Directions US 2016 (yes, 2016, sorry y’all who got the 2017 link in your mailbox) was quite an event. As Directions always is, a lot of people, enthusiastic about this market we strive to thrive in, and about the product we love no matter the limitations we often face when we aim for better, more scalable architectures.
If anything, it reminded me of a long to-do list I have had around for this blog for a while, and I decided to start cleaning it up. The topic of my main session this year was loose coupling of dependencies (I called it polymorphism, because that’s what I’d ultimately like to see possible in C/AL) and I presented two patterns I came up with during my past few years.
Before I present them here on my blog, I wanted to put them in a broader context: loose coupling. So, this is what this post is all about: explaining what loose coupling is, how to achieve it in C/AL, and why you will not want to live without it ever again.
If you ask me what the top addition to the NAV technology stack over the past few years is – it’s .NET interoperability. A lot of folks, maybe you as well, would disagree, and say it’s Web services. They are important. But if you are a NAV developer, Web services don’t make your life any easier. You are programming for Web services when your requirements tell you so, but that’s it. You don’t experience those moments of truth, when it dawns on you, when you go eureka, slap your forehead and say: now this is something I solve with Web services! Not quite.
But with .NET interoperability, it’s a different story. If you know how to harness its power, there is no single project you’ll ever want to go without using .NET. It opens the door to the most powerful development framework for Windows, and it makes many impossible things possible, in pure C/AL.
There are two kinds of things in this world. Those that .NET Interoperability can do, and those it can’t. Microsoft has been steadily improving it since the initial release in 2009 R2. However, there is still much to be desired. Those small things that you cut in C# in seconds, and twist your brain inside out for hours before you realize you can’t do it in C/AL. Some of them may be in a backlog somewhere in Vedbæk, but I don’t know that, so I decided to compile a list of top 10 things I believe C/SIDE should support, and it doesn’t.
Web services in NAV have an interesting feature: they are stateless. For a system which is pretty stateful otherwise, this feature can be outright annoying. You must get used to it, and then make sure you never ever write code as if there was any state preserved on the other end.
The reason for this is simple – there is no actual protocol that you use to communicate with NAV through SOAP. Calls are ad-hoc, essentially atomic, each one can accomplish a great deal of things in a single go, and it makes programming a whole lot simpler. The price you pay is the state. Once you close the connection, the session ends and the transaction commits (or rolls back). Next call starts from scratch.
If you need to preserve any state between the calls, whatever that state might be, you are toast. NAV simply doesn’t support it out of the box. A common misconception is that single-instance codeunits help. They don’t. The single instance is always single per session, and since each call is an isolated session, it means that each single instance codeunit dies at the end of the call.
Pretty annoying, isn’t it?
Well, it is, and it isn’t. I won’t argue about validity of situations where you need to preserve state across multiple web services calls – I am going to show you how to do it when you need it.
And what I’m going to show you works in both NAV 2009 R2 and 2013.