderId = orderId;
}

public List<OrderLine> GetObjects()
{
// Just for simplicity of the example, normally, you should
// use parametrized queries, etc.... Consider this as pseudo-code
string sql = "SELECT * FROM orderlines " +
"WHERE OrderId = " + _orderId.ToString();

DataReader dr = dbHelper.Execute (sql);
List<OrderLine> lines = new List<OrderLine>();
while( dr.Read() )
{
OrderLine ol = CreateOrderLineFromReader (dr);
lines.Add (ol);
}

return lines;
}
}


So, the repository or factory who gives us an Order object, is responsible for initializing the OrderLines member -which is an LazyBusinessObjectsCollection of the Order class.

We still have to implement the ICollection and IUndoable interface. I will not put the implementation of the ICollection interface here to save some space; besides, it is pretty simple code: you can just delegate these calls to the BusinessObjectCollection property (note: make sure to use the property) of the LazyBusinessObjectCollection class.
The same applies to the implementation of IUndoable: just delegate the calls to the BusinessObjectCollection. However, here we can use the field instead of the property, since we only have to delegate these calls if the collection has been loaded:
public void CreateSnapshot()
{
if( _collection != null )
{
_collection.CreateSnapshot ();
}
}

...

5 opmerkingen:

Thomas Jaeger zei

Do you have the complete code available for download that includes all 3 parts?

Frederik Gheysels zei

Hi,

Well, I’ve never had the intention to make the code available for download. This was just a little project for me, and I haven’t used it in a real application yet, so I also do not know how robust it is. Maybe I will make it available in the future…. But I can’t garantuee.

Nate Kohari zei

Excellent post. I'm working to implement a similar framework right now (also based on CSLA.NET). One alteration you might make to the "lazy load" mechanism is to use a generic delegate (like LoadCallback<TBusinessObject>) rather than an interface. It might be a little more flexible and you could avoid the code-bloat associated with the load mechanism.

Just a thought!

Guppy zei

Just interested in knowing how your framework has faired now that I assume you've had a chance to use it in anger?

Also following on from this, have you thought about posting the code?

Frederik Gheysels zei

Hi, thx for your interest.

To be honest, I haven't looked very much at this framework anymore. I've been looking more at O/R frameworks like NHibernate lately, to see how to integrate it in projects.
The advantage of NHibernate is that it takes care of all the things that I was planning to implement in this framework.
I'll see if I can find something where I can host the code.