Jan 102010
 

Here are the steps to deploy MVC applications to servers with shared hosting providers.

  • In your Hosting provider’s IIS management panel, create a sub directory and configure it as an appplication- root, so that it is recognized as an asp.net application.
  • Set your MVC dll’s Copy To Local property to true, so that they are copied to the bin directory of the project.
  • Edit your web.config file and update the debug property to false. This holds true for all web applications.
  • Update the connection strings to your hosting provider’s connection strings.

Thats it. Your MVC application should run fine. Mine does.

Jan 092010
 

Though MVC is an age old architectural style that has existed since the 70s, its a relatively new entrant in the .NET world. I had written a general introduction about MVC earlier. That post is available here. While Java, Ruby, Python all had their MVC frameworks for quite some time, ASP.NET was quite comfortable with the Webform based architecture till recently. And Webforms arent really a bad way to code at all, you work with almost a Windows style of programming, dragging dropping controls. Double clicking them to code their event handlers. In fact due to this Rapid application development, ASP.NET was amazingly simple to work with. However, like with all other simple ways, ASP.NET webforms also take a lot of control away from the developer.

MVC seeks to give developers an alternative, where they have complete control over the application including the viewstate of the controls. My first look was at ASP.NET MVC was a training session given by an architect from Microsoft, and I absolutely didn’t like the complexity it brought to a simple demo application that was showed. I found that we were writing too much code, again bringing back spaghetti code that died with ASP. But over time, after digging into MVC, I found that it made a lot of sense. If my need is just to display a set of data, why should I sacrifice performance over all of the gridview’s bulky viewstate. Rather, it makes sense to use a HTML table and apply CSS to style it.  That is exactly the flexibility that MVC gives you, instead of relying on built in abstraction done by Webform architecture, you get to control every detail of your application.

WebForms

ASP.NET Webforms are radically different from any other server side scripting technology. For one, its event driven. Just like Windows programming, you assign an event handler to an element, like a button and it calls the handler when the button is clicked. No longer, do you have to keep on submitting the form to handle click events and write bulky code to do simple stuff. ASP.NET made the server side code clean – in fact a helluva lot cleaner than ASP.

But all this ignores the age old truth about the web/HTTP – that it is stateless. The server forgets about the page the minute its sent to the client and thats the end of it. So how is context maintained in WebForms? The answer is Viewstate. All of the control states are Base64 encoded and recreated on the server again where the request is executed. There is a lot of built-in plumbing to achieve this level of abstraction.

The main problem with webforms is that though it cleans up your code and markup and seperates them neatly in your Visual studio solution, it horribly clutters the rendered markup to the browser. Every control takes up more and more viewstate and the nested control names which are really long, make the markup bulky, and since this does a round trip on every request, it starts impacting performance and eventually scalability.

One more concern is the Testability, due to the event driven approach, the GUI is tighly coupled with your business layer and there isnt any effective way to test your web page. Automating such testing could be an tedious effort and you would most probably end up doing manual testing.

Despite all of these problems, Webforms are not a bad architecture. It is extremely mature and extensible. A lot of good documentation exists for it and it still makes sense for quite a few scenarios.

MVC

With MVC, it was love at first byte. In fact I never realized how inefficient webforms were, until i worked with MVC. Instead of a page receiving the request, its the Controller which lives at the heart of MVC. Once it gets the request, it decides which view to render and may use models.

One great thing about MVC is the clean Seperation of Concerns (SoC ) which you are able to achieve out of the box. Both the Controllers and the Views can be tested separately using testing tools like NUnit or MBUnit. So that means no longer. Manual testing doesn’t really make any sense for most scenarios, because the effort is not repeatable and when you want to try with a different input, you would need to start all over again.

Also, you have complete control over the HTML that your controls generate. No more grappling with heavy Viewstate and decreased performance. Also there is no concept of a postback in MVC. Hence although, we can make use of ASP.NET server controls, we cant use either ViewState or Postback in them. Microsoft is working to create a library of MVC aware server controls that would be more suitable for this architectural style. Also, you have complete control over the HTML that your controls generate. No more grappling with heavy Viewstate and decreased performance. Also there is no concept of a postback in MVC. Hence although, we can make use of ASP.NET server controls, we cant use either ViewState or Postback in them. Microsoft is working to create a library of MVC aware server controls that would be more suitable for this architectural style.

One major point that is oft repeated is that we shouldn’t jump the gun to convert every existing webforms applications into MVC just because its the in thing. You would have to rewrite your application completely, and the benefit derived would often not be worth the effort. But I would certainly  recommend that  you use MVC for any new applications you create. Its certainly the smarter way.

Nov 172009
 

MVC or Model View Controller is an architectural style that separates the business from the presentation layer to enable independent development and testing of each. MVC is not a new concept, It has existed right from the nascent days of software development with the first implementation being in SmallTalk in 1979 done by Trygve Reenskaug.

It is relatively new to the Microsoft World though, with the ASP.NET MVC framework being shipped in 2008 compatible with Visual Studio 2008 – .NET Framework 3.5. So what is MVC? MVC divides the application into three parts – The model, View and the controller.

  • Controller:- The controller is the heart of the MVC application. It recieves each and every request that is made by the user and responds to it accordingly. It controls the flow of the application.
  • Views:- This is the actual UI of the application. The controller controls how the view should be rendered to the browser. Views contain markup, scripts just like an .aspx page
  • Model:- Apart from the View and the controller, all the other parts in the application are collective called as the Model. These components are the business and data logic of the application.

A huge advantage of the MVC architecture is that it separates all these three components and makes them completely independent of each other. Hence all of them can be tested separately rather than the case with the webform architecture where testing each component is a pain and mostly we end up doing functional testing for the whole application. This also means modifying one component is far more easy without disturbing the whole application.

Since all the requests are now handled by the controller, we cannot use the postback feature of the web controls like the webform architecture. One of the drawback (or advantage) of MVC is the level of control over HTML rendering that we have. Since we can exactly control how the page will be rendered, we have to write more code to do so. Also you will see more code mixed with Markup, something that ASP.NET eliminated with the help of code behind.

MVC and WebForms are to be seen as two distinct styles which are advantageous to use depending on the scenario, rather than being pitted against each other. If you have a small standalone application to develop with fewer programming resources, a webform based application makes more sense since there is less coding involved. However if you are looking to build an application that would be used and extended by a large number of users, MVC is certainly the way to go.

To download the ASP.NET MVC framework, use this link.

Once done, you should get the options to create a new ASP.NET MVC project in the Visual Web Developer window.

newProject

The solution explorer has an organized directory structure that must be followed while developing the application.

solutionexp

A simple application is already created for us.

sampleApplication