JG Estevez JG Estevez - 2 months ago 5
C# Question

Effort- FirstOrDefault returns null when Faking Database

I'm trying to create some unit tests for my project, after much digging around I found Effort, the idea is great, it mocks the database instead of the dealing with faking the DBContext which by the way is really hard to get it right when using a complex schema.

However I'm trying to get the Email of a user after I specifically added it to the in-memory database create by Effort, here is the code

MyContext contextx = new MyContext(Effort.DbConnectionFactory.CreateTransient());

var client = new Client
ClientId = 2,
PersonId = 3,
Person = new Person
PersonId = 3,
EMail = "xxxxx@gmail.com"
contextx.Client.Add(client); //<-- client got added, I checked it and is there

var email = contextx.Client.Select(c => c.Person.EMail).FirstOrDefault();

In the last line above I can't make it to return the email xxxx@gmail.com instead it always returns null.

Any ideas?


Answering Your Direct Question

For the specific question you asked, I would suggest two things:

  1. Take a look at contextx.Client.ToArray() and see how many members you really have in that collection. It could be that the Client collection is actually empty, in which case you'll indeed get null. Or, it could be that the first element in the Client collection has a null value for EMail.

  2. How does the behavior change if you call contextx.SaveChanges() before querying the Client collection on the DbContext? I'm curious to see if calling SaveChanges will cause the newly inserted value to exist in the collection. This really shouldn't be required, but there might be some strange interaction between Effort and the DbContext.

EDIT: SaveChanges() turns out to be the answer.

General Testing Suggestions

Since you tabbed this question with the "unit-testing" tag, I'll offer some general unit testing advice based on my ten years spent as a unit testing practitioner and coach. Unit testing is about testing various small parts of your application in isolation. Typically this means that unit tests only interact with a few classes at once. This also means that unit tests should not depend on external libraries or dependencies (such as the database). Conversely, an integration test exercises more parts of the system at once and may have external dependencies on things like databases.

While this may seem like a quibble over terminology, the terms are important for conveying the actual intent of your tests to other members of your team.

In this case, either you are really wanting to unit test some piece of functionality that happens to depend on DbContext, or you are attempting to test your data access layer. If you're trying to write an isolated unit test of something that depends on the DbContext directly, then you need to break the dependency on the DbContext. I'll explain this below in Breaking the Dependency on DbContext below. Otherwise, you're really trying to integration test your DbContext including how your entities are mapped. In this case, I've always found it best to isolate these tests and use a real (local) database. You probably want to use a locally installed database of the same variety you're using in production. Often, SqlExpress works just fine. Point your tests at an instance of the database that the tests can completely trash. Let your tests remove any existing data before running each test. Then, they can setup whatever data they need without concern that existing data will conflict.

Breaking the Dependency on DbContext

So then, how do you write good unit tests when your business logic depends on accessing DbContext? You don't.

In my applications that use Entity Framework for data persistence, I make sure access to the DbContext is contained within a separate data access project. Typically, I will create classes that implement the Repository pattern and those classes are allowed to take a dependency on DbContext. So, in this case, I would create a ClientRepository that implements an IClientRepository interface. The interface would look something like this:

public interface IClientRepository {

    Client GetClientByEMail(string email);


Then, any classes that need access to the method can be unit tested using a basic stub / mock / whatever. Nothing has to worry about mocking out DbContext. Your data access layer is contained, and you can test it thoroughly using a real database. For some suggestions on how to test your data access layer, see above.

As an added benefit, the implementation of this interface defines what it means to find a Client by email address in a single, unified place. The IClientRepository interface allows you to quickly answer the question, "How do we query for Client entities in our system?"

Taking a dependency on DbContext is roughly the same scale of a testing problem as allowing domain classes to take a dependency on the connection string and having ADO.Net code everywhere. It means that you have to create a real data store (even with a fake db) with real data in it. But, if you contain your access to the DbContext within a specific data access assembly, you'll find that your unit tests are much easier to write.

As far as project organization, I typically only allow my data access project to take a reference to Entity Framework. I'll have a separate Core project in which I define the entities. I'll also define the data access interfaces in the Core project. Then, the concrete interface implementations get put into the data access project. Most of the projects in your solution can then simply take a dependency on the Core project, and only the top level executable or web project really needs to depend on the data access project.