Web 2.0 AJAX Portal using jQuery, ASP.NET 3.5, Silverlight, Linq to SQL, WF and Unity
Dropthings – my open source Web 2.0 Ajax Portal has gone through a technology overhauling. Previously it was built using ASP.NET AJAX, a little bit of Workflow Foundation and Linq to SQL. Now Dropthings boasts full jQuery front-end combined with ASP.NET AJAX
UpdatePanel, Silverlight widget, full Workflow Foundation implementation on the business layer, 100% Linq to SQL Compiled Queries on the data access layer, Dependency Injection and Inversion of Control (IoC) using Microsoft Enterprise Library 4.1 and Unity. It also has a ASP.NET AJAX Web Test framework that makes it real easy to write Web Tests that simulates real user actions on AJAX web pages. This article will walk you through the challenges in getting these new technologies to work in an ASP.NET website and how performance, scalability, extensibility and maintainability has significantly improved by the new technologies. Dropthings has been licensed for commercial use by prominent companies including BT Business, Intel, Microsoft IS, Denmark Government portal for Citizens; Startups like Limead and many more. So, this is serious stuff! There’s a very cool open source implementation of Dropthings framework available at National University of Singapore portal.
I have published a new article on this on CodeProject:
Get the source code
Latest source code is hosted at Google code:
There’s a CodePlex site for documentation and issue tracking:
You will need Visual Studio 2008 Team Suite with Service Pack 1 and Silverlight 2 SDK in order to run all the projects. If you have only Visual Studio 2008 Professional, then you will have to remove the Dropthings.Test project.
New features introduced
Dropthings new release has the following features:
- Template users – you can define a user who’s pages and widgets are used as a template for new users. Whatever you put in that template user’s pages, it will be copied for every new user. Thus this is an easier way to define the default pages and widgets for new users. Similarly you can do the same for a registered user. The template users can be defined in the
- Widget-to-Widget communication – Widgets can send message to each other. Widgets can subscribe to an Event Broker and exchange messages using a Pub-Sub pattern.
- WidgetZone – you can create any number of zones in any shape on the page. You can have widgets laid in horizontal layout, you can have zones on different places on the page and so on. With this zone model, you are no longer limited to the Page-Column model where you could only have N vertical columns.
- Role based widgets – now widgets are mapped to roles so that you can allow different users to see different widget list using
- Role based page setup – you can define page setup for different roles. For ex, Managers see different pages and widgets than Employees.
- Widget maximize – you can maximize a widget to take full screen. Handy for widgets with lots of content.
- Free form resize – you can freely resize widgets vertically.
- Silverlight Widgets – You can now make widgets in Silverlight!
Why the technology overhauling
Performance, Scalability, Maintainability and Extensibility – four key reasons for the overhauling. Each new technology solved one of more of these problems.
Secondly, Linq to SQL queries are replaced with Compiled Queries. Dropthings did not survive a load test when regular lambda expressions were used to query database. I could only reach up to 12 Req/Sec using 20 concurrent users without burning up web server CPU on a Quad Core DELL server.
Thirdly, Workflow Foundation is used to build operations that require multiple Data Access Classes to perform together in a single transaction. Instead of writing large functions with many if…else conditions, for…loops, it’s better to write them in a Workflow because you can visually see the flow of execution and you can reuse Activities among different Workflows. Best of all, architects can design workflows and developers can fill-in code inside Activities. So, I could design a complex operations in a workflow without writing the real code inside Activities and then ask someone else to implement each Activity. It is like handing over a design document to developers to implement each unit module, only that here everything is strongly typed and verified by compiler. If you strictly follow Single Responsibility Principle for your Activities, which is a smart way of saying one Activity does only one and very simple task, you end up with a highly reusable and maintainable business layer and a very clean code that’s easily extensible.
Fourthly, Unity Dependency Injection (DI) framework is used to pave the path for unit testing and dependency injection. It offers Inversion of Control (IoC), which enables testing individual classes in isolation. Moreover, it has a handy feature to control lifetime of objects. Instead of creating instance of commonly used classes several times within the same request, you can make instances thread level, which means only one instance is created per thread and subsequent calls reuse the same instance. Are these going over your head? No worries, continue reading, I will explain later on.
Read the article for details on how all these improvements were done and how all these hot techs play together in a very useful open source project for enterprises.
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