Using DLINQ with ASP.NET (Part 2 of my LINQ series)
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by Scott Guthrie
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Reviewing some DLINQ concepts

DLinq provides a run-time framework for managing relational data as objects. It does this by translating LINQ queries into SQL for execution by the database and then translates the tabular results back into objects you define. Your application can then manipulate these objects however you want to.  While you do this DLinq will track any changes you make to them, so that you can optionally submit changes back to the database (for update, insert, and delete operations).

DLINQ allows you to define the object model and class structure that best represents your application data.  For example, if you have a Customers database table with columns “CustomerId”, “City”, and “CustomerName”, you could optionally create a “Customer” class that represented it like so:

Listing 1

public class Customer
    public string CustomerId;
    public string City;
    public string CustomerName;

Note that you can use whatever naming pattern you want in your classes -- you aren't required to have the same names as in the database. 

DLINQ allows you to map classes to a database schema in two ways.  The first option is by adding attributes to the classes that indicate where and how they should be stored in the database (this is called “Attribute Based Mapping”).  Alternatively you can specify the mapping using an external XML file.  The external XML file enables the underlying database schema to be kept separate from the code, and even allows runtime schema mapping changes on the fly (meaning you do not need to recompile an assembly using DLINQ to modify the database storage schema being used).  Developers can choose whichever mapping approach works best for them and their projects. 

In addition to supporting single table mappings, it is also possible to easily define relationships between tables using DLINQ.  In a relational database this is typically modeled using foreign-keys referring to primary keys in other tables.  DLINQ allows developers to define “Association Relationships” between classes to express relationships.  This allows a developer, for example, to write “Customer.Orders” to reference the collection of orders for the customer instance.

Important: It is not necessary to manually define your table mappings or relationships.  The May CTP drop of DLINQ ships with both a command-line utility and a Visual Studio data designer to make defining these relationships and mappings simple (it will take us less than 30 seconds to define a complete DLINQ mapping for the Northwind database in our sample below).

Once data mappings and relationships are defined, developers can then easily write LINQ code to perform queries and updates against a database.  For example, the below code uses the SQL Northwind database to retrieve all customers from London, and then prints out the Customer Name, as well as a hierarchical sub-listing of each of the customer’s orders to a page:

Listing 2

Northwind db = new Northwind(connectionString);
// Query for all customers in london
IEnumerable<Customer> customers = from cust in db.Customers
                        where cust.City == "London"
                        select cust;
// Fetch each customer and output its name and order history
foreach (Customer cust in customers) {
    Response.Write ("Customer = " + cust.CustomerName);
    foreach (Order order in cust.Orders) {
        Response.Write("---- OrderID: " + order.OrderId);

Note how the Customer and Order classes are strongly-typed, and how the Customer class has an “Orders” association relationship that uses the ForeignKey/PrimaryKey relationship between the Customers and Orders tables in the database.

We can also then easily write code to retrieve an individual Customer and simultaneously update both its ContactName and add a new Order for it in the system like so:

Listing 3

Northwind db = new Northwind(connectionString);
// Fetch a specific customer
Customer cust = db.Customers.Single(c => c.CustomerID == "ALFKI");
// Change the name of the contact
cust.ContactName = "ScottGu";
// Create and add a new Order to the customer's orders collection
Order order = new Order();
order.OrderDate = DateTime.Now;
order.ShipCity = "London";
// Save all the changes to database

We do not need to write any additional data access code or define any SQL statements for the above two samples to work.  Instead, I can program and work with these objects for my data access, and have DLINQ perform the underlying data statements for me.  The compiler will automatically perform syntax checking against my queries/code and will give me warnings/errors if I do things wrong (for example: mistype a column name, misuse a double as an integer, try to convert an inappropriate string to a date, etc).  I can use the debugger to inspect any value.  And with the next release of VS I will get full intellisense completion when writing these queries and operations.

DLINQ supports Stored Procedures, Views, and User-Defined Functions, and allows developers to drop-down and add custom SQL where necessary.  Developers can add additional, non-database based, properties and methods to data classes to extend their semantics, and can also add both property and entity validation/business rules to them as well (the partial class feature in VB and C# makes doing this clean and easy).  Transactions are also fully supported, including two-phase commit transactions where the DLINQ operations can be enlisted in a broader transaction with multiple databases or storage providers.

In short – there is a lot of cool stuff there.  There is a lot of documentation that comes with the May LINQ CTP that you can read to learn more. 

What I’m going to do below for the rest of this post is walk through a few step-by-step instructions on how to start using the May LINQ CTP with DLINQ in an ASP.NET app.

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User Comments

Title: DLINQ Usage   
Name: Subhashini
Date: 2010-12-18 1:36:06 AM
This article solved many of questions about DLINQ.I understand how to do create database structures for DLINQ query using Attribute Based Mapping and through XML Based Mapping.
Title: Helping hand for the DLINQ users   
Name: Tejaswini Jangale-Chaudhari
Date: 2009-04-22 1:02:16 AM
The article is real nice, n helped me a lot to understand binding and pagination. Keep posting such helpful articles :)
Title: Great Article   
Name: Yuna
Date: 2008-07-18 3:42:52 AM
thank you very much, my article help me understand LINQ
Title: Great Article   
Name: Jaykumar Acharya
Date: 2008-06-18 9:33:59 AM
I must say you are my guru of LINQ. These posts really helped me to learn LINQ and DLINQ. It was like a cake walk to learn deep concepts. Please keep posting such blogs for us.

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