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Exploring Factory Pattern

, , 23 Jun 2009
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How to Remove Conditional Checks

Table of Contents

  • Motivation
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Definition
  • When to go for Factory Pattern
  • Using the Code
  • Implementations
    • Noob Implementation
      • Advantages
      • Disadvantages
    • Static Factory with Reflection
      • Advantages
      • Disadvantages
    • Self Registration without Reflection
      • Advantages
      • Disadvantages
    • Self Registration with Reflection
      • Advantages
      • Disadvantages
  • Difference between Factory pattern and Factory Method pattern
  • Advantages of Factory Pattern
  • Conclusion
  • References

Motivation

During my study of design patterns, I used to find the term Factory Pattern very often. I searched the Internet and came across numerous sites. After a lot of search and study, I observed that to find the definition of Factory pattern is no tough deal but it took me quite a while to hit upon a simple explicatory implementation of Factory pattern in C#. Most of the examples on the Internet either comprise of Factory Method Pattern or Abstract Factory Pattern. So I decided to write my own article which targets only Factory pattern.

Introduction

An important aspect of software design is the manner in which objects are created, although far more time is often spent considering the object model and object interaction. But if this simple design (of object creation) aspect is ignored, it will adversely impact the entire system. Thus, it is not only important what an object does or what it models, but also in what manner it was created.

I am sure all of us often come across code snippets with switch blocks having the ‘new’ keyword used for instantiating different classes as per client requests. Such a basic mechanism of object creation could result in design problems or added complexity to the design. Factory pattern provides an ideal object creation solution suitable to such situations. Moreover, I found that Factory Pattern helps to implement the Open-close Principle, for more information on OCP, please checks my first article. In this article, I will describe the various implementations of Factory Pattern and pros and cons of each implementation.

Background

Although Factory pattern is one of the most widely used patterns, it is not very familiar to many developers. Perhaps the reason is because it is not included in the GOF (gang-of-four) patterns. However, it is worthwhile to note that Factory Pattern is a base for two very popular GOF creational patterns, namely Factory method and Abstract Factory pattern.

Alright, I think it’s been enough of a prologue, let us now excavate into the intricacies of this pattern. I will take you through the Definition of Factory pattern and then describe the various implementation of Factory pattern.

Definition

Well as the name suggests, Factory pattern is a creational design pattern which facilitates:

  • Creating objects without exposing the instantiation logic to client
  • Referring to the newly created objects through a common interface

I will describe these two points in more detail in the coming sections.

When to go for Factory Pattern

Well, whenever you come across words like kinds or types, watch out for application of factory pattern!! At the end of the day, it all depends on what the project demands.

FactoryPattern.gif

Using the Code

There are plenty of places where we can apply the Factory pattern. But at this moment, let’s consider a familiar example of a Lodging Inquiry system, wherein a customer may wish to get details of different types of available Rooms. Lodging system provides three different types of Rooms (DeluxeRoom, NonACRoom or an ACRoom). Based on the client choice, my system provides the details of specific room. All very well till this point. But just think about how my system might have been designed here?

With no knowledge of factory pattern, a system would have an Interface IRoomType which defines the common behavior for all types of room. All the product-classes (namely ACRoom, DeluxeRoom and NonACRoom) implement this interface. Fair enough till this end, now as per the user request, my client application will instantiate the desired class by directly using the new keyword.

IRoomTypeClass.GIF

Typically, the client-code would appear quite like this:

private void GetRoomDetails(string roomType)
{
    IRoomType room = null;

    switch (roomType)
      {
      	case RoomTypes.AC:
                 room = new ACRoom();
                 break;

            case RoomTypes.Deluxe:
                 room = new DeluxeRoom();
                 break;

            case RoomTypes.NonAC:
                 room = new NonACRoom();
                 break;
      }
      room.GetDetails();
}

So, what is the problem with this type of implementation? Well, before describing the problem, I would like to define one common term “Client application”, which I will use quite frequently. Here, I am referring to any window application that can accept, display and store data is said to be client application. Let’s get back to the real problem.

  1. Firstly, we have lots of ‘new’ keyword scattered in the client application. In other words, the client application is loaded with a lot of condition based object creational activities which can make the client logic very complicated. What if tomorrow new types of Rooms are added in the lodge? Client application code needs to be changed!
  2. Client application has to be aware of all the concrete products (ACRoom, NonACRoom or DeluxeRoom) and their instantiation logic. This methodology often introduces a great deal of the inflexibility in the system, as the direct use of a language/run-time provided object instantiation function creates an explicit association between the creator and created classes.
  3. The coupling introduced between classes is extremely difficult to overcome if the requirements change (as they always do). Just imagine, there comes a season special offer wherein each Non-AC room would be available with a Deluxe Room free of cost! In this case, the constructor of NonACRoom class takes a reference to DeluxeRoom as an argument. Now again, the client application needs to be modified and I am sure after listening to such a drastic change, the developer will get a heart attack.
  4. The above mentioned issues might be easy to deal in the case of a small project. But,
    • What if the client code is huge and too complex to be modified and retested?
    • And what if this inquiry system is being used by multiple lodges in a city?

In these cases, only God can save the whole application.

The failure of the above design can be overcome with the aid of Factory pattern. Factory pattern intends to overcome these drawbacks by delegating the task of object creation to a factory-class. The factory-class completely abstracts the creation and initialization of the product from the client-application. This indirection enables the client to focus on its discrete role in the application without concerning itself with the details of how the product (ACRoom, NonACRoom or DeluxeRoom) is created. Thus, as the product initialization changes over time or new types of product get added to the system, the client remains unchanged. The flow diagram for the same goes like this:

Factory_Client_Block_Diagram.gif

The Factory pattern has evolved over time and majorly there are four different ways of implementing this pattern. Throughout the article, I will take Lodging Inquiry system as an example and will describe the pros and cons with each type of implementation. Before going forward, please synchronize with the attached source code.

  1. Implementation-1: Procedural Solution/Basic noob implementation also known as parameterized factory.

    In noob-implementation, we define a singleton-factory-class said to be RoomFactory class. RoomFactory class is responsible to implement a special-function (say GetRoomType). GetRoomType function accepts the user requests as a function-parameter and returns specific product-object, by directly using the ‘new’ keyword. Each product class (say ACRoom, DeluxeRoom or NonACRoom) must have to implement the common interface (IRoomType). IRoomType interface defines the basic properties for room.

    LodgingManagementClassDiagram.gif

    Noob-implementation removes the scattered ‘new’ from client code and gets the same in RoomFactory class. This way client-code remains less complicated and unchanged when new products get added to the system. The following code-snippet depicts the implementation of GetRoomType method in RoomFactory class.

    internal IRoomType GetRoomType(RoomTypes roomType)
    {
        IRoomType room = null;
    
        switch (roomType)
        {
            case RoomTypes.AC:
                 room = new ACRoom();
                 break;
    
            case RoomTypes.Deluxe:
                 room = new DeluxeRoom();
                 break;
    
            case RoomTypes.NonAC:
                 room = new NonACRoom();
                 break;
         }
         return room;
     }

    In noob-implementation of factory pattern, the code snippets for client-code will be as follows:

    private void SubmitButton_Click(object sender, EventArgs e)
    {
        RoomTypes rmType = (RoomTypes) "ACRoom";
        IRoomType roomType = RoomFactory.Singleton.GetRoomType(rmType);
        roomType.GetDetails();
    }

    Advantages and disadvantages of this implementation are as follows:

    Advantages

    • Easy to implement
    • Client application code doesn’t have to change drastically
    • Moreover, the tight coupling between client and product classes is overcome and turned into coupling between factory and product classes. Hence client need not know the instantiation logic of products.

    Disadvantages

    • If we add any new product (room), we need a new case statement in GetRoomType method of Factory class. This violates open/closed design principle.
    • We can avoid modifying the Factory class by using sub classing. But sub classing means replacing all the factory class references everywhere through the code.
    • We have tight coupling between Factory class and products
  2. Implementation-2: Registration with reflection

    Noob-implementation of factory pattern is easy to implement, but leads to a major setback, violation of open and close principle. Registration with reflection implementation overcomes the problems of noob-implementation. Alright!! Coming back to implementation details, same as Noob-implementation, we have product classes (ACRoom, NonACRoom and DeluxeRoom), interface IRoomType (defines basic properties of product) and RoomFactory class, but internal implementation differs Smile | :) .

    The registration with reflection implementation works on the analogy unique-key association with product classes (ACRoom, NonACRoom or DeluxeRoom). Client sends the corresponding key to get the specific product.

    In registration with reflection implementation, client-application must have to associate each product class (DeluxeRoom, ACRoom or NonACRoom) with some unique identifier. The client code to register each product is as follows:

    private void RegisterProduct()
    {
         RoomFactory.Singleton.RegisterRoom(RoomTypes.AC,  typeof(ACRoom));
         RoomFactory.Singleton.RegisterRoom(RoomTypes.NonAC, typeof( NonACRoom));
         RoomFactory.Singleton.RegisterRoom(RoomTypes.Deluxe,   typeof( DeluxeRoom));
    }

    The RoomFactory class contains a hash table/dictionary which stores the mapping between product’s unique-identifier (key) and type/ product class name (value). RegisterRoom method helps to map the unique-identifier with product-class (ACRoom, NonACRoom or DeluxeRoom).The implementation of RegisterRoom method in RoomFactory class is as follows:

    public void RegisterRoom(RoomTypes id, Type roomtype)
    {
         if (m_RoomMapping.ContainsKey(id) == false)
         {
             m_RoomMapping.Add(id, roomtype);
         }
    }

    The purpose of GetRoomType method in RoomFactory class is the same but the implementation is slightly different from the noob-implementation. Here is the code snippet showing product instantiation logic of RoomFactory class:

    internal IRoomType GetRoomType(RoomTypes roomType)
    {
         IRoomType room = null;
    
        if(m_RoomMapping.ContainsKey(roomType))
         {
             Type className = (Type) m_RoomMapping[roomType];
             room = (IRoomType)Activator.CreateInstance(className);
         }
         return room;
    }

    The big point to notice in this implementation is that, it is the responsibility of client to register each product class in the RoomFactory class before using it. The factory class then creates product objects as per client requests not by using “new” keyword but using reflection.

    Advantages and disadvantages of this implementation are as follows:

    Advantages

    • As the factory class remains unchanged even when new products are added, this implementation doesn't violate the open and closed principle.
    • This implementation provides the loose coupling between Factory class and concrete products. This is because product objects are created using reflection so the factory need not know the instantiation details of product class.
    • The client doesn't need to be aware of all the available products. Only the required products need to be registered before use. Moreover product creation is abstracted from the client.

    Disadvantages

    • The client has to register required product classes with the factory, before use.
    • Reflection makes system slow.
    • Not all the languages support reflection.
    • This implementation is more difficult to implement.
  3. Implementation-3:Self Registration without reflection

    The major problem in the previous implementation is reflection makes the system slow. Current implementation (Self registration without reflection) is more or less the same as implementation-2 but overcomes the problem of reflection. Same as implementation-2 we have product classes (ACRoom, NonACRoom or DeluxeRoom), RoomFactory class and IRoomType interface.  IRoomType interface defines the basic properties for product classes additionally declare CreateProduct method. Signature of IRoomType interface is as follows:

     interface IRoomType
     {
            void GetDetails();
    
            IRoomType CreateProduct();
    }

    In self-registration-without-reflection implementation, IRoomType interface forces each product class (ACRoom, NonACRoom or DeluxeRoom) to implement the CreateProduct method. It is crucial to observe the purpose of CreateProduct method. CreateProduct method returns a new instance of its own type thereby eliminating use of reflection mechanism. The code-snippets of CreateProduct method in NonACRoom product class is as follows:

    public IRoomType CreateProduct()
    {
           return new NonACRoom();
    }

    In addition to realizing the IRoomType interface, each product class (DeluxeRoom, ACRoom or NonACRoom) must implement a static function RegisterProduct. RegisterProduct method associates the specified key with corresponding product-type using Factory class.

    public static void RegisterProduct(RoomTypes roomType)
    {
        RoomFactory.Singleton.RegisterRoom(roomType, new NonACRoom());
    }

    Same as previous implementation, we have GetRoomType method in RoomFactory class which returns the corresponding product instance based on client request. Implementation of GetRoomType method in implementation-3 is as follows:

    internal IRoomType GetRoomType(RoomTypes roomType)
    {
        IRoomType room = null;
    
        if(m_RoomMapping.ContainsKey(roomType))
        {
             room = (IRoomType)m_RoomMapping[roomType];
        }
        return room.CreateProduct();
    }

    Since the registration process of products (ACRoom, NonACRoom or DeluxeRoom) is contained within the product class itself, this mechanism is termed as self registration. Fair enough till this end. Let's come back to the client code, the client registers each product in RoomFactory in the following manner:

    private void RegisterProduct()
     {
           DeluxeRoom.RegisterProduct(RoomTypes.Deluxe);
           ACRoom.RegisterProduct(RoomTypes.AC);
           NonACRoom.RegisterProduct(RoomTypes.NonAC);
     }

    Later, the client code makes use of GetRoomType method of RoomFactory class to get the corresponding room details.

    Advantages

    • This implementation gives us the same advantages as in case of Implementation-2.
    • Additionally, it eliminates use of reflection. This provides considerable performance gain.

    Disadvantages

    • The client has to register required product class with the factory before use.
    • More difficult to implement
  4. Implementation-4:Self Registration with reflection

    The problem in the previous two implementations (implementation-2 and implementation-3) is product classes (ACRoom, NonACRoom or DeluxeRoom) must have to be registered before using. Self registration with reflection implementation removes the pitfall of previous implementation but makes use of reflection. Implementation-4 is almost similar to implementation-2 but the bare difference is the registration is done by RoomFactory class itself. In this implementation, each product class has to define one static property to returns its unique identifier.

    public static RoomTypes Key
    {
        get
        {
           return RoomTypes.NonAC;
        }
    }

    In order to achieve automatic registration, RoomFactory class defines a method, which iterates through all the types within the executing assembly and checks whether the type is a product class (ACRoom, NonACRoom or DeluxeRoom). For example, in this case, we check whether the type implements IRoomType interface. For each of these product classes, the static unique identifier (Key) is retrieved using reflection mechanism. This unique key is registered in hashtable along with corresponding product class type. The code below describes the registration method of RoomFactory class:

    internal  void Initialize()
    {
       Assembly asm = Assembly.GetExecutingAssembly();
    
       Type[] allTypes = asm.GetTypes();
       foreach (Type type in allTypes)
       {
           if (type.IsClass && !type.IsInterface)
           {
               Type iRoom = type.GetInterface("IRoomType");
    
         	if (iRoom != null)
         	{
    
    	    RoomTypes roomType = (RoomTypes)type.GetProperty("key",
                                       BindingFlags.Static | BindingFlags.Public).
    				GetValue(null, null);
    
                  if (roomType != null)
                  {
             	m_RoomMapping[roomType] = type;
    	      }
      	 }
    	}
       }
    }

    Definition of GetRoomType method in RoomFactory class is similar to implementation-2 to retrieve the particular product.

    Advantages

    • This implementation gives us the same advantages as in case of Implementation-2, additionally client does not need to register each product class with the RoomFactory before using it. Registration of product classes will be done automatically using reflection.

    Disadvantages

    • Reflection makes system slow.
    • Not all the languages support reflection.

Difference between Factory pattern and Factory Method Pattern

While going through this pattern, I often felt that this is more or less the same as factory-method pattern. I was completely baffled, what is the difference between both? Then I arrived at some really good points.

  • Factory pattern is the base for Factory method and abstract factory pattern.
  • Here we have just one factory which is intended to create different types of products whereas in factory method pattern, we need to have one abstract class which defines the interfaces for several factories.
  • The advantage of factory method pattern over factory pattern is that the client is abstracted from both the type of product and the type of factory used to create the product. Presuming that the product interface is invariant, this enables the factory to create any product type it deems appropriate. Furthermore, presuming that the factory interface is invariant, the entire factory along with the associated products it creates can be replaced in a wholesale fashion. Both of these radical modifications can occur without any changes to the client.

Difference.gif

Well, implementation and description of Factory Method pattern is out of the scope of this article. Probably, the next article would focus on the intricacies of Factory method pattern.

Advantages of Factory Pattern

One of the eminent facets of a good software design is the principle of loose-coupling or de-coupling, i.e., reducing or removing class dependencies throughout the system. Factory class removes the dependency on the specific product classes generated by the Factory from the rest of the system. The system is only dependent on the single interface type that is generated by the Factory. Loosely coupled or decoupled code is easier to test or reuse since the code has fewer dependencies on other code.

Conclusion

As per the project requirements, the most suitable implementation of Factory pattern can be deployed in the code. The usage of apt implementation will result in considerable fall of code complexity and fair maintenance of code.

References

  1. http://msdn.microsoft.com
  2. http://www.oodesign.com
  3. http://www.dofactory.com

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

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Saurabh_Saxena

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Comments and Discussions

 
QuestionIs Implementation-3 breaking the principle. PinmemberMember 387734728-Jan-14 0:12 
QuestionExploring Factory Pattern Pinmemberrajacsharp530-Dec-13 3:37 
QuestionRe: Self Registration without Reflection Pinmemberpunit singhi7-May-13 21:08 
QuestionHow to make it using Ninject? PinmemberMember 951258427-Oct-12 16:34 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pinmemberzzfima13-Aug-12 1:14 
QuestionMy Vote of 5 PinmemberHiren Khirsaria1-Jan-12 18:01 
GeneralMy vote of 5 PinmemberNIJITH14-Jul-11 21:27 
Generali suggest a little update on implementation-3 PinmemberHadiAnas1-Dec-10 23:02 
thank you for your nice article ...
i have a question
In the implementation-3 i don't understand why u have called CreateProduct() method
in GetRoomType in RoomFactory class as
return room.CreateProduct();
 
u have created products and put them in the dictionary previously...
 
i have put just return room; and it works ...
 
and u have called this method CreateProduct() only in this place, so i suggest delete this method from interface and sub-classes that implement it ..
 
thank you in advance
GeneralRe: i suggest a little update on implementation-3 PinmemberMember 42701957-Feb-13 5:46 
GeneralRe: i suggest a little update on implementation-3 PinmemberZEBRA_CROSSING23-Jul-14 19:52 
GeneralInversion of Control Pinmemberjpbochi30-Jun-09 8:01 
GeneralA good abstract factory does not have any dependencies on the available concrete types. Pinmemberwtwhite1-Jul-09 22:26 
GeneralRe: A good abstract factory does not have any dependencies on the available concrete types. Pinmemberjpbochi2-Jul-09 4:29 
GeneralRe: A good abstract factory does not have any dependencies on the available concrete types. Pinmemberwtwhite2-Jul-09 7:51 
GeneralRe: A good abstract factory does not have any dependencies on the available concrete types. Pinmemberjpbochi2-Jul-09 10:37 
GeneralRe: A good abstract factory does not have any dependencies on the available concrete types. Pinmemberwtwhite2-Jul-09 17:31 
GeneralVery nice article Pinmemberpelsys29-Jun-09 20:18 
GeneralNice article Pinmemberrbdavidson24-Jun-09 2:50 
GeneralSmall Suggestion PinmvpAbhijit Jana23-Jun-09 21:18 
QuestionAbstract Factory? PinmemberBigTuna23-Jun-09 10:53 
AnswerRe: Abstract Factory? Pinmemberamrita nevrekar24-Jun-09 5:39 
GeneralFactory interface Pinmembersupercat923-Jun-09 6:57 

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