Successful IoC container usage

Every now and again I here the meme of IoC containers being bad, they lead to bad developer practices, they’re too complicated and on and on. IoC containers – like any sharp tool – can be easily abused. Dependency injection, as a concept, is here to stay. Heck, it’s even in Angular.

Good usage of IoC containers goes hand in hand with good OO design. Dependency injection won’t make your design better, but it can enable better design.

So what do I use IoC containers for? First and foremost, dependency injection. If I have a 3rd-party dependency, I’ll inject it. This enables me to swap implementations or isolate that dependency behind a façade. Additionally, if I want to provide different configurations of that component for different environments, dependency injection allows me to modify that behavior without modifying services using that component.

I am, however, very judicious in my facades. I don’t wrap 3rd party libraries, like a Repository does with your DbContext or ISession. If a library needs simplification or unification (Adapter pattern), that’s where wrapping the dependency helps.

I also don’t create deep compositional graphs. I don’t get stricken with service-itis, where every function has to have an IFooService and FooService implementation.

Instead, I focus on capturing concepts in my application. In one I’m looking at, I have concepts for:

  • Queries
  • Commands
  • Validators
  • Notifications
  • Model binders
  • Filters
  • Search providers
  • PDF document generators
  • Search providers
  • REST document readers/writers

Each of these has multiple implementers of a common interface, often as a generic interface. These are all examples of the good OO design patterns – the behavioral patterns, including:

  • Chain of responsibility
  • Command
  • Mediator
  • Strategy
  • Visitor

I strive to find concepts in my system, and build abstractions around those concepts. The IModelBinderProvider interface, for example, is a chain of responsibility implementation, where we have a concept of providing a model binder based on inputs, and each provider deciding to provide a model binder (or not).

The final usage is around lifecycle/lifetime management. This is much easier if you have a container and ecosystem that provides explicit scoping using child/nested containers. Web API for example has an “IDepedencyScope” which acts as a composition root for each request. I either have singleton components, composition root-scoped components (like your DbContext/ISession), or resolve-scoped components (instantiated once per call to Resolve).

Ultimately, successful container usage comes down to proper OO, limiting abstractions and focusing on concepts. Composition can be achieved in many forms – often supported directly in the language, such as pattern matching or mixins – but no language has it perfect so being able to still rely on dependency injection without a lot of fuss can be extremely powerful.

Avoid many-to-many mappings in ORMs