Under the cover of i4o

I did some performance optimization work a little while back, and one of the changes which yielded a significant result was when I migrated some server side components (which are CPU intensive and performs a large number of loops) from using ADO.NET DataSets to using POCOs (plain old CLR object).

The looping was then done using LINQ to Objects, and I discovered a nice little extension to LINQ called i4o – which stands for Index for Objects – to help make the loops faster. However, I wasn’t able to observe any difference in performance, which contradicts with the findings on Aaron’s Technology Musing

Digging a little deeper into the i4o source code (admittedly I didn’t do this myself, credit to Mike Barker for doing this!), it turns out that there are a number of drawbacks in i4o which aren’t immediately obvious or mentioned anywhere in the documentation. The biggest problem for us was that it only supports equality comparison, which means it would simply ignore the index you have on the MatchID property if you try to run this query:

var result = from m in Matches where m.MatchID >= 1 select m;

but it’ll use the index on MatchID if you run this query instead:

var result = from m in Matches where m.MatchID == 1 select m;

The conclusion?

i4o is an awesome tool that can turbo boost your LINQ query, but ONLY put indices on properties which you will be doing equality comparison in your queries otherwise you’ll just be wasting some memory space holding indices which would be used at all.

Aspect Oriented Programming in .Net using PostSharp

I saw this article on D. Patrick Caldwell’s blog a little while back:

http://dpatrickcaldwell.blogspot.com/2009/03/validate-parameters-using-attributes.html

It was this article that got me interested in PostSharp and the possibilities that it can bring. PostSharp, in short, is a lightweight framework which introduces some Aspect-Oriented Programming into .Net.

Some of the common usages I have seen include tracing and the ‘memorizer‘ (again, from D. Patrick Caldwell’s blog) being one of the more interesting. There is also a blog entry over at Richard’s Braindump which highlights how you can use PostSharp to implement the INotifyPropertyChanged interface.

One thing I’d like to point out though, is that the parameter validation technique in D. Patrick Caldwell’s blog entry above should be used with care and you should avoid applying the [CheckParameters] attribute at class/assembly level as it does carry some performance hits. After playing around and experimenting with it for a little while, I have settled on applying the [CheckParameters] attribute only on methods whose parameters require validation.

In my line of work, we have a lot of problems with deadlocks in the DataBase due to the number of different applications using the same Tables in the DataBase and the different way they use these tables (some uses nolock, others don’t). As a result, there are a lot of boilerplate code in the DAL classes which catches SqlExceptions and in case of deadlocks or connection timeouts retry up to x number times. This, of course, is a cross-cutting concern, and by employing PostSharp I am able to deal with them with a simple attribute like the one below instead of hundreds and hundreds lines of code.

[Serializable]
[AttributeUsage(AttributeTargets.Method)]
public class RetryOnSqlDeadLockOrConnectionTimeOutExceptionAttribute : OnMethodInvocationAspect
{
     [NonSerialized]
     private int CurrentAttempt;

     public override void OnInvocation(MethodInvocationEventArgs eventArgs)
     {
          CurrentAttempt++;

          try
          {
               eventArgs.Proceed();
          }
          catch (SqlException sqlException)
          {
               if (sqlException.Number == -2 || sqlException.Number == 1205)
               {
                    // put retry logic here
               }
               else
                    throw;
          }
     }
}

and to use it:

[RetryOnSqlDeadLockOrConnectionTimeOutException]
public void SomeDataBaseBoundOperationWhichNeedsRetryOnDataBaseDeadLock()
{
     ...
}