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implementing clean architecture using node

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Node Clean Architecture


Recently we had to build a new application in our company. After conducting business and technical design (which is out of the scope of this article), we decided that the application should be a single-page application that works with rest API. The technology stack we choose was:

Client: React

Server (API + persistent): node, elasticsearch

Coming from a background of object-oriented languages, it was natural that we wanted to keep all our SOLID principles in our new and shiny node API.

Like any other architecture, we had to make different trade-offs in the implementation.

We had to be careful not to over-engineer or over-abstract our layers, but rather keep it as flexible as needed.

In recent years, we have implemented clean architecture by Robert C. Martin (Uncle Bob) on our API projects. This architecture attempts to integrate some of the leading modern architecture like Hexagonal Architecture, Onion Architecture, Screaming Architecture into one main architecture. It aims to achieve good separation of concerns. Like most architecture, it also aims to make the application more flexible to inevitable changes in client requirements (which always happens).

clean architecture diagram - dependencies direction are from outside in. source

This diagram is taken from the official article by Robert C. Martin. I recommend reading his article before diving into the node implementation. This is the best source knowledge about this architecture.

Few words about this diagram and how to read it:

  • Dependency - the dependency direction is from the outside in. meaning that the Entities layer is independent and the Frameworks layer depend on all the other layers.

  • Entities - contains all the business entities that construct our application.

  • Use Cases - This is where we centralize our logic. Each use case orchestrates all of the logic for a specific business use case.

  • Controllers and Presenters - Our controller, presenters, and gateways are intermediate layers. You can think of them as an entry and exit gates to the use cases .

  • Frameworks - This layer has all the specific implementations. The database, the web frameworks, error handling etc.
    Robert C. Martin describes this layer :
    “This layer is where all the details go. The Web is a detail. The database is a detail. We keep these things on the outside where they can do little harm.”

In this point you will probably say to yourself “database is in outer layer, database is a detail ???” database is supposed to be my core layer.

I love this architecture because it has a smart motivation behind it. Instead of focusing on frameworks and tools, it focuses on the business logic of the application. This architecture is framework independent (or as much as it can be). This means it doesn’t matter which database, frameworks, UI, external services you are using, the entities and the business logic of the application will always stay the same. We can change all of the above without changing our logic. This is what makes it so easy to test applications built on this architecture. Don’t worry if you don’t understand this yet, we will explore it step-by-step.

In this series, we will slowly unpack the different layers of the architecture through the example of a sample app.

Like any other architecture, there are many different approaches to implement it, and each approach has its own consideration and trade-offs. Here I will give my interpretation of how to implement this architecture on node. I will try to explain the different implementation considerations along the way.

Let’s take a look at the sample application.

Sample Application

Our sample app is a student registration application. The app holds a list of students, courses, and enrollments. Our backend application is a simple node API that supports all the application use-cases.

In the series we will implement the backend API layer-by-layer. You can find all the code here. The articles contains fractions of the code but the best approach (to my opinion) is to explore the code while reading the articles.

The series includes these articles:

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