Simple Pipe and Filters Implementation in C# with Fluent Interface Behavior

by jmorris 16. September 2009 21:51

Background

I am working on a project that requires a series of actions to be executed against an object and I immediatly thought: pipe and filters! Pipe and Filters is architectural pattern in which an event triggers a series of processing steps on a component, transforming it uniquely on each step. Each step is a called a filter component and the entire sequence of called the pipeline. The filter components take a message as input, do some sort of transformation on it and then send it to the next filter component for further processing. The most common implementations of a pipe and filter architecture are Unix programs where the output of one program can be linked to the output of another program, processing XML via a series of XSLT transformations, compilers (lexical analysis, parsing, semantic analysis, optomization and source code generation) and many, many other uses (think ASP.NET Http stack).

 

 
 Pipe and Filters Conceptual

The diagram above depicts the actors and message flow. The pump is the event originator which pushes messages into the pipeline to be processed by the individual filter components. The messages flow through the pipeline and become inputs for each filter component. Each filter performs it's processing/transformation/whatever on the message and then pushes the message back into the pipeline for further processing on the next filter component. The sink is the destination of the message after it has been processed by each filter component.

Pipe and Filters Implemented

For me, the best way for me to implement a design pattern is to see how others have implemented it. A quick google search and I came up with the two good examples (actually there are many, many, many examples!):

Both examples take advantage of the newer features of C# such as the Yield keyword (the purpose behind their posts?), which did not apply exactly to my needs. A little meddling however, and I came up with the following:

 
Simple Pipe and Filters Implementation

Here is the final code for the FilterBase<T>:

And the code for the Pipeline<T> class:


Here is rather weak unit test illustrating the usage.

Note that I added a fluent-interface type behavior to the Pipeline<T> class so that you can chain together the registration of the filters and finally execute the chain.

References:

 

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Jeff Morris

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