How to Master Vertical Slice Architecture: Techniques and Examples

In this article, we’ll dive into vertical slice architecture. I’ve personally found that incorporating vertical slice architecture into development initiatives provides an efficient and effective way of building software applications.

I’ll be sharing my knowledge on vertical slice architecture to you understand what it is, the benefits and drawbacks of using it, and how to maintain its best practices. It’s important to understand vertical slice architecture as it can enhance team collaboration, reduce complexity, and improve development timelines. But like all things, we need to understand it so that we know how to apply it and work with it effectively!

So, let’s dive into what vertical slice architecture is, and why it’s a desirable approach for software engineering.

What is Vertical Slice Architecture?

Vertical slice architecture is a software development pattern that organizes code into individual vertical slices that touch all layers of the architecture from the user interface to the database. So what is a vertical slice? Well, each vertical slice serves a single user goal, such as checking out an item or creating an account. This architecture allows software engineers to write code that spans multiple layers of an application and deliver an end-to-end feature quickly.

One of the primary benefits of using vertical slice architecture is that it simplifies testing and debugging, as any problems are confined to a single slice. This architecture enables teams to work more effectively on a single feature at a time. On the other hand, one of the drawbacks is that it can lead to code replication and a more complex codebase if not implemented correctly.

To illustrate this pattern, let us consider developing a banking application where users can create a new account, deposit money, and withdraw money. Each of these user goals (think about them truly like features that exist in the app) would be a vertical slice that encapsulates all the code from the user interface to the database. By organizing code in this manner, engineers can add new features with less overhead, and modify existing features without affecting other parts of the application.

Techniques for Working With Vertical Slice Architecture Effectively

Leveraging a vertical slice architecture can be very helpful for any software engineer looking to build scalable, maintainable, and high-quality applications. Here are some techniques for helping you navigate vertical slice architecture:

Naming Conventions and File Structure

When using vertical slice architecture, it is essential to follow a consistent naming convention and a predefined file structure. By defining predictable names and file structures for each of the slices, confusion and code replication can be mitigated.

For example, slices could be named after their corresponding user goal, such as “create-account” or “withdraw-money.” File structures could also be based on the same naming convention. Consistent naming conventions and file structures across all slices can help to maintain code cleanliness and organization.

If you watch this video that I created demonstrating plugins and vertical slices, you’ll notice that I call out that my code organization and naming are *not* great. As a result, it was hard to effectively convey how the code was working:

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Understanding the Role of the Controller in ASP.NET Core

The controller is an essential component of any vertical slice architecture. It serves as the entry point to the slice, and it is responsible for coordinating actions between the user interface and the rest of the application layers. It also handles communication with other slices of the application.

By defining clear responsibilities for controllers within each slice, communication can be streamlined, and slices can remain decoupled from one another. In C# applications, controllers can be implemented using ASP.NET Core or web API frameworks.

Examples of Vertical Slice Architecture in C#

Vertical slice architecture can be used in different areas of software development, including C#. The technique is used to reduce dependencies and better organize code. There are examples that demonstrate how vertical slice architecture works in C#.

One simple example of using vertical slice architecture in C# is creating a single directory to group all the folders that belong to a single slice. This way, the files related to a slice are placed together and can be worked on without altering the behavior of the other slices. This practice is beneficial for organizing and making it easy to find the relevant files quickly.

The directory could be named after the feature or aspect of the application to which it belongs. In a large-scale application, this clear separation makes it possible to reduce conflict and the need to understand the entire application’s architecture when making changes to a specific section.

I actually do something very similar to this in my ASP.NET Core application. In fact, in this video I walk through some of that code organization showing plugins helping with a vertical slice architecture:

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Pros and Cons of Vertical Slice Architecture in C#

Vertical slice architecture in C# provides several benefits to developers that can help improve the quality of the code and speed of development. The technique encourages the separation of concerns, allowing the team to tackle issues in bite-size chunks. This results in cleaner code that is maintainable and easier to test.

An advantage of using vertical slice architecture in C# is that it enables a team to dramatically improve the team’s velocity and improve productivity. Since team members can work on individual slices without being affected by others, there will be no time wasted waiting for dependent components to be completed.

However, vertical slice architecture has its drawbacks too. When implemented incorrectly, code changes can get pretty confusing. A developer needs to be aware of ensuring that inter-slice dependencies are kept to a minimum and that the architecture is maintained at all times.

It is essential to remember that, just like other software development techniques, vertical slice architecture has its pros and cons, and it must be used where appropriate. For applications that have many dependencies between components, it might not be the right technique to use, as it can cause more overhead and problems. But overall, when done right, vertical slice architecture is an excellent way to organize your C# code and make your software development more effective.

Wrapping Up Vertical Slice Architecture

Effective software architecture is crucial for producing quality code that meets business needs. Vertical slice architecture is one approach to software development that offers several benefits, as well as some drawbacks. In this article, we’ve answered what is a vertical slice, explored what vertical slice architecture is, discussed techniques for using it in C#, and provided examples of its implementation. We’ve also covered the pros and cons of using vertical slice architecture in C#.

To optimize your software development efforts, consider incorporating this approach into your coding practices! Stay up-to-date on the latest software development trends and techniques by subscribing to Dev Leader Weekly and checking out more videos on my YouTube channel. Keep learning, growing, and experimenting with new ways to optimize your software development processes!

Nick Cosentino

Principal Software Engineering Manager at Microsoft. Views are my own.

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