When I started programming, people were talking about Domain-Driven Design. Being a junior, I gave more attention to the tactical patterns. I kind of got the idea behind repositories, entities, value objects, etc.. Six years later and I still see people paying more attention to the tactical patterns. Even Eric Evans says that he has overemphasized the building blocks. So, in order to get a better understanding about what is Domain-Driven Design, I decided to read the book that introduced it. The main purpose was to gain more knowledge about the strategic patterns of DDD.

DDD Book Cover

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Recently, I stumbled upon an interesting problem related to NServiceBus Saga concurrency and coarse-grained locks when using NHibernate Persistence.

With NServiceBus, concurrent access to an existing saga instance works out of the box. This is because it relies on the underlying database system. With NHibernate, it relies on optimistic concurrency, by adding a Version column to your Saga Data. But there is a catch: NHibernate doesn’t support Coarse-Grained Locks. Let’s first explore this general problem and then we’ll get back to the NServiceBus Saga.

Coarse-Grained Locks

With a coarse-grained lock you basically lock a group of entities together. If you’re familiar with DDD, then you know that an aggregate should be a consistency boundary. When I save an aggregate, I want to save the entire aggregate, to ensure it’s consistent. Why would you need this? Here’s an example:

Let’s take the already familiar example of an Order with OrderLines, Order being the aggregate root. We’re using optimistic concurrency control for each of our aggregate parts. In our domain there is an invariant that dictates that the total number of items  in an order can’t be more than 10. Two commands that would increase the quantity could be processed in parallel and break the invariant. This is because in each transaction, the invariant would hold and each transaction would commit, since they update different lines. Now you’re in an inconsistent state.

If we could lock the entire aggregate (order and order lines), then the second transaction would fail and rollback, maintaining a consistent state. One way to achieve this when using optimistic concurrency is to update the root’s version whenever an aggregate part is updated.

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In a previous blog post we discussed why building the right product is hard and some tips on how to achieve a high perceived integrity. But if you’re building a strategic solution that should support your business for many years, this is not enough. With time, new requirements get added, features change and team members might leave the project. This, together with hard deadlines, means that technical debt starts to incur, and the price of adding new features increases until someone says it will be easier to rebuild the whole thing from scratch. This isn’t a situation you’d like to be in, so that’s why it is important to build the product right.

Building the product right

In their book, Mary and Tom Poppendieck define this dimension of quality as the conceptual integrity of a product. Conceptual (internal) integrity means that the system’s central concepts work together as a smooth, cohesive whole.

How can you maintain the conceptual integrity of a product during its lifetime? You rely on communication, short feedback loops, transparency and empowered teams. These are the same principles that can lead to a high perceived integrity. The only difference is that you apply them at an architectural and code level. Continue Reading


If you ask a hundred developers to define software quality, you’ll probably get a hundred different answers. There are a lot of ways to categorize quality, but one that I find most useful is building the right product and building the product right.

Building the Right Product

First we have to make sure we are building the right product. The most performant and secure product, having the cleanest and most extensible architecture, covered with unit tests and acceptance tests is in vain if nobody uses it.

In their book, Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit, Mary and Tom Poppendieck define this dimension of quality as the perceived integrity of a product. Perceived (external) integrity means the totality of the product achieves a balance of function, usability, reliability, and economy that delights customers.

Traditionally, when customers want to build a product, they talk with business analysts and write down the requirements. These documents are then handed over to architects, who then define the high level architecture and pass the design documents down to programmers who start implementing. There’s a gap between each step and as we go through the process, we lose more and more information and our chances of building the right product get slimmer.

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