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ASP.NET Model View Controller Pattern

Posted on: March 25, 2008

There’s been some buzz around the web lately around ASP.NET MVC, particularly after Mix where it was a reoccurring topic amongst the more technically oriented visitors. I’ve kept an eye on it for some time, mostly because I like the MVC (Model-View-Controller) pattern a bunch, but I never took the time to actually download the extensions and play with it. For the past few weeks though I’ve been spending a lot of time in planes and airports, and what better way to kill some time than to code?

The MVC pattern may be old news, and I’m sure that most people with at least some application development experience have already used it at some point, though they may not have been aware of it. In software systems architecture we like to think of three distinct layers of abstraction that help us organize and manage code and functionality. Or at least we did until the number 3 started to feel old and was replaced by the much more sexy ‘n’ ;).

MVCThose three layers are Data, Logic and UI, though they may be called by different names depending on your platform/environment/religion. What MVC does is it focuses on the UI layer, or the presentation layer, and splits it further into one or more Controllers and Views.

Controllers are the handlers and responders to UI events such as user interaction. The Controller responds to a user action and then updates the Model to reflect this action. The Model is roughly equal to the Data layer in the 3 tier architecture described above, though there are some important differences. A model is a contextually skewed data layer in the sense that there may be several models representing the same data from various ‘viewpoints’. The Model is what gives contextual meaning to the data by ‘modelling’ it in accordance with the current domain of the application.

The View presents the Model to the user in accordance with its context, e.g. as a UI that is updated to reflect the state of the Model. The model has no knowledge of the View and the View cannot directly change the state of the Model.

This basic explanation of the MVC pattern should be obvious to most .NET developers who are used to mantras like “Applications = Code + Markup” and keywords like code-behind. The MVC pattern is more or less implemented in any pattern/architecture that says ‘Thou shalt not mix UI and logic’ or ‘Get your XML out of my code!’.

What makes ASP.NET MVC so interesting is that it brings this pattern to the ASP.NET programming model, offering a much cleaner, simple to maintain and natural way (for app-devs that is) to program the web. One of my friends recently rewrote his blog using it, and I can’t wait to get an excuse to use this in a live project!

I highly encourage you to download the Visual Studio extensions and try them out. More info can be found here:
http://www.asp.net/mvc/

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