Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Talking about DSL

Originally Published on March 11th, 2008 @ 07:30:36 pm

Back after several months!
It is incredible the amount of work a change in your job position brings in its tail!

But for now, let's talk about the title.

I was recently reading a great blog from Michael Stal (which I'm adding to the interesting blog's section). The latest post is referring to Domain Specific Languages (DSL).

It is interesting, the list of examples of what can be considered a DSL. Being as attached to formality as I’m, my take is on the D and the L of the acronym.

First, it should be Domain driven. That means this “tool” will work inside a domain scope, referring to the elements that make sense inside that domain. If used as a communicator (as I will explain later) the reader may have knowledge in that domain. For instance, if you explain your solution to a manager in terms of resources, time and cost.

The second is the language constraint. That is, DSL is a language: a grammar and a vocabulary (plus maybe rules to expand that vocabulary). The language is used to describe things in sentences. Those things could be the problem or even the solution. That description can be read, understood and even executed.

I recall a very old issue of Dr. Dobbs that talked about mini-languages (or was it micro-languages?) that were script languages in essence. An example was the MS Excel macro language of that time. Specifically, the macro language had the typical constructions for conditions and loops, but the vocabulary was focused on cells, rows and columns, selections and texts, formulas and styles. The Domain was very explicit. It also mentioned another languages, some derived from C. those where subsets of the C language with some tweaks. Were those DSLs too?

Probably no one will say C or Java is not a language, so we have the L from the DSL combo. Now, which is the Domain for a language like Java or C? Or even for those little subsets of C? I guess we can find one, very broad, but it will not fit into the idea of specifying a particular domain and focusing on it. Thus, my bet is no, they are not DSL.

Now, let’s go a little further: people use DSL all the time! I’ve known programmers everywhere that use encodings in strings. Have you done that? A string that contains a list of values separated by a “separator” (colon?) and the first value is the code of the operations, the other values means something and such? Have you hear of the interpreter pattern? Those are DLS in a String! Micro DSLs, something executable and some other time just to display.

Wait, here is another point: Does this DSL need to be executed? It may not! Actually, a language is to describe things. ADL (to describe architectures) will no be executable (probably). So they may be just to describe, to be “Human-Interpreted” languages (it may also be machine readable to validate it, but that may not be a requirement). What about a VDL (View Description Language ) that will allow the architects to describe the viewpoint of a solution in a language in the stakeholder domain ? It may be graphical, but not required. It can be a simple subset of natural language. Let’s invent the DSD (Domain Specific Dictionary) as a glossary for the DSL vocabulary.

The example that just comes to my mind is Bool’s language. It has some symbols, but when you read them is sounds like natural language, but focused on logic! A AND B OR C IMPLIES D.


Reference: Talking about DSL

WSDL 2.0 - a REST Friendly Language

Originally posted 07/20/07 @ 12:47:55 pm

W3C has published the Web Services Description Language (WSDL) Version 2.0 Recommendation. That means we can talk about a new standard now.

From history, you can recall SOAP was not a standard by committee but a de facto one, and WSDL 1.1 was a member submission done by Microsoft and IBM. Seven years later, WSDL 2.0 comes to see the light.

I mentioned before in this blog that WSDL offered four types of messaging, a combination of style/encoding parameters. There was an RPC style, and a Document Style, and for a backward compatibility, RPC could be Encoded or Literal.

Also, WSDL allowed a extension to define the transport, but it was just to say we were going to use HTTP, and that to send a SOAP structure as its payload. It was fixed to use the POST method, and it was also fixed the headers contents and such. Not much flexibility.

Well, WSDL 2.0 changes that. It now offers only one style: document. With that you can simulate your RPC calls if you want. Also, it allows to define the content of the document using an XML Schema, but that doesn't mean you will be sending XML through the wire (more on this later)!
But it doesn't stop there. WSDL 2.0 expands significantly the HTTP binding spec. Now you can specify if using GET instead of POST, indicate if you want you parameters (defined in the schema in types, remember?) to be encoded in the URL! Even, you can indicate that you want multi-part messages!

How friendly is that to REST? Keep on reading...

I know. Most of the REST community may hate anything that has to do with Web Services using its standards. But I feel that enterprise systems should not go in the wild with the REST complexity. Which complexity? you may say, if REST is the easiest thing. Well, yes and no. It is simple, but not easy. Everything has a complex component, and in REST it is the process of manually reading the contract and creating the interaction in code.

Yes, it is ok for simple parameter passing (two or three) even for some simple XML documents. But if you need to work with very complex XML and interactions, there may be a problem. Enterprise services may not be two or three parameters, and it may not be fine grained services. A way to describe all that so developers free themselves of understanding and coding XML to start thinking in business logic and processes, is a plus.

Will WSDL 2.0 that allows complex and simple things to be described, be a choice for that need of description? Who knows. What I know is that WSDL 2.0 seems to allow more Restful services descriptions, where they apply.

For more information about WSDL 2.0, please read the primer
For an article that explains Rest in WSDL 2.0 with more detail, please read this one from Eran

William Martinez Pomares.

Reference: WSDL 2.0 - a REST Friendly Language

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

An ORM Story

One of my students recently asked me an ORM related question . He had this little project he was working on to present in another class, and there was a little screen where he had some data. Let say he had a table with clients (relational, you may guess), and the client had a reference to the company table, since a client belongs to a company. Of course, the reference field in database was a Company ID.

His question was very simple, although very useful to explain some concepts on the spot. He was, of course, converting that client row into an object, to be later displayed in the little window. So he asked me: “Should I add a company ID attribute to the object, or should I add the company name directly?”. I looked at him and asked him back: “How do you feel by adding that ID to the object? Is it natural?” He glanced at his computer and then said… “No.”

Then we began to discuss. Actually, we started by defining what was that object’s function in the application, what was its role, what was it there for. The answer was very simple: it was there to provide info to the screen to display the data. Then, we went into discussing what the user needs, and the answer was the user needs the company name, not an ID. Lastly we went into discussing if we needed the tow objects, one Client object with a company ID and one Company object with a matching ID and a Name. We found out that, having those two objects, will require us to match them. That is a relational operation that was natural to the database. So, it was obvious we better let the database do its job and send us a new hybrid object with the client information and the company name already in place.

But wait a minute: It that ok? Weren’t we breaking the relational rules and normalization of the data? Thinking a couple of seconds I would say no. We weren’t.

Data is data, and it is stored and related in the database. You can process and produce new information by manipulating that data using the DB tools. That new information is not to store, but to consume by the business logic layers. That is BL information, it is not simple data anymore.

So the idea of ORM one-to-one does not fit in this example. If we have data and we have tools to process that and transform it into business information, then we should allow the BL layers to consume that BL info and not to spend cycles in processing, by hand, the data. Now the objects model the reality, not the data structure, and we work with cooked information and not raw data.

William Martinez Pomares.

Reference: An ORM Story