Tuesday, March 24, 2009

NHibernate and Complex Types for Native Keys

Primary keys may take several forms: guid, integer, long, etc. It often makes sense to represent the key field as a POCO rather than it's native type.

Why would I do this?

First, it hides the implementation. I don't have to worry about whether the key is an integer or a long, instead, I interact with my complex type.

It allows me to do some more interesting things with a key, too. For example, let's say I did choose to use identity fields (integers) so one implementation of my key is a "CoreKey" that contains an "ID" of type Integer.

It is common to see people use 0 or -1 as a "null" or "uninitialized" value for this type of key. With my class, I can do a little more and define it like this:

    /// <summary>
    ///     CoreKey provides the unique identifier for classes in the system
    /// </summary>
    [Serializable]
    public class CoreKey : IComparable<CoreKey>, IEquatable<CoreKey>, ICloneable 
    {
        /// <summary>
        ///     Represents value when not initialized
        /// </summary>
        private const int NOT_INITIALIZED = -1;

        /// <summary>
        ///     Unique identifier
        /// </summary>
        public int ID { get; set; }

        /// <summary>
        ///     Represents an "empty" or unitialized key
        /// </summary>
        public static CoreKey Empty
        {
            get
            {
                return new CoreKey(NOT_INITIALIZED); 
            }
        }

        /// <summary>
        ///     Default -1
        /// </summary>
        public CoreKey()
        {
            ID = NOT_INITIALIZED;
        }

        /// <summary>
        ///     Initialize with id
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name="id">The unique identifier</param>
        public CoreKey(int id)
        {
            ID = id;
            _Initialize();
        }

        /// <summary>
        ///     Initializes properties to valid values
        /// </summary>
        private void _Initialize()
        {
            if (ID <= 0)
            {
                ID = NOT_INITIALIZED;
            }
        }

        /// <summary>
        ///     Tests to see whether the key is initialized
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name="coreKey">The instance of <seealso cref="CoreKey"/> to test</param>
        /// <returns>True if null or empty</returns>
        public static bool IsNullOrEmpty(CoreKey coreKey)
        {
            return coreKey == null || coreKey.ID.Equals(NOT_INITIALIZED);
        }

        /// <summary>
        ///     Attempt to parse a value to the key. Returns true if the
        ///     attempt succeeded.
        /// </summary>
        /// <param name="value">The value to try to case as a key</param>
        /// <param name="coreKey">A <seealso cref="CoreKey"/>instance to case the value to</param>
        /// <returns>True if the cast succeeded</returns>
        public static bool TryParse(string value, out CoreKey coreKey)
        {
            bool retVal = false; 

            int id; 
            if (int.TryParse(value, out id))
            {
                coreKey = new CoreKey(id);
                retVal = true;
            }
            else
            {
                coreKey = null;
            }

            return retVal; 
        }

Notice that when I create a key (CoreKey key = new CoreKey()) it is immediately initialized to CoreKey.Empty, a special value I can check for. Instead of "if id < 1" I can use "CoreKey.IsNullOrEmpty" and I can even TryParse this.

This is all and well until you try to wire the class into NHibernate. The classic example for an NHibernate mapping file goes something like this:


<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<nhibernate-mapping xmlns="urn:nhibernate-mapping-2.2">
  <class name="MyApp.Widget,MyApp" table="widgets">
    <id name="Id" column="WidgetId">
      <generator class="native"/>
    </id>
    <property name="WidgetName" column="name" type="String" length="40"/>
  </class>
</nhibernate-mapping>

That's all good and well, but our widget uses a CoreKey, right? So what now? Try to reference the type, and you start to have problems:

<id name="Id" column="WidgetId" type="Framework.CoreKey,MyApp"/>

Of course, this will blow up. Why? Because the type coming from the database is an integer, and our CoreKey is NOT an integer. So what do we do?

This seems like it should be a simple problem to solve, but I searched far and wide to find a solution. I was trying components and composite keys and everything in between. I finally found an example that mentioned using the special interface IUserType supplied by NHibernate to, well, create our own types.

Unfortunately, the example included referencing NHibernate, my "persistence engine" or data layer, and then applying the interface to my domain object ("business entity"). Can you imagine dirtying your entity layer with ugly references to the implementation of your data store? Shouldn't, couldn't, and wouldn't happen.

Fortunately, the solution was rather simple and straightforward. Thanks to C# and inheritance, my domain objects only have to know about a CoreKey. However, my data layer can interact with something smarter, something that implements the IUserType interface AND talks the language of CoreKey.

Introducing CoreKeyProxy, an object defined in the data layer of the application. Here is the meat ... I've edited out comments and some of the other methods, and included the key items that map the database values to the custom type:

   public class CoreKeyProxy : CoreKey, IUserType
    {

        public object NullSafeGet(System.Data.IDataReader rs, string[] names, object owner)
        {
            object r = rs[names[0]];
            if (r == DBNull.Value)
                return null;
            return new CoreKey((int)r);  
        }

        public void NullSafeSet(System.Data.IDbCommand cmd, object value, int index)
        {
            IDataParameter parameter = (IDataParameter)cmd.Parameters[index];
            parameter.Value = value == null ? null : (object)((CoreKey)value).ID;  
        }


        public Type ReturnedType
        {
            get { return typeof(CoreKey); }
        }

        public global::NHibernate.SqlTypes.SqlType[] SqlTypes
        {
            get { return new[] { new SqlType(DbType.Int32) }; }
        }

    }

Now I simply define my id as type="CoreKeyProxy" and voila! I'm able to integrate it seamless with my key class.

Jeremy Likness

No comments:

Post a Comment