Cool stuff in FubuCore No. 1: Cache

This is the first post of the FubuCore series mentioned in the Introduction post.

This post covers the Cache<TKey, TValue> class (tests can be found in the CacheTester)

Introduction

The name of this class may make you think it has something to do with ASP.NET output caching, but that would be incorrect.  A cache stores things, so in that loose sense, this class is a cache.

The purpose of this class is to be a very convenient wrapper around a Dictionary<TKey, TValue>.  This wrapper makes the API of Dictionary much easier to use in-line in functional-like expressions, among other purposes.

In the FubuMVC framework, and at Dovetail, we use this class extensively for maintaining an in-memory, application-lifetime (non-expiring) cache of stuff loaded from the database, filesystem, or other expensive/time-consuming source.  FubuMVC uses this class, for example, to cache all the behavior chain configuration that is produced at start-up time in your app. This configuration is costly to generate and doesn’t change after start-up time, so it makes sense to cache it for the duration of the AppDomain.

You can see this by looking at the BehaviorGraph class in FubuMVC. You can see we store the Behavior Chains several different ways (similar to indexes in a database) in order to make retrieval quick.

With that in mind, let’s get to some of the specifics about how useful a class Cache<TKey, TValue> can really be.

Default Values, or “OnMissing”

One of the most useful features of Cache (and, if memory serves, the main reason Cache was created in the first place), is the Default Value/OnMissing functionality.

If you’ve ever used a Dictionary before in .NET, you’ve probably written this code a million times:

var dict = new Dictionary();
// later, elsewhere in the code...
if( !dict.TryGetValue("foo", out myVal))
{
    dict.Add("foo", myVal = "");
}
return myVal;

If the key “foo” doesn’t already exist, Cache will execute the (s => “”) action and stuff that value into the dictionary under key “foo” and return the value for you.

Fill and FillDefault

The Fill method takes a key and value. If the key already exists in the dictionary, nothing happens. Otherwise, the key with the specified value is added.

The FillDefault method takes a key. If the key already exists in the dictionary, nothing happens. Otherwise, the key is added with the default value specified in the OnMissing action passed in via constructor argument.

OnAddition

We added this method because there were some Caches that we used that would occasionally have things added after start-up time.  If something was added, we needed to know about it to take action.

The Cache class exposes an OnAddition property. You can set this to an Action<TValue> and it will get called every time a new value is added to the dictionary. For example:

cache.OnAddition = value => someService.NewItemAdded(value); 

WithValue

This method is handy if you want to do something with the value of a particular key in the dictionary *if and only if* it is already present in the dictionary.  It’ll return true if the key was found (and your action was executed), otherwise false (the key was not found and your action not executed).  For example:

if( ! cache.WithValue("errors", errorList => errorNotifyService.NotifyErrors(errorList) )
{
   errorNotifyService.NotifyNoErrorsFound();
}

Functional-y Methods

Cache has some nifty functional programming-type methods on it that make it easy to chain together and use when building up expression chains.

First

The First property returns the first value that was added to the dictionary. Sometimes this is useful if your cache contains a list of potential candidates (i.e. a list of services that can process your request) and you don’t care which one, so it might as well be the first one.

Each

This is the same as doing a “foreach” over the dictionary, but the syntax is tighter.  There are two variants: One that returns just the values, and one that returns the keys and values. For example:

cache.Each((key, val) => Console.WriteLine("{0}: {1}", key, val));  

Find

This method is useful if you’re searching for a specific value in the dictionary. You want the value returned or default(TValue) (i.e. null for objects, 0 for integers, etc). For example:

// Does the cache contain the entity with name"bar"?
cache.Find(v => v.Name == “bar”)

Since it returns the value, you can chain this together with other methods which can be handy in other expressions.

Exists

This is the same as the Find method, but returns a boolean value instead of the value in the dictionary.

Summary

It’s not the most awesome class in the world, but Cache is pretty handy and useful. We’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of it in our code. Hopefully some of the ideas may be useful for you as well.

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About Chad Myers

Chad Myers is the Director of Development for Dovetail Software, in Austin, TX, where he leads a premiere software team building complex enterprise software products. Chad is a .NET software developer specializing in enterprise software designs and architectures. He has over 12 years of software development experience and a proven track record of Agile, test-driven project leadership using both Microsoft and open source tools. He is a community leader who speaks at the Austin .NET User's Group, the ADNUG Code Camp, and participates in various development communities and open source projects.
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  • Asd

    I just wanted to tell you i love the posts you have starting to write about fubu, cache is awesome and the command line tool aswell!

    Best regards