Friday, 21 March 2008

I'm working hard on bringing a couple of my projects together that will enable domainobjects on the client without Entity Framework references. I thought I'd give a small update on how that's working out for me.

The endresult

What I want is one visual studio project: 'Domain' that holds business objects for me that I can use on both the client and the server. What I do not want, is to have to think about EntityFramework contexts on the client. Since I do not persist my objects on the client, I see no reason to actually create a context on the client, just to be able to do changetracking. Nor do I want to see any EF specific plumbing in the messages between that client and server: I lose interoperability if I do that. Also, if my client is Silverlight (for instance) I might not want to bring the EF assemblies over (if that's even possible?).

So, the endresult should be an easy way to serialize and deserialize objects on the client and server, and a way to build up the object correctly on the server so it can be attached to the context again.

Please check Daniel's EntityBag sample for a very sophisticated way of serializing your context. He does go down the route of serializing the objectcontext, which does mean you need the entityframework on the client. Read about his motivations for doing this here.

Let's see it

I'll first show some code and then walk you through it.

  0    using (OneSimpleType.OneSimpleTypeConnection context = new OneSimpleType.OneSimpleTypeConnection())
  1    {
  2     // clear out database
  3     foreach (OneSimpleType.Person old in context.Person)
  4     {
  5      context.DeleteObject(old);
  6     }
  7     context.SaveChanges();
  8    }
  10    OneSimpleType.Person p = new OneSimpleType.Person { Firstname = "Ruurd", Lastname = "Boeke" };
  11    IEditableBusinessObject ep = p as IEditableBusinessObject;
  12    string MsgOnWire = "";
  14    using (OneSimpleType.OneSimpleTypeConnection context = new OneSimpleType.OneSimpleTypeConnection())
  15    {
  16     context.AddToPerson(p);
  17     context.SaveChanges();  // at this point, there should be 'original values'
  19     // the server is changing the object without yet saving
  20     p.Firstname = "ServerChanged";
  22     // now we need to create a version of the object that can be serialized well
  23     p = (OneSimpleType.Person)context.CreateSerializableVersion(p);
  25     DataContractSerializer s = new DataContractSerializer(p.GetType(), null, int.MaxValue, false, false, new SubstituteDomainDataContractSurrogate());
  27     MsgOnWire = GetWellFormedToContract(p, s);
  29    }
  31    // imagine we are the client getting a message and deserializing it
  32    DataContractSerializer s2 = new DataContractSerializer(typeof(OneSimpleType.Person), null, int.MaxValue, false, false, new SubstituteDomainDataContractSurrogate());
  33    StringReader reader = new StringReader(MsgOnWire);
  34    XmlReader xreader = XmlReader.Create(reader);
  35    OneSimpleType.Person p2 = (OneSimpleType.Person)s2.ReadObject(xreader);
  37    // edit something on the client
  38    p2.Lastname = "ClientChanged";
  41    // we have edited everything, let's get back to the server
  42    s2 = new DataContractSerializer(typeof(OneSimpleType.Person), null, int.MaxValue, false, false, new SubstituteDomainDataContractSurrogate());
  43    MsgOnWire = GetWellFormedToContract(p2, s2);
  45    // we're at the server
  46    using (OneSimpleType.OneSimpleTypeConnection context = new OneSimpleType.OneSimpleTypeConnection())
  47    {
  48     DataContractSerializer s3 = new DataContractSerializer(typeof(OneSimpleType.Person), null, int.MaxValue, false, false, new SubstituteDomainDataContractSurrogate());
  49     StringReader reader3 = new StringReader(MsgOnWire);
  50     XmlReader xreader3 = XmlReader.Create(reader3);
  51     OneSimpleType.Person p3 = (OneSimpleType.Person)s3.ReadObject(xreader3);
  53     context.AttachedDeserializedVersion(p3, "Person");
  55     context.SaveChanges();
  56    }

We start out on the serverside.
On line 17, we have just saved an object to the database. 
We continue using that (attached, and thus changetracked) object and change a property (just for the fun of it).
On line 27 we serialize it like you've seen me do in previous posts.

On line 32, we pretend to be on the client, which uses the message to deserialize to a compatible type. Note, that this type does not need to be 'IPoco' enhanced. It does need to be enhanced for serialization and editing.

We change a property 'on the client' on line 38. Notice that this object does not have a context attached at all.
At line 43 we have once again serialized this new object and on line 46 we pretend to be on the server again.

There we create a new context and deserialize our message to an object. Then we call an extension method of context to attach this version to the context. Note that I have to pass the setname (working on somehow getting to this information differently).
Finally we save.

Only the changed properties are flagged as dirty, so efficient SQL can be generated by EF.

The extension method is shown here:

  0   public static void AttachedDeserializedVersion(this ObjectContext context, object source, string setname)
  1   {
  2    // TODO: how to get setname from metadata or something
  4    Debug.Assert(source is IEntityWithKey);
  5    Debug.Assert(source is IEditableBusinessObject);
  7    IEditableBusinessObject eS = (IEditableBusinessObject)source;
  9    // we go to the loaded state
  10    eS.SetReadMode(ReadMode.Loaded);
  14    string fullEntitySetName = context.DefaultContainerName + "." + setname;
  16    EntityKey createdKey = context.GetEntityKey(fullEntitySetName, source);
  17    ((IEntityWithKey)source).EntityKey = createdKey;
  19    // attach this version
  20    context.Attach((IEntityWithKey)source);
  22    eS.ReplayLoadedToNormal();
  24    eS.SetReadMode(ReadMode.Normal);
  27   }

You see I have quite a bit of functionality in the IEditableBusinessObject interface.

The deserialized version of the object has a 'loaded' state (or better: original state) and a 'current' state. Before attaching at line 20, I first set my object to be in 'original' mode. Then I have a replay method that will compare the current values to the loaded versions and touch the setters of the properties of the changed versions. This notifies the changetracker of EF to flag a property as dirty.

This all works fine, but both code and api are pretty crude. I have no complextype or relationshiptype support, but that will come, if I don't run into major problems along the way.

I hope you are as excited about this as I am. Let me know!

Sunday, 23 March 2008 16:47:19 (Romance Standard Time, UTC+01:00)

I'm very interested in your approach to omitting the requirement for Entity Framework on the Client and serializing EditableBusinessObjects with original values and circular references.

Keep up the good work!


Monday, 24 March 2008 16:22:08 (Romance Standard Time, UTC+01:00)
Hi Roger,

thanks! I'll hope to find some time this week to get the code ready for a release.
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