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Past Mistakes - ORMs and Bounded Contexts

Sticking with the theme of documenting past mistakes, it's worth expanding a real life scenario where I was unaware of the use of bounded contexts and fully understanding the tools you use.

Ignoring a Bounded Context

A fellow developer set upon a quest to rid numerous projects of duplicated records, which was effectively the active record pattern. This was a huge under taking split across hundreds of thousands of lines of code, over numerous separate projects. Close to completing the task I assisted and finally the shared library containing a single record for each type was complete. Each project now referenced the shared copy. This was versioned as each build was completed.

For a while this worked with no problems. It certainly felt nice to see the reduction in duplicated code. Sadly sometime later myself and another developer made a seemingly innocent change. In terms of relation, the change was as far removed from the production error that we had just been alerted to was. There was no link. It was a different project, in a different path, on a different model. The only commonality was the fact the issue only occurred after the previous deploy.

ORMs and Changes

Several minutes of panic later, the problem was spotted. While the model we had changed had no direct relation, indirectly there was. As each record was loaded by the ORM in question, links and dependencies where also loaded or checked. So were the children's links and dependencies. Finally this would hit the newly changed record. Due to the database changing ahead of the library, numerous other projects now had a runtime error. As we naively believed we were only working within a single project, we deployed the changes within the one project. As the library was shared, all other projects were now vulnerable.

This lack of bounded context, and focusing on removal of duplication was not the only lesson here. This issue painfully highlighted the need and importance to know exactly what your tools are doing, especially when they are hidden behind the scenes. In fact, my use of ORMs other than micro-ORMs is next to non existent at present.

Lessons

  • Use bounded contexts.
  • Favour loose coupling, over reduced duplication.
  • Anything shared must be deployed and tested as a single unit, otherwise remove the shared component.
  • ORMs (or other tools) should be understand and respected.

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