Tag - interface

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Retrieve the object instance from an interface

It is pretty useful, in some cases, to retrieve a class instance from a given interface.
You should better use interfaces in your business logic, but having access to the underlying implementation is needed at lower level.

Beginning with Delphi 2010, you are able to use the as operator, e.g. via aObject := aInterface as TObject or aObject  := TObject(aInterface).
This operator use a special hidden interface GUID (ObjCastGUID) to retrieve the object instance, calling an enhanced version of TObject.GetInterface.

But if you want to maintain compatibility with older version of Delphi (as we want for mORMot to work with the beloved Delphi 6 or 7), you'll have to find a way.

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Synopse mORMot Framework 1.16

Our Open Source mORMot framework is now available in revision 1.16.

The main new features are the following:

Thanks to its features, mORMot is now able to provide a stand-alone Domain-Driven Design framework for Delphi.

Quite a long and nice road for a little mORMot, and more to come!

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Domain-Driven design

With a previous article, we introduced the concept of "Domain-Driven design" into our framework presentation.

It's now time to detail a bit more this very nice software architecture design, and how mORMot is able to achieve such an implementation pattern.

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Custom JSON serialization of records

By default, during interface-based service call, any record parameter or function result will be serialized with our proprietary binary (and optimized layout) - i.e. RecordLoad and RecordSave functions - then encoded in Base-64, to be stored as plain text within the JSON stream.

But custom record JSON serialization can be defined, as with any class - see this article - or dynamic array - see this article.

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The mORMot attitude

In a discussion with Henrick Hellström, in Embarcadero forums, I wrote some high-level information about mORMot.

It was clear to me that our little mORMot is now far away from a simple Client-Server solution.

The Henrick point was that with Real Thin Client (RTC), you are able to write any Client-Server solution, even a RESTful / JSON based one.

He is of course right, but it made clear to me all the work done in mORMot since its beginning.
From a Client-Server ORM, it is now a complete SOA framework, ready to serve Domain-Driven-Design solutions.

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WCF, mORMot and Event Sourcing

Our latest mORMot feature is interface-based service implementation.

How does it compare with the reference of SOA implementation (at least in the Windows world) - aka WCF?

"Comparaison n'est pas raison", as we use to say in France.
But we will also speak about Event Sourcing, and why it is now on our official road map.
Comparing our implementation with WCF is the opportunity to make our framework always better.

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Return custom content from an interface-based service

As stated by this previous article, the default answer format is a valid JSON object.

In some cases, it may be useful to have a service operation (i.e. an interface method) returning any content, e.g. some plain TEXT, HTML or binary data (like a picture).

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Interface based services - sample code

In addition to the other related blog articles, you can find in the "SQLite3/Samples/14 - Interface based services" folder of the supplied source code distribution, a dedicated sample about this feature.

Purpose of this code is to show how to create a client-server service, using interfaces, over named pipe communication.

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Interface based services - Implementation details

You will find out in SQLite3Commons.pas all classes implementing this interface communication.

There are two levels of implementation:
- A services catalog, available in TSQLRest.Services property, declared as TServiceContainer (with two inherited versions, for each side);
- A service factory for each interface, declared as TServiceFactory (also with two inherited versions, for each side).

In fact, TServiceFactory.Create constructor will retrieve all needed RTTI information of the given interface, i.e. GUID, name and all methods (with their arguments). It will compute the low-level stack memory layout needed at execution. And the corresponding "contract" will be computed, to validate that both client and server expect the exact same interface.

On the server side, TServiceFactoryServer.ExecuteMethod method (and then a nested TServiceMethod.InternalExecute call) is used to prepare a valid call to the implementation class code from a remote JSON request.

On the client side, a TInterfacedObjectFake class will be created, and will emulate a regular Delphi interface call using some on-the-fly asm code generated in the TServiceFactoryClient.Create constructor.

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Interface based services - Using services on the Client or Server sides

Once the service is registered on the server side, it is very easy to use it in your code.

In a complex Service Oriented Architecture, it is pretty common to have services calling each other. Code re-usability is a key here. So you'll have to consume services on the server side. According to the SOLID design principles, you'd better rely on abstraction in your code, i.e. not call the service implementation, but the service abstract interface.

You can use the following method of your TSQLRest.Services instance (note that this method is available on both client and server sides, so is the right access point to all services):

 function TServiceFactory.Get(out Obj): Boolean;

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Interface based services - Server side

In order to have an operating service, you'll need to implement a Delphi class which matches the expected interface.

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Interface based services - defining a data contract

In a Service Oriented Architecture, services tend to create a huge list of operations.
In order to facilitate implementation and maintenance, operations shall be grouped within common services.

The data contract is to be defined as a plain Delphi interface type.
In fact, the sample type as stated in a previous blog article can be used directly:

  ICalculator = interface(IInvokable)
    /// add two signed 32 bit integers
    function Add(n1,n2: integer): integer;

This ICalculator.Add method will define one "Add" operation, under the "ICalculator" service (which will be named internally 'Calculator' by convention).
This operation will expect two numbers as input, and then return the sum of those numbers.

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Interface based services

The Client-Server services via methods implementation (our DataSnap-like feature) gives full access to the lowest-level of the mORMot's core, so it has some advantages:
- It can be tuned to fit any purpose (such as retrieving or returning some HTML or binary data, or modifying the HTTP headers on the fly);
- It is integrated into the RESTful URI model, so it can be related to any table/class of our ORM framework (like DataAsHex service above), or it can handle any remote query (e.g. any AJAX or SOAP requests);
- It has a very low performance overhead, so can be used to reduce server workload for some common tasks.

But this implementation pattern has some drawbacks:
- Most content marshaling is to be done by hand, so may introduce implementation issues;
- Client and server side code does not have the same implementation pattern, so you will have to code explicitly data marshaling twice, for both client and server;
- The services do not have any hierarchy, and are listed as a plain list, which is not very convenient;
- It is difficult to synchronize several service calls within a single context, e.g. when a workflow is to be handled during the application process (you have to code some kind of state machine on both sides);
- Security is handled globally for the user, or should be checked by hand in the implementation method (using the aParams.Context values).

You can get rid of those limitations with the interface-based service implementation of mORMot. For a detailed introduction and best practice guide to SOA, you can consult this "classic" article.

According to this document, all expected SOA features are now available in the current implementation of the mORMot framework (including service catalog aka "broker").

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Delphi and interfaces

No, interface(-book) is not another social network, sorry.

In Delphi OOP model, an interface defines a type that comprises abstract virtual methods.
The short, easy definition is that an interface is a declaration of functionality without an implementation of that functionality. It defines "what" is available, not "how" it is made available. This is the so called "abstraction" benefit of interfaces (there are another benefits, like orthogonality of interfaces to classes, but we'll see it later).

In its upcoming 1.16 revision, our mORMot framework is able to use interface for its service definition.

So we'll discuss and introduce this gem available in all modern languages - including Delphi: interfaces.

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Avoiding Garbage Collector: Delphi and Apple side by side

Among all trolling subject in forums, you'll find out the great Garbage Collection theme.

Fashion languages rely on it. At the core of the .Net and Java framework, and all scripting languages (like JavaScript, Perl, Python or Ruby), you'll find a Garbage Collector. New developers, just released from schools, do learn about handling memory only in theory, and just can't understand how is memory allocated - we all have seen such rookies involved in Delphi code maintenance, leaking memory as much as they type. In fact, most of them did not understood how a computer works. I warned you this will be a trolling subject.

And, in Delphi, there is no such collector. We handle memory in several ways:

  • Creating static variables - e.g. on the stack, inside a class or globally;
  • Creating objects with class instances allocated on heap - in at least three ways: with a try..finally Free block, with a TComponent ownership model in the VCL, or by using an interface (which creates an hidden try..finally Free block);
  • Creating reference-counted variables, i.e. string, array of, interface or variant kind of variables.

It is a bit complex, but it is also deadly powerful. You have several memory allocation models at hand, which can be very handy if you want to tune your performance and let program scale. Just like manual recycling at home will save the planet. Some programmers will tell you that it's a waste of cell brain, typing and time. Linux kernel gurus would not say so, I'm afraid.

Then came the big Apple company, which presented its new ARC model (introduced in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion) as a huge benefit for Objective-C in comparison with the Garbage Collection model. And let's face it: this ARC just sounds like the Delphi memory model.

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