SQL Azure Database best practices and TDD

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This post summarizes the set of good practices you should follow when developing application on SQL Azure and how to arrange TDD or unit tests based on those practices.

Before continue reading this post, I assume that you are familiar with SQL Azure Databases, Entity Framework and TDD.

One of the highly regarded and strongly recommended cloud development strategies is resilient development, meaning that the application should expect the failures and handle them. This is more than catching the exceptions and informing to users, this includes retry logics, trying alternatives or any other way to mitigate / reduce the failure and user frustration.

Resilient Development in SQL Azure

When accessing a SQL Azure Database we should implement resilient mechanisms. EF provides an execution strategy interface to put custom logic on retrying errors. You can read more about the execution strategies here

There’s a dedicated implementation of the execution strategy named SqlAzureExecutionStrategy especially for the SQL Azure Databases.

Before continuing let us discuss why we need to implement this execution strategy and why it is highly recommended when using SQL Azure databases. You can list many transient failures in accessing databases, but I list the following two are the main culprits.

  • SQL Azure is a database as a service. Applications talk to SQL Azure through the Internet and there is a high probability of communication breakage.
  • SQL Azure has a concept of DTU (Data Throughput Units) which is a number assigned to a database, which directly maps to the usage of CPU, memory and IO. You can say that a database with higher DTU has more throughput. Since DTU is a limiting factor, when the databases reach the maximum allocated DTU usage, they start to throttle the requests, which might produce timeout exceptions.

Implementing the execution strategy comes with the limitations, mainly we cannot handle custom transactions if we implement execution strategy. So needless to say that we should implement it in a way that we can control it.

This link describes the limitations and provide the pattern to implement controllable execution strategy.

Limitation on TDD / Unit Tests

Before proceeding just by the above sub heading do not get mislead to the conclusion that TDD is same as Unit Tests, they are different approaches.

As you have read in the above link now we know the importance of implementing execution strategy and the limitations. In our unit tests we implement transactions because we can rollback them. This is very essential when running tests on production databases, so we can rollback changes done by the unit tests and leave the database unchanged after the text execution regardless of whether the tests have passed or not.

This is a great article which provides details on how to implement such a test base class.

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