Using View-Models with Repository pattern

c# ef-code-first entity-framework repository viewmodel


I'm using Domain driven N-layered application architecture with EF code first in my recent project, I defined my Repository contracts, In Domain layer. A basic contract to make other Repositories less verbose:

public interface IRepository<TEntity, in TKey> where TEntity : class
   TEntity GetById(TKey id);
   void Create(TEntity entity);
   void Update(TEntity entity);
   void Delete(TEntity entity);

And specialized Repositories per each Aggregation root, e.g:

public interface IOrderRepository : IRepository<Order, int>
    IEnumerable<Order> FindAllOrders();
    IEnumerable<Order> Find(string text);
    //other methods that return Order aggregation root

As you see, all of these methods depend on Domain entities. But in some cases, an application's UI, needs some data that isn't Entity, that data may made from two or more enteritis's data(View-Models), in these cases, I define the View-Models in Application layer, because they are closely depend on an Application's needs and not to the Domain.

So, I think I have 2 way's to show data as View-Models in the UI:

  1. Leave the specialized Repository depends on Entities only, and map the results of Repositories's method to View-Models when I want to show to user(in Application Layer usually).
  2. Add some methods to my specialized Repositories that return their results as View-Models directly, and use these returned values, in Application Layer and then UI(these specialized Repositories's contracts that I call them Readonly Repository Contracts, put in Application Layer unlike the other Repositories'e contract that put in Domain). enter image description here

Suppose, my UI needs a View-Model with 3 or 4 properties(from 3 or 4 big Entities). It's data could be generate with simple projection, but in case 1, because my methods could not access to View-Models, I have to fetch all the fields of all 3 or 4 tables with sometimes, huge joins, and then map the results to View-Models. But, in case 2, I could simply use projection and fill the View-Models directly.

So, I think in performance point of view, the case 2 is better than case 1. but I read that Repository should depend on Entities and not View-Models in design point of view.

Is there any better way that does not cause the Domain Layer depend on the Application layer, and also doesn't hit the performance? or is it acceptable that for reading queries, my Repositories depend on View-Models?(case2)

5/11/2014 7:45:05 AM

Accepted Answer

Perhaps using the command-query separation (at the application level) might help a bit.

You should make your repositories dependent on entities only, and keep only the trivial retrieve method - that is, GetOrderById() - on your repository (along with create / update / merge / delete, of course). Imagine that the entities, the repositories, the domain services, the user-interface commands, the application services that handles those commands (for example, a certain web controller that handles POST requests in a web application etc.) represents your write model, the write-side of your application.

Then build a separate read model that could be as dirty as you wish - put there the joins of 5 tables, the code that reads from a file the number of stars in the Universe, multiplies it with the number of books starting with A (after doing a query against Amazon) and builds up a n-dimensional structure that etc. - you get the idea :) But, on the read-model, do not add any code that deals with modifying your entities. You are free to return any View-Models you want from this read model, but do trigger any data changes from here.

The separation of reads and writes should decrease the complexity of the program and make everything a bit more manageable. And you may also see that it won't break the design rules you have mentioned in your question (hopefully).

From a performance point of view, using a read model, that is, writing the code that reads data separately from the code that writes / changes data is as best as you can get :) This is because you can even mangle some SQL code there without sleeping bad at night - and SQL queries, if written well, will give your application a considerable speed boost.

Nota bene: I was joking a bit on what and how you can code your read side - the read-side code should be as clean and simple as the write-side code, of course :)

Furthermore, you may get rid of the generic repository interface if you want, as it just clutters the domain you are modeling and forces every concrete repository to expose methods that are not necessary :) See this. For example, it is highly probable that the Delete() method would never be used for the OrderRepository - as, perhaps, Orders should never be deleted (of course, as always, it depends). Of course you can keep the database-row-managing primitives in a single module and reuse those primitives in your concrete repositories, but to not expose those primitives to anyone else but the implementation of the repositories - simply because they are not needed anywhere else and may confuse a drunk programmer if publicly exposed.

Finally, perhaps it would be also beneficial to not think about Domain Layer, Application Layer, Data Layer or View Models Layer in a too strict manner. Please read this. Packaging your software modules by their real-world meaning / purpose (or feature) is a bit better than packaging them based on an unnatural, hard-to-understand, hard-to-explain-to-a-5-old-kid criterion, that is, packaging them by layer.

4/29/2014 9:13:20 PM

Popular Answer

I Kindof agree with Pedro here. using a application service layer could be benificial. if your aiming for an MVVM type of implementation i would advise to create a Model class that is responsible for holding the data that is retrieved using the service layer. Mapping the data with automapper is a really good idea if your entities, DTO's and models are named consistently (so you don't have to write a lot of manual mappings).

In my experience using your entities/poco in viewmodels to display data will result in big balls of mud. Different views have different needs en will all add a need to add more properties to an entity. Slowly making your queries more complex and slower.

if your data is not changing that often you might want to consider introducing (sql/database) views that will transfer some of the heavy lifting to the database (where it is highly optimized). EF handles database views fairly well. Then retrieving the entity and mapping the data (from the views) to the model or DTO becomes fairly straightforward.

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