A Quiet Conversation about DDD and Data First Design
At the MVP Summit I had the pleasure to sit down at a party for some one on one time with Don Smith. I’m trying to think of my blog as a nice little corner to talk, rather than a soapbox. I want to make an share something that is not shouted from the rooftops. Eeegads, I don’t want to start another debate on this.
A few months ago, the EF team started a wiki where Ward Bell and I felt quite attacked for suggesting that DDD is not always the best approach. And thus, it is with some trepidation that I touch this topic. But today’s Database Weekly has a column on it and I really feel there’s stuff worth hearing. If you’re here in my nice intimate corner, you can hear it.
The question of whether to start with a database or a domain (business object) model makes no sense. The answer is easy: start with the one most likely to bring you success, and don’t ignore the impedance mismatch problem.
A well structured application has a good domain model and a good (relational) database and a good strategy to cross the impedance mismatch boundary. That boundary exists because neither the domain nor the database should drive the structure of the other.
A database might be a more successful starting point if you have good, stubborn, or available DBA’s or if your DBA’s are good analysts. If you’re a small shop – which do you build better and have you ever tried building it the other way? Database first is also often a good starting point if you have an existing database. Even if the database is bad, it contains the existing business, and it’s my belief we should never close our eyes to a way the business has already expressed itself if we can get a hold of it (it’s not in code). While we should consider available expressions of the business, we should not blindly accept any piece without exploring also exploring its problems.
A domain might be a more successful starting point if you have good, stubborn, or available coders, or if your coders are good analysts. If you’re a small shop – which do you build better and have you ever tried building it the other way? Domain first (DDD) can also be a good starting point if you have an existing database. If you build a domain model that you constantly validate against the existing database you can base your thinking on experience while not being stuck in that experience. While we should consider available expressions of the business, we should not blindly accept any piece without exploring also exploring its problems.
If it’s an even match, consider DDD. The issues are more subtle and getting them out of the way might be helpful to your project.
The monumental disservice that resulted from the EF wiki (which has thankfully now died a formal death) is that this decision appeared to be a religious one or one that marked you in one camp, or perhaps to some even something about your level of coding. All of that is stupid.
- Do DDD or database first based on what makes sense in your specific scenario
- Whichever way you start, attention to the impedance mismatch will minimize negative consequences to the other side of the boundary
It comes down to the obvious. It’s your team, it’s your project. Make decisions based on your reality, not dogma. Learn from the debates in our industry. Don’t pick sides and follow blindly (even my side.)
So, now we can go back to the rest of the party. If this kicks off another brawl, I suggest slipping out by the side door.