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The SALT traditional 3-tier
Issues with the traditional 3-tier architecture
No uniform mechanism
Need to write the business logic mapping code
Aggregation and composition increases complexity
Querying and sorting of business object
Inconsistent DAL component
CRUD (Create, Update and delete) multiplies complication
Consolidating issues using a Fishbone
30,000 feet solution view to solve Non-uniform mechanism
Going back to basics what is data
Entity – the common protocol across layer
Common Query Mechanism
LINQ the Pepper – Generalized Query and entity transformation Mechanism
Generalized Query
Three Tier Approach using LINQ
Depends how you view LINQ
Quantifying how much effort we can save using LINQ
Source code


There is no pre-requisite (Oh yes even if you do not know LINQ this
article will guide you) for this article ? what I need from you guys is
time to read this article. So block your 10 minutes and rest assured
you will understand LINQ in a much better way.

For past some
days I have been writing and recording videos in design patterns, UML,
FPA, Enterprise blocks and lot you can watch the videos at http://www.questpond.com 

You can download my 400 .NET FAQ EBook from http://www.questpond.com/SampleDotNetInterviewQuestionBook.zip 


In this article we will understand core reasons of why we should use
LINQ. Three tier / N-Tier is now a standard in almost all projects. New
architectures which are coming up like MVC, MVP have the fundamental
base and thinking of 3-tier methodology. So we have termed the 3-tiers
as SALT, in other words we can not stay with out it.

(Pepper) on other hand is a new technology which helps us create
execute queries against disparate data sources like ADO.NET, Custom
objects, XML etc. So it’s not a needed thing (Pepper) but it does helps
to remove lot of issues related with traditional 3-tier.

let’s make a nice Three-tier LINQ dish using SALT and PEPPER. So we
will first understand Three-tier, issues with it and then see how LINQ
helps us to improve the same.

The SALT traditional 3-tier

Let’s first go through the traditional 3-tier architecture. We
understand for many people this is just a revision but the main point
which we want to stress is the issues with three-tier and how LINQ
helps us in addressing those issues.

So let’s start from Data
access layer and move towards the UI layers. The below code is pretty
self explanatory open connection, process data adapter and send dataset
back to the business logic layer. Ok, I can smell easily many
experienced professional saying that the below code can be optimized
using enterprise data access layer. Oh, yes we can but for simplicity
sake lets take the below code for now. I really do not want people who
have not used Enterprise data access layer to be left behind. Below
code is a simple data access layer which queries a country master to
retrieve countryid and country code.

namespace NameSpaceCountryDAL
public class clsCountryDAL

public DataSet getCountriesByDataset()
SqlConnection objConnection = new SqlConnection(strConnectionString);
DataSet objDataset = new DataSet();
SqlDataAdapter objAdapter = new SqlDataAdapter("Select * from tbl_country", objConnection);
return objDataset;



The second layer is the business logic layer. Below is the business
logic layer which is used to load country data. We have inherited the
class from a collection class and in the constructor we have loaded the
country object from the dataset received from the DAL layer.

public class CountriesNormalBO : CollectionBase
public CountriesNormalBO()

clsCountryDAL objCountryDal = new clsCountryDAL();
DataSet obj = objCountryDal.getCountriesByDataset();
foreach (DataRow objRow in obj.Tables[0].Rows)

CountryEntity objCountry = new CountryEntity();
objCountry.CountryId = Convert.ToInt16(objRow[0]);
objCountry.CountryCode = Convert.ToString(objRow[1]);




Finally the UI code which uses the business objects collection and loads the values in the UI.

CountriesNormalBO objCountryBo = new CountriesNormalBO();
foreach (CountryEntity obj in objCountryBo)

Below is the how the code snippet and 3-tier architecture mapping looks like.

Issues with the traditional 3-tier architecture

Now that we have understood what is a 3-tier architecture lets try to get the issues related with it. There are six big issues:-

• No uniform mechanism
• Need to write business logic mapping from DAL data sources.
• For complex business object model transformation there is more complexity attached.
• Querying and Sorting of business logic needs be done using custom code.
• DAL component can be custom and in-consistent.
• When we need to do CRUD operations using business object it increases complications.

So what we will do is go through all of these issues and then see how LINQ can help us solve the problems.

No uniform mechanism

One of the biggest problems in 3-tier architecture is the way data
travels and transforms across tiers inconsistently. Inconsistency of
data representation and transformation is one of the main problems
which stem other issues.

• When the data is in the DAL component it’s represented by ADO.NET
objects. So data has ADO.NET context attached to it. In other words
it’s in DATASET, DATAREADER or some other ADO.NET object form.

From DAL these objects are sent to the BO. In BO data is now
represented by business object collection and entity. So now the data
representation is in form of strongly typed objects.
• In UI the same strongly types business objects are referred and used. So in this section there is no transformation as such.

Need to write the business logic mapping code

Due to data inconsistency we need to write custom transformation
and mapping logic to convert the DAL objects like DATASET,DATAREADER
etc in to strongly typed business objects.

The above figure represents how the dataset object is looped and
strongly typed list object is created in the business layer section. If
we look more closely we need to perform five steps to get the DAL data
format in to business layer format:-
First we create object of the DAL
• Get the data in to dataset
• Loop through the data rows of the data table.
• Create objects using the row object
• Finally we add the strongly object to list collection.

Aggregation and composition increases complexity

In 3-tier model the data model and the business object model are
different. The business object model represents the real world model
while the database model represents a data model of a database. For
instance below figure shows we have an address table which is
de-normalized for performance. All the data is represented by one
entity, in other words by one table. When we look at the object model
i.e. business model the name and address are represented by two
entities with one as to many relationships as shown below. So you have
one ‘name’ class and many ‘address’ classes aggregated in the name
object. In other words ‘name’ and ‘address’ objects have one to many

Do to data inconsistency this transformation becomes more complex.
You need to write more code and logic for transforming the
de-normalized data in to aggregation and composition relationship in
business object model.

Querying and sorting of business object

There are situations when you want to search within the strongly
typed business objects. For instance you can see from the code snippet
below we are searching for particular ‘country’ object using the ‘ID’
value. So we loop through the country object collection and when we
find the ‘ID’ matching we return the object. This can become
complicated when we have large number of objects in collection and it
can be worse for strongly types aggregated and composed object

Inconsistent DAL component

DAL layer is one of the integral parts of 3-tier architecture.
Normally all Microsoft projects use enterprise data application blocks.
But then there are projects that use their own DAL components and some
special projects use third party DAL components which can connect to
heterogeneous databases like SQL Server, ORACLE etc. Even with in same
project some one can use a dataset , some on can use datareader to
transfer data between tiers.

In other word non-uniform DAL implementation.

A word about
Enterprise data application block from the consistent DAL perspective.
An Enterprise data block even though provides a very consistent
mechanism of DAL implementation it has one minor issue:-
• It’s a
part of a different framework i.e. Enterprise application block and not
of the core framework. LINQ forms the part of the framework. So we do
not need to install a separate framework for DAL implementation.

CRUD (Create, Update and delete) multiplies complication

70% projects in IT industry are CRUD projects. In 3-tier
architecture the CRUD operation needs to transfer data to and fro
between layers. Due to inconsistent data representation between tiers
the matter gets more complicated for CRUD operations.

Consolidating issues using a Fishbone

Fish bone helps us to identify the potential factor which causes the various other issues.
You can read about fishbone on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishikawa_diagram  .

what we have done is we have listed down all the issues and we are
trying to figure out the main cause. You can see the non-uniform data
representation is the main cause of all issues. If we are able to crack
that issues all other issues can be eliminated.

30,000 feet solution view to solve Non-uniform mechanism

So let’s see to solve the above problem what do we need. So we have
two major issues one is the inconsistent data representation and the
other is we need a generalized query mechanism by which we transform
and filter business data.

So to solve the problem we need to figure out a consistent data
representation across all tiers and general query mechanism by which we
can filter and sort business objects.

Going back to basics what is data

So let’s first try to solve the first problem, by defining what DATA
is?. If we really see at a granular microscopic level data is just a
field with value. Yes, you can also say data has relationships between
them but for now we will keep it simple. So DATA is nothing but a field
and a value.

If you visualize this field value concept for a data can be
understood by any tier. So if we can pass data in representation of
field and value across tiers we can remove the inconsistent
representation of data.

This field and value when represented by a class is termed as
Entity. In the next section we will discuss how we can use the entity
to establish a common representation mechanism across tiers.

Entity – the common protocol across layer

Entity is nothing but a class with ‘set’ and ‘get’ properties. For
instance below is a country entity class which has country code and
country id. You can see how the table data structure is represented
using the entity class.

This Entity A.K.A field/value can be used as a common representation
platform across any tier. So let’s shout with one voice “WE ALL

Common Query Mechanism

The other issue we discussed was about querying and filtering the
business objects. Due to inconsistent data we need to implement custom
logic for transforming the data model in to object model. Due to which
the code complication increases tremendously.

To handle this problem we need also have a technology which can
implement generalized query mechanism on any heterogeneous data sources
like ADO.NET, Custom business objects, XML etc.

To summarize
all the above mentioned issues for three tiers can be resolved by
implementing a common data representation and a generalized query
mechanism. So do we need make some framework – NOPE – the answer is

LINQ the Pepper – Generalized Query and entity transformation Mechanism

So we have discussed about the three tier and its issues. We have
also looked from 30,000 feet angle the solution i.e. a common
representation using entity and a generalized query mechanism. LINQ
helps us to achieve both of them.

Let’s first try to
understand basics regarding LINQ. So what we will do is that we will
create a simple ‘Customer’ table with ‘CustomerCode’ and ‘CustomerName’
fields and let’s try to load the same using LINQ.

The first step
is defining Entity – the common representation in LINQ. Below is the
‘ClsCustomer’ entity class which is attributed by using the ‘Table’
attribute. This table attribute is mapped with the physical table name
present in the database. The SET and GET properties are mapped using
‘Column’ attribute as shown in the below code snippet.

Now that we have built our Entity class using the ‘Table’ and
‘Column’ attribute its time to load the entity objects. ‘DataContext’
helps us to load the entity objects in LINQ. It acts a bridge in other
words its a DAL layer between SQL Server database and the entity

So the first step we need to create the ‘DataContext’ object using the connection string.

DataContext db = new DataContext(@"Data Source=.\SQLEXPRESS;AttachDbFilename=D:\SimpleLINQExample\WindowFormLINQ\
Country.mdf;Integrated Security=True;Connect Timeout=30;User Instance=True");

Now we can tag the customer entity class i.e. ‘ClsCustomer’ with
‘Table’ using generics and load data using the ‘GetTable’ function of
the datacontext object.

Table<clsCustomer> Customers = db.GetTable<clsCustomer>();

We prepare a query on customer code basis and fire it on the
‘Customers’ object which we have created using
‘Table<clsCustomer>’. LINQ queries look unusual but they are very
powerful to solve complex business objects filtering and

var query = from c in Customers where c.CustomerCode == txtCustomerCode.Text
select new { c.CustomerCode, c.CustomerName };

Finally we use the enumerator to loop through the objects and display the data in UI.

var enumerator = query.GetEnumerator();
if (enumerator.MoveNext())
var customer = enumerator.Current;

Generalized Query

One of the powerful things about LINQ query is that it’s
generalized. Below figure shows how we have used the same query to fire
on an ADO.NET data source and a custom strong type’s business

You can download the above code which is attached with this article
which shows how generalized queries are implemented using LINQ.

The sample has two button one which loads from the database and the other from customer object collection and the query is same.

 Three Tier Approach using LINQ

Ok, now that we have understood the basics of LINQ. Let’s move ahead and implement LINQ in 3-tier architecture.

As said previously to solve the inconsistent data representation
across tiers we need to represent the data format in entity. Even
though we use the entity class type to represent our data format the
entity has always a context attached. So when the entity is in the DAL
component it has the ‘Table’ context and when the entity is sent to the
business layer it has the ‘IEnumerable’ interface context and in the UI
it’s a plain entity class.

Below is the code snippet for data layer. As this is the DAL we are
creating the ‘DataContext’ object and attaching the entity with the
‘Table’ context.

public Table<CountryEntity> getCountries()
DataContext db = new DataContext(strConnectionString);
Table<CountryEntity> Customers = db.GetTable<CountryEntity>();
return Customers;

Once it comes to the business layer we are firing the LINQ query and
attaching the ‘IEnumerable’ context. One of the important point to note
is that we do not have any transformation code , all the magic is in
the LINQ query.

public IEnumerable<CountryEntity> getCountries()
clsCountryDAL objCountryDal = new clsCountryDAL();
return from c in objCountryDal.getCountries() select c;

The UI happily loops through the business collection and displays the same in the UI.

CountryBO objCountryBO = new CountryBO();
foreach (CountryEntity obj in objCountryBO.getCountries())

You can download the 3-tier code which is attached with thid article to understand the concepts more better. 

Depends how you view LINQ

So depending from which layer you are looking at LINQ you can
visualize how LINQ can be useful. In the DAL component it can act as a
readymade data access , when data is moving from DAL to BO it can
provide functionalities for transformation to object model and finally
in the BO itself it helps us to query and filter data.

Quantifying how much effort we can save using LINQ

Ok, let’s quantify how much effort we can save using LINQ and
also how much standardization we can achieve in project. In DAL side we
can see 7 lines of code is only 3 lines. The most important thing it
eliminates the non-standardized DAL components.

The best productivity using LINQ is in business object layer. You can see how 7 lines of code are minimized to 2 lines of code.

Source code

We have attached the simple LINQ and 3-tier LINQ implementation source code with this article.


Author: dinhnn

Senior software developer, a technical leader. You can be reached at via email to dinhnguyenngoc@gmail.com, via my blog at dinhnguyenngoc.wordpress.com, and on Twitter @dinhnguyenngoc.

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