API's that Suck

December 23, 2010

The Story of UltraBase: Chapter 1

Filed under: UltraBase — Grauenwolf @ 8:27 pm

Like many financial companies, SmallCo had a large stable of applications. The most important of these was a very large Visual Basic 6 application that most of the sales and trading teams used. There were also dozens of small .NET applications that did back-end processing and a website used by a handful of customers that didn’t want to talk to a salesman. Since SmallCo had a tiny IT department and almost no testing budget it relied on quickly change applications even during the middle of the business day. A key part of this strategy was by putting most of the business logic into stored procedures.

This plan worked surprisingly well for a long time, but eventually SmallCo started to evolve into LargeCo. LargeCo’s business model couldn’t tolerate the frequent break-downs and emergency fixes that were part of day to day life at SmallCo. In addition, having all of the business logic in the database was causing them to purchase larger and larger databases until they reached the point where upgrades simply were not feasible. Something had to change.

Fred was hired to make this change. His mandate was to create a middle tier accessible by all applications. All stored procedure calls would go through this middle tier, and over time the logic would be pulled out of the procs and moved into the middle tier itself. The process would start with the website, which was reasonably manageable and was scheduled to be replaced eventually anyways.

To make the process easier, Fred and his team created the UltraBase. The UltraBase was sold to management as just a code generator. Developers would record all of the stored procedure names, parameters, and result sets in the UltraBase’s configuration database and out would pop the middle tier. They could then start the process of moving the business logic out of the database.

After six months of development, the process of calling a stored procedure became this:


Note that at every assembly below website is 100% code-generated. Even the configuration database is code-generated from another database. Absolutely no hand-written code is allowed in the middle tier. If something cannot be expressed using the UltraBase’s configuration tables it had to be moved up into the website or down into the stored procedures.


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