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New computed observables for real-time .NET Core and Blazor apps - like in KO / MobX, but designed for models of arbitrary size covering all of your server-side data. They're created on-demand, stay in RAM while they're used, are immutable and thread-safe. Their always-in-sync replicas can live everywhere, including Blazor code running in the br…

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Stl.Fusion is .NET Core & Blazor library that attempts to dramatically improve the way we write real-time services and UIs. If you ever dreamed of an abstraction that automatically delivers every modification made to your server-side data to every client who uses (e.g. displays) the affected data, you've just found it.

If you'd rather jump straight to the code, check out Stl.Fusion.Samples repository + an Overview.

Create Real-Time User Interfaces With Almost No Extra Code

Stl.Fusion is a new library for .NET Core and Blazor providing Knockout / mobX - style "computed observable" abstraction designed to power distributed real-time applications. Contrary to KO / MobX, Fusion is designed in assumption the state it tracks is huge – in fact, it's every bit of server-side data your app uses, including DBs, blob storages, etc., so there is no way to fit it in RAM. But we still can track changes there, because we only care about the part of the state that is observed by someone.

That's the reason Fusion uses a different pattern to provide access to this state – instead of providing you with a huge model that's full of nested "observables", it lets you to spawn and consume the parts of your state piece-by-piece. And you already know how to design such an API – any "regular" Web API providing access to some parts of server-side data implements exactly this pattern! The only missing part is change tracking, and that's what Fusion provides.

If you're curious how Fusion compares to other libraries, check out:

Below is a short animation showing Fusion delivers state changes to 3 different clients – instances of the same Blazor app running in browser and relying on the same abstractions from Stl.Fusion.dll:

Note that "Composition" sample shown in a separate window in the bottom-right corner also properly updates everything. It shows Fusion's ability to use both local IComputed<T> instances and client-side replicas of similar server-side instances to compute a new value that properly tracks all these dependencies and updates accordingly:

  • First panel's UI model is composed on the server-side; its client-side replica is bound to the component displaying the panel
  • And the second panel uses an UI model composed completely on the client by combining server-side replicas of all the values used there.
  • The surprising part: two above files are almost identical!

"Server Screen" sample captures and shares server screen in real time, and the code there is almost identical to "Server Time" (the most straightforward state update example):

Get 10×…∞ Better Performance (*)

(*) Keep in mind a lot depends on your specific case – and even though the examples presented below are absolutely real, they are still synthetic. That's the reason we carefully put the low boundary to 10× rather than 10,000× – it's reasonable to expect at least 90% cache hit ratio in a vast majority of cases we are aiming at.

One of tests in Stl.Fusion test suite benchmarks "raw" Entity Framework Core - based Data Access Layer (DAL) against its version relying on Fusion. Both tests run almost identical code - in fact, the only difference there is that Fusion version of test uses a Fusion-provided proxy wrapping the UserService (the DAL used in this test) instead of the actual type.

The speed difference is quite impressive:

Obviously, you're expected to get a huge performance boost in any scenario involving local caching, but note that here you get it almost for free in terms of extra code, and moreover, you get an almost always consistent cache. In reality, it's still an eventually consistent cache, but with extremely short inconsistency periods per cache entry.

So What Is Fusion?

It's a state change tracking abstraction built in assumption that every piece of data you have is a part of the state / model you want to track, and since there is no way to fit it in RAM, Fusion is designed to “spawn” the observed part of this state on-demand, and destroy the unused parts quickly.

It provides three key abstractions to implement this:

  • Compute services are services exposing methods "backed" by Fusion's version of "computed observables". Compute services are responsible for "spawning" parts of the state on-demand.
  • Replica services - remote proxies of "compute services". They allow clients to consume ("observe") the parts of remote state.
  • And finally, IComputed<TOut> – a "computed observable" abstraction, that's in some ways similar to the one you can find in Knockout, MobX, or Vue.js, but very different, if you look at its fundamental properties.

IComputed<TOut> is:

  • Thread-safe
  • Asynchronous – any computation of any IComputed<TOut> can be asynchronous; Fusion APIs dependent on this feature are also asynchronous.
  • Almost immutable – once created, the only change that may happen to it is transition to IsConsistent == false state
  • GC-friendly – if you know about Pure Computed Observables from Knockout, you understand the problem. IComputed solves it even better – dependent-dependency relationships are explicit there, and the reference pointing from dependency to dependent is weak, so any dependent IComputed is available for GC unless it's referenced by something else (i.e. used).

All above make it possible to use IComputed on the server side – you don't have to synchronize access to it, you can use it everywhere, including async functions, and you don't need to worry about GC.

But there is more – any IComputed:

  • Is computed just once – when you request the same IComputed at the same time from multiple (async) threads and it's not cached yet, just one of these threads will actually run the computation. Every other async thread will await till its completion and return the newly cached instance.
  • Updated on demand – once you have an IComputed, you can ask for its consistent version at any time. If the current version is consistent, you'll get the same object, otherwise you'll get a newly computed consistent version, and every other version of it is guaranteed to be marked inconsistent. At glance, it doesn't look like a useful property, but together with immutability and "computed just once" model, it de-couples invalidations (change notifications) from updates, so ultimately, you are free to decide for how long to delay the update once you know certain state is inconsistent.
  • Supports remote replicas – any IComputed instance can be published, which allows any other code that knows the publication endpoint and publication ID to create a replica of this IComputed instance in their own process. Replica services mentioned above rely on this feature.

Why these features are game changing?

The ability to replicate any server-side state to any client allows client-side code to build a dependent state that changes whenever any of its server-side components change. This client-side state can be, for example, your UI model, that instantly reacts to the changes made not only locally, but also remotely!

De-coupling updates from invalidation events enables such apps to scale. You absolutely need the ability to control the update delay, otherwise your app is expected to suffer from O(N^2) update rate on any piece of popular content (that's both viewed and updated by a large number of users).

The last issue is well-described in "Why not LiveQueries?" part in "Subscriptions in GraphQL", and you may view Stl.Fusion as 95% automated solution for this problem:

  • It makes recomputations cheap by caching all the intermediates
  • It de-couples updates from the invalidations to ensure any subscription has a fixed / negligible cost.

If you have a post viewed by 1M users and updated with 1 KHz frequency (usually the frequency is proportional to the count of viewers too), it's 1B of update messages per second to send for your servers assuming you try to deliver every update to every user. This can't scale. But if you switch to 10-second update delay, your update frequency drops by 10,000x to just 100K updates per second. Note that 10 second delay for seeing other people's updates is something you probably won't even notice.

Stl.Fusion allows you to control such delays precisely. You may use a longer delay (10 seconds?) for components rendering "Likes" counters, but almost instantly update comments. The delays can be dynamic too – the simplest example of behavior is instant update for any content you see that was invalidated right after your own action.

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New computed observables for real-time .NET Core and Blazor apps - like in KO / MobX, but designed for models of arbitrary size covering all of your server-side data. They're created on-demand, stay in RAM while they're used, are immutable and thread-safe. Their always-in-sync replicas can live everywhere, including Blazor code running in the br…

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