Alex Hoffman

Perspective on development, management and technology




    IASA Member

July 2006 - Posts


I recently responded to a question on a newsgroup regarding what to use for persisting data - XPO (an Object/Relational Mapper (ORM) tool) or Microsoft's ADO.NET.  The question was from a Delphi developer new to .NET.  For posterity, I've included my response below.

Updated 23-Jul-06: added inline links and a link summary

Fundamentally, ADO.NET is a library that supports access to data. In order to simplify development, ADO.NET includes infrastructure that supports Microsoft's implementation of the disconnected recordset pattern i.e. DataSets.  That pattern is just one way to access data through ADO.NET, and is one that particularly suits simple RAD type applications driven through a tool like Visual Studio.  You don't need to use that pattern, indeed, it is not suited to applications with complex domains - applications that include a business domain layer modeled through objects.

Most .NET applications that use DataSets have no domain layer. Rather there is a triangular relationship between the Presentation/Logic layer, data access and the DataSet as shown below. They are generally modeled in terms of data not behavior - they are not object oriented solutions, but rather data-centric entity type ones.


Nevertheless, one can quickly get a simple application up and running through the visual tools, wizards and code generation found in tools like VS. Essentially just like you could in MS Visual Basic (version 3?) - which is no surprise as the majority of VS users come from a VB RAD background.

That does suit many simple applications, however, as domain complexity rises one needs to look to different patterns to connect the in-memory domain modeled through objects, to persisted data.

But, modeling complexity through objects in the domain layer has the problem that objects don't map well to most persisted data models - whether hierarchical, relational or other.

So the issue is how does one "map" objects to data?

One can look to a number of architectural patterns including Active Record (a la Ruby on Rails) through to data mapping through ORM (object/relational mapping) solutions.

XPO is an ORM tool. It portends to allow one to concentrate on modeling your application through objects, without regards to persistence. It is object-centric unlike popular ORM tools like LLBLGen Pro that is entity-centric and is more suited to the enterprise where schema already exists.

"XPO vs MS ADO.NET for the Delphi Programmer"? The real key is that there is no silver bullet - different patterns and approaches suit different projects.

My advice?  Learn and use both!

Links: Developer Express XPO | LLBLGen Pro | Active Record Pattern (1) (2) (3) | Ruby on Rails | ADO.NET | .NET Definition | ORM

Posted Friday, July 21, 2006 11:43 AM by Alex Hoffman | with no comments

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Our Industry's Dark Side?

It's generally acknowleged that bringing a non-trivial software project to a successful conclusion is problematic.  Sadly statistics confirm that few projects can be regarded as successful when one strictly applies the criteria that a successful project is one that is delivered on time, on budget and to specification.  Delays, budget overruns and the delivery of solutions that aren't actually of value to stakeholders are common symptoms.

Most commonly people point to issues with the determination and management of "requirements".  Certainly issues related to requirements engineering and the mismanagement of stakeholder expectations is at the core of most project failures. It's exceedingly rare that a project is jeopardised because of an inability to solve a technical issue.

Why this tour of the dark side of our industry?

Well, I've recently been exposed to (yet another) large problematic project that well meets the above definition of failure.  The reason for that projects' issues are standard - no communicated project charter (vision and scope), no management of requirements or expectations, no attention to control, process or quality, no competent leadership.  Truly an adhoc, anarchic CMM Level 1 (see pdf page 11) development environment evidenced by the organisations inability to ever deliver a single release to customers as advertised and scheduled.

My prescription in such circumstances?  Replace fire those in positions of authority and put in place competent professional management and technical resources that can adopt and put in place standard industry (best) practice.

What would you recommend?

Update: 30-Jul-06: It has been announced that new external senior management is to be brought in to oversee operations.

Posted Thursday, July 20, 2006 3:19 PM by Alex Hoffman | with no comments

Quote of the Week

"BPM is SOA’s killer application, while SOA is BPM’s enabling infrastructure." - Ismael Ghalimi

Posted Monday, July 17, 2006 6:49 PM by Alex Hoffman | with no comments

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