Marten’s Compiled Query Feature

TL;DR: Marten’s compiled query feature makes using Linq queries significantly more efficient at runtime if you need to wring out just a little more performance in your Marten-backed application.

I was involved in a twitter conversation today that touched on the old Specification pattern of describing a reusable database query by an object (watch it, that word is overloaded in software development world and even refers to separate design patterns). I mentioned that Marten actually has an implementation of this pattern we call Compiled Queries.

Jumping right into a concrete example, let’s say that we’re building an issue tracking system because we hate Jira so much that we’d rather build one completely from scratch. At some point you’re going to want to query for all open issues currently assigned to a user. Assuming our new Marten-backed issue tracker has a document type called Issue, a compiled query class for that would look like this:

    // ICompiledListQuery<T> is from Marten
    public class OpenIssuesAssignedToUser: ICompiledListQuery<Issue>
        public Expression<Func<IMartenQueryable<Issue>, IEnumerable<Issue>>> QueryIs()
            return q => q
                .Where(x => x.AssigneeId == UserId)
                .Where(x => x.Status == "Open");
        // This is an input parameter to the query
        public Guid UserId { get; set; }

And now in usage, we’ll just spin up a new instance of the OpenIssuesAssignedToUser to query for the open issues for a given user id like this:

    var store = DocumentStore.For(opts =>
        opts.Connection("some connection string");

    await using var session = store.QuerySession();

    var issues = await session.QueryAsync(new OpenIssuesAssignedToUser
        UserId = userId // passing in the query parameter to a known user id
    // do whatever with the issues

Other than the weird method signature of the QueryIs() method, that class is pretty simple if you’re comfortable with Marten’s superset of Linq. Compiled queries can be valuable anywhere where the old Specification (query objects) pattern is useful, but here’s the cool part…

Compiled Queries are Faster

Linq has been an awesome addition to the .Net ecosystem, and it’s usually the very first thing I mention when someone asks me why they should consider .Net over Java or any other programming ecosystem. On the down side though, it’s complicated as hell, there’s some runtime overhead to generating and parsing Linq queries at runtime, and most .Net developers don’t actually understand how it works internally under the covers.

The best part of the compiled query feature in Marten is that on the first usage of a compiled query type, Marten memoizes its “query plan” for the represented Linq query so there’s significantly less overhead for subsequent usages of the same compiled query type within the same application instance.

To illustrate what’s happening when you issue a Linq query, consider the same logical query as above, but this time in inline Linq:

    var issues = await session.Query<Issue>()
        .Where(x => x.AssigneeId == userId)
        .Where(x => x.Status == "Open")

    // do whatever with the issues

When the Query() code above is executed, Marten is:

  1. Building an entire object model in memory using the .Net Expression model.
  2. Linq itself never executes any of the code within Where() or Select() clauses, instead it parses and interprets that Expression object model with a series of internal Visitor types.
  3. The result of visiting the Expression model is to build a corresponding, internal IQueryHandler object is created that “knows” how to build up the SQL for the query and then how to process the resulting rows returned by the database and then to coerce the raw data into the desired results (JSON deserialization, stash things in identity maps or dirty checking records, etc).
  4. Executing the IQueryHandler, which in turn writes out the desired SQL query to the outgoing database command
  5. Make the actual call to the underlying Postgresql database to return a data reader
  6. Interpret the data reader and coerce the raw records into the desired results for the Linq query

Sounds kind of heavyweight when you list it all out. When we move the same query to a compiled query, we only have to incur the cost of parsing the Linq query Expression model once, and Marten “remembers” the exact SQL statement, how to map query inputs like OpenIssuesAssignedToUser.UserId to the right database command parameter, and even how to process the raw database results. Behind the scenes, Marten is generating and compiling a new class at runtime to execute the OpenIssuesAssignedToUser query like this (I reformatted the generated source code just a little bit here):

using System.Collections.Generic;
using Marten.Internal;
using Marten.Internal.CompiledQueries;
using Marten.Linq;
using Marten.Linq.QueryHandlers;
using Marten.Testing.Documents;
using NpgsqlTypes;
using Weasel.Postgresql;

namespace Marten.Testing.Internals.Compiled
    public class
        OpenIssuesAssignedToUserCompiledQuery: ClonedCompiledQuery<IEnumerable<Issue>, OpenIssuesAssignedToUser>
        private readonly HardCodedParameters _hardcoded;
        private readonly IMaybeStatefulHandler _inner;
        private readonly OpenIssuesAssignedToUser _query;
        private readonly QueryStatistics _statistics;

        public OpenIssuesAssignedToUserCompiledQuery(IMaybeStatefulHandler inner, OpenIssuesAssignedToUser query,
            QueryStatistics statistics, HardCodedParameters hardcoded): base(inner, query, statistics, hardcoded)
            _inner = inner;
            _query = query;
            _statistics = statistics;
            _hardcoded = hardcoded;

        public override void ConfigureCommand(CommandBuilder builder, IMartenSession session)
            var parameters = builder.AppendWithParameters(
                @"select, from public.mt_doc_issue as d where (CAST( ->> 'AssigneeId' as uuid) = ? and ->> 'Status' = ?)");

            parameters[0].NpgsqlDbType = NpgsqlDbType.Uuid;
            parameters[0].Value = _query.UserId;

    public class
        OpenIssuesAssignedToUserCompiledQuerySource: CompiledQuerySource<IEnumerable<Issue>, OpenIssuesAssignedToUser>
        private readonly HardCodedParameters _hardcoded;
        private readonly IMaybeStatefulHandler _maybeStatefulHandler;

        public OpenIssuesAssignedToUserCompiledQuerySource(HardCodedParameters hardcoded,
            IMaybeStatefulHandler maybeStatefulHandler)
            _hardcoded = hardcoded;
            _maybeStatefulHandler = maybeStatefulHandler;

        public override IQueryHandler<IEnumerable<Issue>> BuildHandler(OpenIssuesAssignedToUser query,
            IMartenSession session)
            return new OpenIssuesAssignedToUserCompiledQuery(_maybeStatefulHandler, query, null, _hardcoded);

What else can compiled queries do?

Besides being faster than raw Linq and being useful as the old reliable Specification pattern, compiled queries can be very valuable if you absolutely insist on mocking or stubbing the Marten IQuerySession/IDocumentSession. You should never, ever try to mock or stub the IQueryable interface with a dynamic mock library like NSubstitute or Moq, but mocking the IQuerySession.Query<T>(T query) method is pretty straight forward.

Most of the Linq support in Marten is usable within compiled queries — even the Include() feature for querying related document types in one round trip. There’s even an ability to “stream” the raw JSON byte array data from compiled query results directly to the HTTP response body in ASP.Net Core for Marten’s “ludicrous speed” mode.

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