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<An Introduction to Domain Driven Design ⁄ >

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Today's enterprise applications are undoubtedly sophisticated and rely on some specialized technologies (persistence, AJAX, web services and so on) to do what they do. And as developers it's understandable that we tend to focus on these technical details. But the truth is that a system that doesn't solve the business needs is of no use to anyone, no matter how pretty it looks or how well architected its infrastructure.

The philosophy of domain-driven design (DDD) - first described by Eric Evans in his book [1] of the same name - is about placing our attention at the heart of the application, focusing on the complexity that is intrinsic to the business domain itself. We also distinguish the core domain (unique to the business) from the supporting sub-domains (typically generic in nature, such as money or time), and place appropriately more of our design efforts on the core.

Domain-driven design consists of a set of patterns for building enterprise applications from the domain model out. In your software career you may well have encountered many of these ideas already, especially if you are a seasoned developer in an OO language. But applying them together will allow you to build systems that genuinely meet the needs of the business.

In this article I'm going to run through some of the main patterns of DDD, pick up on some areas where newbies seem to struggle, and highlight some tools and resources (one in particular) to help you apply DDD in your work.

Of Code and Models...

With DDD we're looking to create models of a problem domain. The persistence, user interfaces and messaging stuff can come later, it's the domain that needs to be understood, because that's the bit in the system being built that distinguishes your company's business from your competitors. (And if that isn't true, then consider buying a packaged product instead).

By model we don't mean a diagram or set of diagrams; sure, diagrams are useful but they aren't the model, just different views of the model (see Figure). No, the model is the set of concepts that we select to be implemented in software, represented in code and any other software artifact used to construct the delivered system. In other words, the code is the model. Text editors provide one way to work with this model, though modern tools provide plenty of other visualizations too (UML class diagrams, entity-relationship diagrams, Spring beandocs [2], Struts/JSF flows, and so on).

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