Alternatives to the Singleton Design Pattern
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by Steven Smith
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IOC Container Managed Lifetime

At the time of this writing there are exactly 3.2 billion different IOC containers available to .NET developers.  In the vast majority of common scenarios, they are functionally equivalent, while they do vary widely in terms of performance and ease of configuration.  For the purposes of this article we are going to look only at the Unity container, which is available from Microsoft Patterns and Practices.  You can easily install it in your application using the NuGet package installer if you've installed that into Visual Studio 2010, or you can grab Unity from its home on CodePlex and add references the old fashioned way.

The best way to show how some code works is of course to write some tests.  In this case, we want to show that Unity by default will return to us a new instance of a given type when we ask it for one, but that if we provide it with the proper parameters, it will provide us with the same instance again and again just like a Singleton-pattern class's Instance property would.

The code in Listing 1 demonstrates these two tests in practice.  The first test shows that when we simply call the RegisterType method, resolving this type yields separate new instances of the type.  However, if we pass in a new ContainerControlledLifetimeManager() to the RegisterType() method, we then get the same instance with each call to Resolve().

Listing 1 – Implementing Singleton Behavior with Unity

using Microsoft.Practices.Unity;
using Microsoft.VisualStudio.TestTools.UnitTesting;
namespace Tests
    public interface IFoo
    public class Foo : IFoo
    public class UnityShould
        private UnityContainer _container;
        public void Setup()
            _container = new UnityContainer();
        public void ReturnNewInstanceByDefault()
            _container.RegisterType<IFoo, Foo>();
            var firstInstance = _container.Resolve<IFoo>();
            var secondInstance = _container.Resolve<IFoo>();
            Assert.AreNotSame(firstInstance, secondInstance);
        public void ReturnSameInstanceWhenConfiguredToDoSo()
            _container.RegisterType<IFoo, Foo>
                (new ContainerControlledLifetimeManager());
            var firstInstance = _container.Resolve<IFoo>();
            var secondInstance = _container.Resolve<IFoo>();
            Assert.AreSame(firstInstance, secondInstance);

Running these tests reveals they are correct:

The great thing about using a container to manage the object lifetimes is that it then becomes trivial to change, and simple to change the behavior as needed (say, between production environment, unit tests, integration tests, full system tests, etc.).  And as you can see from the code above, which includes 100% of the required to code make these tests pass, getting started with an IOC container takes only a couple of lines of code, so there's no good reason not to start using one in your application if you haven't been for lack of exposure or comfort with them.

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User Comments

Title: Just use public static readonly   
Name: Ramon Smits
Date: 2010-12-08 7:42:43 PM
Just use a public static readonly member. Easy, fast, lazy and threadsafe!

public class MyClass
public static readonly MyClass Instance = new MyClass();
private MyClass(){}

Much easier then this will be difficult to do!

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