ASP.Net MVC : Diving a little more deep

As we further continue our journey of understanding the MVC better , a great way to learn any framework is to examine the source code. Fortunately the source code is available for MVC framework to download or browse over the web at CodePlex ( I have provided the link to Source code below) . Currently they have the latest Version 3 RTM code available to look at. In my case this part came much later because I had an aggressive timeline and there was not much time to learn. However giving the framework source code a thorough look will make you very comfortable with the use of the framework itself because you are able to analyse what happens behind the scenes very well. Not only that, having gone under the hood gives a lot more command over how to effectively achieve the required results without breaking into too much sweat and frustration. A huge productivity gain if you put in some upfront time diving deeper in understanding of design.

A question I have seen a lot in discussion forums being asked is how come ASP.Net MVC does not implement the Observer pattern with Models and Views? In my last post I have mentioned that MVC is a strong use case of Observer pattern in certain scenarios. MVC was conceived for Desktop applications and it is much simpler to have several instances of Views of the same Model and update all the Views when a Model state changes by either one of the Views or some other means. However in the web paradigm generally a View instance is not even available in real time after the View object finishes rendering the HTML. The Model is more passive in nature unlike in an Observer pattern where the Model notifies the Subscriber Views of changes. The Model simply supplies the data that View queries and presents. This does not in any way violate the MVC principle because the MVC pattern’s essential goal is to separate or loosely couple the Model from the Presentation or the View.

Hence to achieve MVC in web applications a variation of basic MVC was developed called Model 2. In Model 2 the request from the Client Browser is passed to a Controller. In case of ASP.Net MVC this is a central Controller called Front Controller which simply takes a Http request, parses it to create the right Controller instance to execute the right Action. To see this implementation you can look at the MvcHandler.cs in source which acts as the Front Controller –

1) ProcessRequest function of the handler parses the request to create the right controller instance.

2) The ControllerBase.cs has the definition for the Execute() function that in turn executes the request. The Controller.cs derives from ControllerBase implementing the IController interface which has the contract for Execute() method. All controllers derive from the Controller.cs.  This method gets called from the ProcessRequest of MvcHandler.

3 ) The actual invocation of action  is done by the InvokeAction method of the ControllerActionInvoker.cs class. The InvokeAction returns an ActionResult type which is an abstract representation of the type of the View that gets returned.

The intention of outlining above is to give you a way to trace the sequence of flow in the Source Code of how the Model 2 was achieved. This completes the understanding of how the request went through the pipeline and completed. I would not like include the actual code listings here: it is a good exercise to have a look at the code yourself and trace out the pipeline.

There are several references to get a better understanding of the Model 2 itself. I suggest to go though Model 2 on Page. 549 of the Head First Design Patterns book. There is a great article by Dino Esposito in MSDN Magazine, which illustrates Model 2 very well here.

ASP.NET MVC 3 RTM Source code on CodePlex .


  1. #1 by on March 11, 2014 - 5:01 am

    I’ve recently been thinking the exact same thing myself recently. Grateful to see somebody on the same wavelength! Nice article.

  2. #2 by on April 8, 2014 - 5:30 pm

    I think other web-site proprietors should take this website as an model, very clean and fantastic user friendly style and design, as well as the content. You’re an expert in this topic!

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