ASP.NET 4.0 : Data Source Components (part 8) - The LinqDataSource Class -Lazy Loading and Prefetch, Updating Data

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5.7 Lazy Loading and Prefetch

Although the language-to-SQL mapping layer in Linq-to-SQL is nicely designed and optimized, there might be situations in which too many database roundtrips will occur. Hold on, though. I’m certainly not here to say that Linq-to-SQL is broken or unreliable. What I mean is that, especially for quite complex and spanned queries, the system might end up performing too many roundtrips. This mostly depends on the data that is initially fetched and the use you make of it. For example, if you first select a data set (say, customers) and then loop through the selected records and access child fields (say, orders), it might happen that the Linq-to-SQL engine needs to go back to the database for each step to load the related record. To avoid this overhead, you can decide to prefetch a given related table. You typically do this in the ContextCreated event, as shown here:

void LinqDataSource1_ContextCreated(object sender,
LinqDataSourceStatusEventArgs e)
DataLoadOptions options = new DataLoadOptions();

// Prefetch the Order Details table
options.LoadWith<Order>(Order => Order.Order_Details);
(e.Result as NorthwindDataContext).LoadOptions = options;

Prefetching some related tables makes the first query more complex, but it might save a good number of subsequent roundtrips.


Note, though, that Linq-to-SQL automatically expands only the deepest association that it finds in the query. This is a precise design choice that was made to reduce the complexity and amount of data returned by joined queries. In general, if you are going to have more than one level of data association, be ready to deal with a number of queries being executed as you access individual records. To see if some sort of optimization is necessary, always run the SQL Profiler and keep an eye on what Linq-to-SQL is really doing for you.

5.8 Updating Data

When you set to true the value of any EnableUpdate, EnableInsert, or EnableDelete properties, the LinqDataSource control creates the commands for updating, inserting, and deleting data. The following example demonstrates how to use a FormView control bound to a Linq-to-SQL source to edit the address of a customer:

<asp:LinqDataSource ID="LinqDataSource1" runat="server"
Where="CustomerID == @CustomerID">
<asp:ControlParameter Name="CustomerID"
PropertyName="SelectedValue" />

<asp:FormView ID="FormView1" runat="server"
<h2>Change the Address</h2>
<asp:TextBox ID="NewAddress" runat="server"
Text='<%# Bind("Address") %>' />
<asp:Button ID="Button1" runat="server"
Text="Update Address"
CommandName="Update" />

For the code to work, there should be a one-to-one correspondence between bindable properties (for example, Address) and public properties on the data-entity object being displayed. In other words, the preceding code will work only if the objects bound to the LinqDataSource—the Customer class—feature a writable property named Address. If you need to programmatically control any values to be updated, you create handlers for events such as Updating, Inserting, or Deleting. Here’s an example of how to validate a value being assigned:

void LinqDataSource1_Updating(object sender,
LinqDataSourceUpdateEventArgs e)
if (!Validate((e.OriginalObject as Customer).Address))
// Invalid data, cancel the operation
e.Cancel = true;
bool Validate(object member)

The OriginalObject property of the LinqDataSourceUpdateEventArgs object contains the data-entity object being updated. You can replace it using the NewObject property, or you can cancel the operation via the Cancel property.


A LinqDataSource that supports update commands needs to have the Select property left blank. Setting the Select property, in fact, causes the LinqDataSource control to return an instance of a dynamically created class rather than an instance of the data-entity class.

5.9 LinqDataSource vs ObjectDataSource vs SqlDataSource

The difference between SqlDataSource and ObjectDataSource should be fairly clear. The first leads you to add SQL code directly in the markup of ASP.NET pages or, at best, in the code-behind class. Although the resulting page might still work just great, it’s obviously not a best practice to recommend. It might be an effective shortcut for simple sites or temporary pages; however, for the sake of layer separation, you should not use SqlDataSource in any ASP.NET applications with a domain model of any significant complexity.

ObjectDataSource is exactly the opposite. It pushes the use of objects and makes the binding between presentation data-bound controls and data sources happen through the mediation of made-to-measure objects. In most cases, the objects bound to ObjectDataSource won’t be just the top-layer objects of your business tier. But ObjectDataSource allows you to preserve—and, to a good extent, it mandates you to have—a well-designed business tier. It might just require that you add a thin façade on top of it to fulfill the control’s contract with bound objects.

What about LinqDataSource, instead? To me, it falls somewhere in between the other two. To enable Linq-to-SQL you must create a data model—and it’s by far easier if you do this through the O/R designer embedded in Visual Studio 2008. This data model is rooted in a data context class and initially contains only data container classes with data but no behavior. The idea behind LinqDataSource is that you use the auto-generated object model to manage data, and you provide any required behavior through direct injections of Linq-to-SQL commands in the various properties of the control. In the end, the pattern behind LinqDataSource and SqlDataSource is nearly the same; the only difference is the language you use—Linq-to-SQL in one case, and raw SQL in the other. Another important difference that must be noted between SqlDataSource and LinqDataSource is that SqlDataSource can accommodate any relational data source, whereas LinqDataSource is limited to SQL Server.

The LinqDataSource control is not designed to accept methods to call to execute queries or updates. So it requires an underlying object model, but it uses this object model only to back up a query language of a higher level than SQL. The purposes of LinqDataSource and ObjectDataSource are clearly different. ObjectDataSource enables you to take advantage of RAD data binding on top of your existing middle tier. LinqDataSource and related tools give you, instead, a quick way to build an extremely thin and, to some extent, anemic object model, Additionally, it can be quite difficult to deploy on a physically different tier without significant refactoring.

The bottom line that I see is that you should consider ObjectDataSource for enterprise-class applications and wherever the complexity of the domain model is significant. LinqDataSource is a much smarter replacement for SqlDataSource, with the current technological limitation of being restricted to use with SQL Server.

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