Creating a framework to be used as a base for many other applications

Oh, interesting, received another retrospective just few days after last one. We have developed a base ASP.NET WebFrom framework named ABC and then developed a series of web applications based on it on 2010/2011. One of them is DEF that is currently (late 2016) in production heavily and I guess will be in production at least till 2021 or even 2025 (no retirement plan yet). DEF is dealing with a database more than 10,000,000 records and is used country wide as a national project. DEF is encountering performance problems and is under constant but small changes of the client.

 

Many companies specially those that are not very technical at managerial level love to write code once but use it in many projects more than once. This is why many IT companies have internal frameworks and many people like myself are searching if it is a good idea at all and if yes, what's the best platform to do that. Creating ABC and making DEF and other applications based on it is a good sample for this approach. I'm gonna to review its real weaknesses as it has been in production for few years now.

 

Large Data

ABC has been used as base project of many applications but no one were dealing with large amount of database records as DEF. At the other hand ABC was not designed to deal with that large amount of data. So DEF has performance issues more than other ABC based projects. Performance issues in turn causing other issues relate to save some records in situations that system load is high.

 

Upgrade

As ABC is base framework and many applications based on it are in production and some of them have multiple instances, so upgrading ABC is hard. Suppose I want to upgrade a component in ABC to enhance some features, this upgrade may cause problems in others, at least I can not be sure that this upgrade is safe for all applications. In DEF case we needed to upgrade Nhibernate and did it in painful and very lengthy process.

slow
slow

Internal mechanism

Like upgrade problem, we have difficulties in changing internal mechanisms and designs. For example changing transaction management is somehow necessary for DEF but it must be done through ABC. And as others are using ABC too, it is not an easy way, and sometimes it is impossible to be accomplished. As a result DEF is forced to live with problems that we know why exists and if DEF was standalone, how can be corrected.

 

Do everything through application channel

For a small application that can be run from a shared host, it is not a bad idea if every operation is done via web application itself. But in a large application like DEF there are situations where other tools are needed. For example we have batch operations that take likely 30 or 60 minutes to complete. A good tool is to use windows services to do this type of work. But DEF uses ASP.NET and IIS to do batches that is not good. Many application pool restarts occur during batch or lengthy operations. Also they reduce speed of current logged users and decrease IIS resources and possibly cause secondary problems. Another example is handling a database table with large record count. We handled it hardly in the application while a better way was to introduce a secondary database and define jobs to move old records to it so main database remaining lighter.

inflexibility
inflexibility

Creating packed mega APS.NET controls

If you are familiar with ASP.NET WebForms you know that we have plenty of ASP.NET controls available there, like drop-down-box. In ABC we have had created some mega controls like them to do bigger operations. Think that they were similar to Telerik or Dundas controls, but larger and wider. For example a grid that was able to do paging, sorting and searching. In theory they were very useful and time saving but they were tightly coupled with other internal structure of the ABC and was very inflexible.

 

Conclusion

General purpose frameworks are seen very promising while not used, but in production many cavities are explored. They are good when used in short term and very very similar applications. If you want speed and flexibility think more about “creating each application from scratch” strategy.