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Advanced Caching Techniques in ASP.NET 2.0
by Sandeep Joshi | Published  05/05/2006 | .NET Framework ADO.NET SQL Server XML Visual Studio 2005 ASP.NET | Rating:
Sandeep Joshi
Sandeep is a masters graduate in Information Technology. He is having expert hands on Microsoft.NET Technologies as well as J2EE Technology. He has been awarded Microsoft Most valuable Professional twice during his 6 years IT career. He is a well known community speaker. He is also been awarded Microsoft Community Star India in 2002. As a UG Leader he had taken session at Indore .NET User group and is also involved in conducting seminars in Colleges of Indore[India] for .NET awareness. He also runs an educational-portal(www.logicwala.8k.com) with more than 12000 users. His favorite hobbies include playing cricket, singing gajals and writing poems. His mentor is Mr. Amitabh Bachachan besides his Father. Sandeep can be contacted at sandeep_mvp@yahoo.com  

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ASP.NET 1.1

Introduction

Data retrieval from a database is one of the resource consuming operations for a web site. To avoid the slower access, you can cache the database data in memory and then you can avoid accessing the database with every page request.

The caching mechanism works in a way that at the very first request your web pages will be stored in the cache and the subsequent requests can be served from the cache.
This reduces network trips to the backend, minimize database access and dramatically increase the performance of your application. Enterprise applications with greater performance and fast access can be developed using caching mechanism available with Microsoft ASP.Net Framework 1.1 and 2.0.

Microsoft ASP.NET framework is a proven technology for developing enterprise applications and you can leverage the benefits of caching in your web application as well. In this article, you'll learn about many of the new caching enhancements in the ASP.NET 2.0 framework. First, you'll learn what we mean by caching and how it is done using ASP.NET Framework 1.1. Next, you’ll learn how caching support has been integrated into the new DataSource controls. Finally, you'll learn how to configure and take advantage of SQL Cache Invalidation.

Caching Fundamentals in ASP.NET Framework 1.1

Cache: A static object with a collection dedicated to storing and processing cache information (System.Web.Caching.Cache).

Cache Dependency: It is a mechanism through which the cache data can be made dependant on any file or a key data present in the cache itself.

Cache Expiration: It provides a way to provide expiration to the data available in the cache. In ASP.NET 1.1, we have absolute and sliding expiration policies.<o:p></o:p>

Cache Callback: It is a delegate, which can be associated with any cache item. It is invoked when the associated item in the cache expires due to any reason. The expiration reasons can be any of the following:


1. Removed: The item is explicitly removed from cache.

2. Expired: The item’s time is expired due to cache time out or its own expiration policy settings.

3. Underused: The cache item is removed from the cache due to shortage of resources.

4. Dependency Changed: The cache item is removed from the cache because its dependency has been changed.


ASP.NET 1.1 Caching Techniques


Page Output Caching


The output of a web page is the rendered HTML contents. You can cache the output of whole the page with the help of Page Output Cache technique. The output caching can be enabled using a page directive. The page directive is as follows:

<%@ OutputCache Duration="60" VaryByParam="none"%>

The directive specifies that the output of the page will be cached for 60 seconds and no query string parameter will affect the cached page. The duration is in seconds and can be up to 300 seconds. To give you a clear picture of the VaryByParam attribute, let’s assume that the page we have developed is having the name test.aspx and it is in the solution named cachingPractice. To browse this page, you will write following URL in your browser

                                                http://localhost/cachingPractice/test.aspx

This will take you to the test page. Now see the URL carefully. There is no parameter passed with the URL. So in the cache we will have a version for the page with no parameter for next 60 seconds. It means for the next 60 seconds all the requests will be served with the available cache version and the page will not be executed at all. If a request comes after 60 seconds then the page will be executed again and brought to the cache again.


Now for instance, I have changed the Cache Page directive as below:


<%@ OutputCache Duration="60" VaryByParam="PageId"%>

And my requested URL is

http://localhost/cachingPractice/test.aspx?PageId=a1

In this case, for the PageId parameter which is passed in querystring, a new version of page is created for 60 seconds. Each request with PageId=a1 will get the same output for next 60 seconds. If somebody requests the page with PageId=a2, then a new version of page is created for the new value of PageId parameter which will last for 60 seconds.

 

 

Fragment Caching:


When you don’t want to cache the entire page, but the part of a page then fragment caching can be used to cache the page fragment. Fragment caching can be done using user controls. A user control will hold the part of the page which you want to put in cache. The cache directive will be place in the .ASCX file for that control. In this case only the output of the user control will be kept in the cache.

 

Data Caching

 

ASP.NET cache object supports data caching. You can save you data in the cache using a key value pair. This kind of caching is done through programming and no directive is needed. You will have to import System.Web.Caching namespace in code behind file. Cache is a static/shared object and you don’t need to create an instance for this object.


Cache ("key") = value ‘store value or object

var = Cache ("key") ‘retrieve value or object


Here the key represents a string and the value represents an object. You can store any object in the cache. By default the data stored in the cache will remain in memory for the time specified in outputCache duration attribute. However, with the help of expiration policy we can control the expiration time for each data item in the cache.


In ASP.NET 1.1 Framework, we have 2 types of expiration policies.

 

1.Absolute expiration Policy

In this expiration, an absolute time period is defined after which the item will be expired from the cache in any case.

Example:

 

Cache.Insert("key", value, Nothing, Now.AddSeconds(10), Cache.NoSlidingExpiration, CacheItemPriority.High, Nothing)

 

This code will add the value (object) in the cache with the key as “key” for 10 seconds. After 10 seconds the value will be removed from the cache.

 

2.Sliding Expiration Policy

In this expiration, a time span is defined. If the item is not used in that time span then it will be removed from the cache else it will again occupy the cache for the next time span whenever used.


Example:

 

Cache.Insert("key", value, Nothing, Cache.NoAbsoluteExpiration, TimeSpan.FromSeconds(10),

CacheItemPriority.High, Nothing)

The insert method used above takes 7 parameters. Currently we have taken 3rd and 7th parameter as nothing. The 3rd parameter specified the Cache Dependency. We can specify two types of dependencies in ASP.NET 1.1 Framework.

 

  1. Key Dependency: When the cache item is dependant on another cache item, then key dependency is used.

 

Example:


Dim keyarr() As String = New String() {"key1"}

Cache.Insert("key2", value, New CacheDependency(Nothing, keyarr))

 

This code specified that the “key2” is dependant on the keyarr. It means whenever the “key1” value in the cache is altered; the “key2” will be removed from the cache.

 

  1. File Dependency: When the cache item is dependant on a file, then file dependency is used.

 

Cache.Insert("key3", object, New CacheDependency(Server.MapPath("a.xml")))

 

This code specified that the “key3” is dependant on the file “a.xml”. It means whenever the file “a.xml” is altered; the “key3” will be removed from the cache.

Cache Callback

Sometimes it is required that we want to execute certain code when a particular item is removed from the cache. Since the removal is done in background, we need to use a delegate for this purpose. ASP.NET Framework 1.1 provides a delegate to solve this problem. In the Caching Namespace we have CacheItemRemovedCallback delegate which takes a subroutine address as a parameter. The subroutine address is the address of a method which takes three parameters. 1. A String which represents the Key in the cache. 2. An Object which represents the values of the key 3. A CacheItemRemoveReason enumeration gives us the reason forremoval. The delegate can be used as follows:

 

  • Create a Subroutine with 3 parameters as follows and write the code that you want to execute on removal of the item.

 

Sub ONITEMREMOVED (ByVal key As String, ByVal value1 As Object, ByVal r As CacheItemRemovedReason)


Cache.Insert(key,value1,Nothing,Cache.NoAbsoluteExpiration,TimeSpan.FromSeconds(10), CacheItemPriority.High , Nothing)


End Sub


  • Create an object for the delegate and pass the address of the subroutine created in step 1.

    Dim MyCacheDelegate As New CacheItemRemovedCallback(AddressOf ONITEMREMOVED)

Specify the delegate object while inserting the item in cache.

 

Cache.Insert("key", value, Nothing, Cache.NoAbsoluteExpiration, TimeSpan.FromSeconds(10),

CacheItemPriority.High, MyCacheDelegate)

Through this code, whenever the item “key” is removed from the cache, it will invoke the MyCacheDelegate delegate.

Limitation of ASP.NET 1.1 Caching Mechanism


In ASP.NET 1.1, you can invalidate a cached item based on some pre-defined conditions such as change in an XML file or change in another cache item (Dependencies). Using this mechanism the item is removed from the cache when the file or another cached item changes. We can not refresh the item directly. The ASP.NET 1.1 Cache API does not allow you to invalidate an item in the cache when data in a SQL Server database changes.

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