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Modifying entities with the REST API is CRUD (part 3) - Updating entities

3/16/2011 10:12:22 PM
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3. Updating entities

When deleting an object using the StorageClient library, you need to keep track of the objects to be deleted in the context object for the Products table. You can use similar logic to update objects in your application.

Here’s an example:

var shirtContext = new ProductContext();

shirtToUpdate = (from item in shirtContext.Products
where item.PartitionKey == "Shirts"
&& item.RowKey == "RedShirt"
select item).First();
shirtToUpdate.Description = "I have been modified";
shirtContext.UpdateObject(shirtToUpdate);
shirtContext.SaveChanges(saveOptions);

The preceding code retrieves the RedShirt entity from the Shirts partition in the Products table. The code then modifies the description of the entity and saves the changes back to the Products table.

Merging Data

By default, the SaveChanges method will merge any changes made to the object back to the entity stored in the Table service, rather than performing a replacement update.

Before we can explain what this means, let’s look at an extract of Atom XML that describes the entity held in the Table service:

<content type="application/xml">
<m:properties>
<d:Description>A Red Shirt</d:Description>
<d:Name>Red Shirt</d:Name>
<d:PartitionKey>Shirts</d:PartitionKey>
<d:RowKey>RedShirt</d:RowKey>
<d:Timestamp m:type="Edm.DateTime">0001-01-01T00:00:00</d:Timestamp>
</m:properties>
</content>

By choosing to merge the data, you can efficiently send data back to the Table service by only sending the modified data instead of the full entity. Table 1 shows how this would work in three scenarios:

  • Remote— A remote copy of the entity is stored in the Products table.

  • Local— A local copy of the entity is used.

  • Merged— The changes in the local version of the entity are merged with the remote version.

Table 1. Merging data with updates
ScenarioPartition keyRow keyNameDescription
RemoteShirtsRedShirtRedShirtA Red Shirt
LocalShirtsRedShirtRedShirtA Pink Shirt
MergedShirtsRedShirtRedShirtA Pink Shirt

As you can see in table 1, the only property that has changed for the entity is the description. This means that the client application doesn’t need to send back the name property in the Atom XML describing the entity. The following extract of the Atom XML describes what would be returned to the Table service as part of the merge operation:

<content type="application/xml">
<m:properties>
<d:Description>A Pink Shirt</d:Description>
</m:properties>
</content>

If you need to replace the entity stored in the Table service with your local version rather than performing a merge, you can use the following setting in your client code:

shirtContext.SaveChangesDefaultOptions =
SaveChangesOptions.ReplaceOnUpdate;

In this case, the Atom XML sent using the REST API would contain the full description of the entity rather than just the changed properties.

Using the REST API to Merge or Update

When you use the REST API to update or merge data, you’re really using a combination of the delete and insert REST API functions.

The URI to update or merge the local entity back to the Table storage is the same URI as for the delete operation:

http://silverlightukstorage.table.core.windows.net/Products(PartitionKey='Shirts', RowKey='RedShirt')

As you can see, the URI needs to specify the PartitionKey and RowKey of the entity being modified. Depending on the operation you’re performing, you should set the HTTP verb to either MERGE or PUT. Finally, the body of the HTTP request should be set to the AtomPub XML document that describes the entity (this is the same as the XML used to create the entity).

If you wish to modify the console application from section 1 of this article to merge instead of insert, you would need to change the URI and HTTP verbs in the code.

Finally, you would need to add a new If-Match header to the request. This header is used to ensure that the data held in the remote version of the entity has not changed since you grabbed the local version. If you wish to ensure that data is only modified if the data is unchanged, you should set the If-Match header to the e-tag that was originally returned with the entity.

If you wish to perform an unconditional update, the value of the If-Match header should be set to "*".

In this section, you’ve learned how to perform inserts, updates, and deletes against your entities. But you’re unlikely to work with single entities, so it’s time to learn about some of the complications of updating data—batching and transactions.

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