DDD eXchange 2010 highlights

On Friday I attended DDD eXchange 2010, a one-day software conference here in London on Domain Driven Design. This years conference focused on two themes — architectural innovation and process — and I saw talks by Eric Evans, Udi Dahan, Greg Young, Ian Cooper and Gojko Azdic discussing their various aspects. Here are some of my highlights.

The difference between a Domain and a Domain Model

Eric Evan led the keynote focusing on definitions of many of the original terms that get mixed from the blue DDD book. In particular, he clarified the difference between the domain and the domain model:

  • Domain — the business. How people actually do things.
  • Domain Model — a useful abstraction of the business, modelled in code.

One is fixed (only the business can change it), the other is flexible. It sounds really obvious, but often the terms are used interchangibly and things get messy. Most notably:

  • DDD systems never have a domain layer — they have a domain model. Go and rename your Domain namespace to DomainModel right now.
  • Ubiquitous language is created to describe the domain model — it is not just blindly dictated from the existing domain. Mark Gibaud summarized this succinctly in a tweet:

Both of these are things I have been vocal about in the past.

The difference between a Sub-Domain and a Bounded Context

Following on from the previous point, another tricky one — a subdomain is a sub-part of the business (e.g. in a banking domain, a subdomain might be loans), where bounded contexts are more concerned with things like linguistic boundaries. They are easiest to spot when two business experts use the same words to refer to different concepts.

Likewise, a generic subdomain is not a reusable code library/service (like Google Maps) — it is an area of the business with no special differentiation. Compare this versus the core domain, where the business derives its competitive advantage through differentiating itself from the market.

CQRS

Much of the morning was spent discussing Command Query Responsibility Segregation (CQRS), Event Sourcing, persistent view models, and all that entails. If you’ve kept up with Greg and Udi’s recent talks (here and here), you didn’t miss anything.

In a paper-based system…

Greg mentioned a useful tool he sometimes uses when identifying roles and events in a business system: imagine how the business would operate if it were completely free of computers.

How did they stay afloat sixty years ago when people went home sick? Records got lost, or contained mistakes? Are there any old employees around you can talk to who still remember? The answers to these questions may provide insight into how the domain should be modelled.

This also led into an interesting discussion about how the rise of the multi-user RDBMS has led businesses to expect their software to be 100% consistent (even though their business processes never historically were, before they got computers), and how difficult it is nowdays to convince businesses to embrace scary prospects like eventually-consistency and the possibility of stale data.

Aggregates synchronize through events, not method calls

Ian Cooper mentioned this briefly in his session on implementing DDD on a large insurance company project. Basically, an aggregate must never call a method on another aggregate — doing so would violate each of their consistency boundaries. Instead, an interaction like this should be modelled as a domain event, with a separate handler coordinating its own consistency boundary (e.g. a transaction) for the second aggregate.

Final thoughts

Overall I had a fantastic time, and I highly recommend anyone to attend next year. Props to the Skills Matter staff and Eric for running such a great event!

You can check out videos of all the sessions here.

Photo credits: Skills Matter DDD eXchange 2010 Flickr set

June 15, 2010

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