CategorySoftware Architecture

Don’t worry, Heimdall will watch over all your microservices.

TL;DR : I wrote a service registry tool, named Heimdall, go and fork it!

Long version: almost every time I am working on a piece of code I get stuck on something and after a while I get new ideas for new projects. This may lead to a huge number of useless git repos, each one with a partially functional software, but it also pushes me to work on new things each day.

This time I was working on a super-secret project (that I will of course share very soon) based on a nice microservices architecture and I soon realized I needed some kind of Service Registry. The project was quite small so I was not really interested in a complex tool like a router with load balancing functions or similia so I decided to code the thing myself.

For the ones of you that don’t know what a Service Registry is and what it does, allow me to give you some context.
Imagine you’re a client that needs to consume some APIs. You could of course use a configuration file for storing the endpoints but in case you’re cloud-based, urls can change often.

Also, what if you want some nice features like multiple instances, autoscaling and load balancing?

The answer is simple: use a registry! 

Every service will register itself during initialization, allowing clients to query the registry and know the endpoint (possibly the best one).

I found this concept pretty useful so I decided to create a poor man’s version myself, using ASP.NET Core, MongoDB and React and I named it Heimdall, the guardian god of the Norse mythology .
The list of features for now is very scarce, you can just register a service, add/remove endpoints and query, but I have a full roadmap ready 🙂

Oh and I also added help pages using Swagger !

Command Handlers return values in CQRS

I have recently came across this very interesting blog post by Jimmy Bogard ( the guy behind Mediatr, if you don’t know him). Talking about CQRS, he makes a good point about how the user should be informed of the result of a Command execution.

Should the Command Handler return a value?
Should the Command Handler throw an exception?

These are just some of the strategies we may take, another option could be just logging the operation and forget anything happened. Whatever.

A while ago I blogged about how to validate the Commands and ensure the data passed to the Command Handler is valid. This is the strategy I’m adopting in my projects lately. Why? Several reasons: first of all I want to keep Command execution separated from the validation, also Commands should be some sort of “fire and forget” operations. Let me clarify this a little bit.
In my opinion Command execution should be a boolean operation: the system can either execute it or not. Stop. I should be able to know ahead if a Command can be executed and that’s the validation phase. If I finally manage to get to the Handler, I know that the data I have is valid and I can run Command. No need to return a “true”.

So what should I do to make all the pieces fit?

  1. Use the Decorator pattern to ensure each Command Handler executes some sort of validation
  2. Analyze the Command and check its validity against business rules or anything else you want
  3. the Validator gives back a Validation result containing a (hopefully empty) list of errors
  4. in case something went wrong, throw a specialized Exception, for example something like this

Since most of the projects I am working on lately is composed of some sort of Web API based on .NET Core, I decided to create an Exception Filter that will eventually return to the user a JSON object with the details of the validation.

 

Bonus
Some of you may have noticed that some of the links in this post point to this Github repository, LibCore. It’s a small set of utilities I am writing, mantaining and using in my projects. I thought it would be useful to share the sources, maybe just to hear comments from the community. Food for thought.

Unit testing MongoDB in C# part 4: the tests, finally

More than a year. Wow, that’s a lot, even for me! In the last episode of this series we discussed about how to create the Factories for our Repositories. I guess now it’s time to put an use to all those interfaces and finally see how to unit test our MongoDB repositories 🙂

Remember: we are not testing the driver here. The MongoDB team is responsible for that. Not us. 

What we have to do instead is to make sure all our classes follow the SOLID principles and are testable. This way we can create a fake implementation of the low level data access layer and inject it in the classes we have to test. Stop.

Let’s have a look at the code:

In our little example here I am testing a CQRS Command Handler, the one responsible for creating a user. Our handler has an IDbContext as dependency, which being an interface allows us to use the Moq Nuget package to create a fake context implementation. 

Also, we have to instruct the mockDbContext instance to return a mock User Repository every time we access the .Users property.

At this point all we have to do is to create the sut, execute the method we want to test and Verify() our expectations. 

Let’s make a more interesting example now:

Now that we have created the user, we may want also to update some of his details. The idea here is to instruct the mockRepo instance to return a specific user every time the FinstOneAsync method is executed.

Again, now we just need to verify the expectations and we’re done!

Note that in this case we are making an assumption about the inner mechanism of the Handle() method of the UpdateUserHandler class. Personally I tend to stick with Black Box Testing, but sometimes (eg. now) you might be forced to use White Box Testing instead. If you don’t know what I am talking about, there’s a nice article here you may want to read.

 

CQRS: on Commands and Validation part 2: the base handler

Last time we discussed how to use the Decorator pattern to validate our Commands. The approach works fine but while using it I started feeling something strange. It can be probably considered an elegant solution but there’s something missing, like a code smell.

What is the problem? Easy: how can you tell if you are really running the validation? What if you just “forget” to register the decorator? Nah, you need it.

Also, a better use for decorators should be all those cross cutting concerns like logging, tracing and so on.

Another very simple solution is to use a base class for the Command Handlers that takes an instance of IValidator as optional dependency and consumes it right before executing the command:

as you can see in this case the validator returns a “result” object that exposes a boolean status flag and a list of errors that may have occurred.
If the validation fails a specific exception is thrown, containing the list of errors.

If instead everything is ok, the protected method RunCommand() is executed, and that’s the only thing you have to implement in your Command Handlers 🙂

CQRS: on Commands and Validation

Let’s have a quick discussion about CQRS. There’s a lot to say to be honest, so let’s try to focus on just one thing today: validating your Commands (who knows, I could start a series after this, we’ll see).

The idea is simple: how can I make sure that the data I am passing to my Command Handler is valid?

Also, what is the definition of “valid” ?

There are several aspect to take in consideration, several “levels” of validation. I could just make sure the Command object is not null and/or the data it contains is not empty. Or I could run the validation against some kind of context and check the application Business Rules.

As you can imagine, having different levels means that we could have different implementations scattered in various places/layers of our architecture. For example I could have the API Controller (or whatever outmost layer you have) check for null and perform some Business Context validation later, before or directly in the Command Handler.

In my last project however, I decided to keep things simple and keep my validation in just one place.

Initially the right spot was the Command Handler itself, but of course this would have violated the SRP.

A quick and immediate solution was to have a separate instance of a IValidator<TCommand> injected in the handler. Easy.

Then I realised that my handlers are more “close to the metal” than expected: in most of the cases they access directly the DAL (passing through some kind of IDbContext) and I didn’t wanted to rewrite the call to the IValidator in case I had to switch the persistence layer.

Luckily enough, there’s a nice pattern that came into rescue: the Decorator! As explained very clearly on the SimpleInjector docs, you can create a ValidationCommandHandlerDecorator class, inject an IValidator<TCommand> and let your IoC do the rest.

Maaaaagic.

Bonus tip: in some cases you may want to skip completely the validation. Maybe you have a very good reason or maybe you’re just lazy. Whatever.

In this case, all you have to do is to write some kind of NullValidator<TCommand> class and instruct your IoC to use it when a specific validator is missing for that Command.

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