Allow Your Models to Cross Only One Boundary

Don't let your models cross more than one boundary. Sure there may be exceptions, but I haven't found one that justifies the loss of flexibility achieved when requirements change.

Some years ago I worked with a thoughtful and intelligent programmer named Nick. He convinced me that models, or data transfer objects (DTOs) should not cross more than one service or domain boundary. I was skeptical at first. It seemed like a lot of duplicated code.

He talked me into it. And the next time the business changed a requirement, which of course happens often in most software development shops, I became absolutely convinced. We added something to one model, changed the code that produced the model and the specific code that consumed the model without breaking all other users of other endpoints that used the underlying models and entity models or services that produced them.

Here's what it looks like in one implementation:


Of course, your own architecture may involve more boundaries than shown here. You may have a message queue or services bus. I believe the principle still applies.

The greatest advantage is that you have an abstraction layer at every boundary that allows you to move swiftly when you need to support changing requirements. And I've never met a company or set of software developers that do not deal with regularly changing business requirements.

This is a very opinionated post and if you balk at the notion at first, I urge you to at least give it a try. You will find that you can enforce separation of concerns. You will find that you can avoid having a dependency on a framework, such as Entity Framework, in your application server code or in your hard wired client code, the latter of which would need only a reference to your ViewModels assembly. (Assumes you are working in .NET but I believe the principles apply universally.)

You will find that in preventing your business logic from knowing anything about the implementation of the interface provided by the Models assembly, you are forced to inject the dependency and are thus free to replace the dependency with a different implementation or even a mock for unit testing.

The list of benefits is long and I've surely missed a few important ones, but you get my drift. I hope.

TIP: Use AutoMapper or something like it to help you with the tedium when transformations are an exact 1:1 match.