One of the reasons that I love F# is that is makes it incredibly easy to model domains. By creating a Domain Model which represents the business domain it becomes relatively easy to create workflows and algorithms which streamline business processes. In this post I show how to create types for a domain which are summable, a feature I use frequently in my work.
The Value of Restricting Values
When I have to create a new Domain Model one of the first things that I do is define a single case Discriminated Union of
decimal for the basic building blocks that I am going to work with (Costs, Items, Sales Rates, Days of Inventory, etc.). For example, when I am creating an algorithm to evaluate the financial viability of a product on marketplaces I have to calculate costs, I therefore create a
Cost type. In my domain, a
Cost is never negative therefore I can create a constructor which will enforce this behavior.
The beautiful thing about this is that when I am working with a
Cost type I never have to worry about it being negative. This is a powerful thing when it comes to composing algorithms because I have eliminated a whole host of possible values that I would need to handle. It is amazing how easy it is for a negative numbers to sneak in and cause havoc. I force myself to deal with this bad data at the boundary of the domain instead of inside the algorithm performing the analysis.
The Downside: Where Did Addition Go?
There is a downside to doing this though, basic math operations will not work. At this point if I try to add two different
Cost values I will get a compiler error.
Fortunately this is easy to overcome. All we need to do is implement the
+ operator for the type. We do this by adding a
static member to our type alias. We add the keyword
with to the end of our previous type alias definition and provide the
+ static member.
The arguments for the
+ function may look a little odd so let me explain. By declaring the arguments of the function as
(Cost c1, Cost c2) I am telling the compiler that I expect a
Cost type as the input and I want you to unpack the value inside of
Cost and put it in the
c2 values respectively. This allows me to work with the
decimal values inside of the
Cost type. The function itself adds the two values together and then wraps the result in a
Cost. Now when we go to add two
Cost values we no longer get an error.
The beauty of this is that I have maintained control over the values that
Cost can take on. I declared a
create function which insures positive values. I only allow addition of
Cost types which means that a
Cost will only ever be positive. Some people may brush this off as trivial but as someone who has seen the damage that can happen from values going outside of the expected range, this extra work for reliability and peace of mind is worth it. For me, it is more efficient to ensure values cannot go outside their allowed bounds through controlling construction and operator definitions than to have value checks all over the place.
Well, that is great and all but what happens when we have a
Cost values and we want to sum them. What happens then?
Now when I first came across this I was confused. I had no idea what this
get_Zero operator meant. After digging around for a while I was able to find some examples of what it was referring to. The
sum function wants a starting point for the summation and it gets that by calling the
Zero function on the type. I don’t know why the compiler is saying
does not support the operator 'get_Zero' instead of saying
the type does not have a function named 'Zero'. Again, F# makes this easy to implement.
Now when we try to sum a list of
Cost values we get the expected result.
Freedom Through Constraints
The more I dive into Domain Driven Design with F#, the more I love it. By ensuring values comply with expectations at the boundary of the domain, I am freed to reason about my algorithms without worrying about data going awry inside the domain. While it takes a few more keystrokes to define operations on these domain types, I hope that I showed you that it takes little effort in F# and can lead to more reliable and robust code. Keep calm and curry on!