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Posted 16 Feb 2008

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Singleton Collection in VB.NET

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16 Feb 2008CPOL
Example of a proper Singleton collection in Visual Basic .NET

Introduction

I have seen many articles written about this subject for .NET. The problem is that there is something wrong or left out of all of them. Most demonstrate the pattern properly but leave some important information out when it comes to an actual implementation. In the example below, I show you how to create a useful singleton business object class which will load data from the database, persist itself within the application, account for inserts and updates properly, only allow one instance of itself and have the ability to be reloaded.

Background

A singleton pattern is a design pattern that is used to restrict instantiation of a class to one object. This can be extremely useful in a .NET Web application. In a typical Web application, every time a user requests a page a transaction is sent to the database, the database returns the data, the data is then read into an object and then displayed. If there is one user on your site, then this happens once, but if there are thousands of users on your site at once this is happening thousands of times. This means thousands of requests to your database and thousands of processor ticks constructing and deconstructing your objects all for the same exact data!

In the example below, the data is loaded from your database the first time it is requested and stored at the application level. This means that all of your users will use the same data, no need for constant round trips back to the database. It also counts for the need to update and insert data, as well as the ability to reload your data as need be.

Using the Code

As a base, we start by inheriting a generic dictionary of a fictional business object article. We choose the dictionary object because it allows us to index to specific objects by their key. We never need to loop through our collection to find an object if we know the id.

Another thing to note is the use of the SyncLock, the reason this is there is because there is a possibility that a user will try to load data while another user is loading it. The lock only allows one instance of that code to be run at once, all others wait in queue. The second test will allow the users in queue to pick up the object after it has been loaded.

Lastly you will notice that there are two methods named editarticle and addarticle. The use of these methods will both insert the data into your singleton object as well as the database, thus not forcing you to reload your object and allowing your data to be safe and secure in the database ready for the next reload.

''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"><summary></span>
''' ArticleList
''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"></summary></span>
''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"><remarks></span>
''' Singleton Collection of articles
''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"></remarks></span>
Public Class ArticleList
    Inherits Generic.Dictionary(Of Integer, Aricle)

    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"><summary></span>
    ''' SyncLock_LOCK
    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"></summary></span>
    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"><remarks></remarks></span>
    Private Shared ReadOnly SyncLock_LOCK As New Object()

    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"><summary></span>
    ''' Instance
    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"></summary></span>
    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"><remarks></span>
    ''' The current running instance.
    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"></remarks></span>
    Private Shared m_instance As ArticleList
    Public Shared ReadOnly Property Instance() As ArticleList
        Get
            ' initialize if not already done
            If m_instance Is Nothing Then
                'only allow 1 person to load data at once.
                SyncLock SyncLock_LOCK
                If m_instance Is Nothing Then
                    m_instance = LoadData()
                    'update time cache was loaded.
                    System.Web.HttpContext.Current.Application("CacheTime") = _
                                DateTime.Now()
                End If
                End SyncLock
            End If
        ' return the initialized instance of the Singleton Class
        Return m_instance
        End Get
    End Property

    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"><summary></span>
    ''' New
    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"></summary></span>
    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"><remarks></span>
    ''' Private Constructor
    ''' Do not allow multiple instances of class to be created.
    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"></remarks></span>
    Private Sub New()
    End Sub

    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"><summary></span>
    ''' LoadData
    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"></summary></span>
    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"><remarks></remarks></span>
    Private Shared Function LoadData() As ArticleList
        Dim al As New ArticleList()
        Using reader As SqlClient.SqlDataReader = _
                DataAccess.ExecDataReader("sp_someprocedure")
            While reader.Read
                Try
                    'init
                    Dim a As New Aricle()
                    'load data
                    ....
                    ....
                    al.Add(a.ArticleID, a)
                Catch ex As Exception
                'log error and move to next row
                End Try
            End While
        End Using
        Return al
    End Function

    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"><summary></span>
    ''' AddArticle
    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"></summary></span>
    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"><param name="key"></param></span>
    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"><param name="value"></param></span>
    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"><remarks></remarks></span>
    Public Sub AddArticle(ByVal key As Integer, ByVal value As Aricle)
        'add article to collection.
        MyBase.Add(key, value)
        'code to insert to database goes here.
    End Sub

    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"><summary></span>
    ''' EditArticle
    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"></summary></span>
    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"><param name="key"></param></span>
    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"><param name="value"></param></span>
    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"><remarks></remarks></span>
    Public Sub EditArticle(ByVal key As Integer, ByVal value As Aricle)
    'edit in memory
    m_instance(key) = value
    'code to update your db goes here.
    End Sub

    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"><summary></span>
    ''' ReloadData
    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"></summary></span>
    ''' <span class="code-SummaryComment"><remarks></remarks></span>
    Public Shared Sub ReloadData()
        m_instance = Nothing
    End Sub
End Class    

Points of Interest

This is a nice alternative to using web.caching to persist data in memory and should give your Web application that boost it was looking for. Just please be aware that if you try to load 300 megs of memory into a singleton object your ASP.NET worker process will take a dive. Design your applications carefully and make the best choices based on your situation.

License

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

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About the Author

Jason Witty
Software Developer (Senior)
United States United States
For more articles please visit my website:
http://www.aprogrammersjournal.com

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Comments and Discussions

 
GeneralPros & cons Pin
neil_b18-Feb-08 20:05
Memberneil_b18-Feb-08 20:05 
GeneralRe: Pros & cons Pin
Jason Witty19-Feb-08 5:22
MemberJason Witty19-Feb-08 5:22 
GeneralConcurrency issues Pin
Member 364034618-Feb-08 20:04
MemberMember 364034618-Feb-08 20:04 
GeneralRe: Concurrency issues Pin
Jason Witty19-Feb-08 5:40
MemberJason Witty19-Feb-08 5:40 
Generalcouple of things.... Pin
Nirosh17-Feb-08 5:29
professionalNirosh17-Feb-08 5:29 
GeneralRe: couple of things.... Pin
Jason Witty17-Feb-08 5:54
MemberJason Witty17-Feb-08 5:54 

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