Entity Framework Core – database initialization with Unit Test

I’ve recently been presented a concept of initializing the database (creating or re-creating it) with Unit Test method. Initially I thought it’s a non-sense, but after a while of taking a deeper look…

Code First approach

The method of initializing the database I mentioned was used with Entity Framework Core in ASP.NET Core project, where Code First database creation approach was used. As you know, this approach implies that we create models (classes) representing our database entities in the code first and then, using an ORM system (such as EF), database structures are created. This is very convenient, especially in prototyping. I’ve developed few small or average-size ASP.NET apps and I always used Code First. However, I cannot say how it works on production as these apps were university or pet projects which I’ve never deployed on real customer’s environment. What I noticed is that creating entities using this approach is fast and quite easy.

Database initialization in development phase

As long as your project is in development phase, different developers are working on it and there is some database behind, but the data itself is not very important (you only need the database structure – there’s no production data in it yet), programmers often need to have the database (re)created. To make this process quick and easy, instead of using Migrations straightaway, you can define your models, DbContext and write a Unit Test method which initializes the database. Then, each developer working on the project only needs to re-run this Unit Test to have the database created. What’s more, as soon as another programmer makes any change in any of the models, the others just need to re-run the Unit Test which re-creates the database and potentially fills it with sample data. There’s no need to keep any migration files/scripts in the development phase. The following subsections present how to do that. Examples are based on a simple ASP.NET Core MVC application called CarServiceMvc. I’ve used .NET Core 2.0 Preview 2 and Visual Studio 2017 15.3.0 Preview 3.0. The whole source code

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