Why are we embarking on this journey?

"The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish." Jacques Cousteau

Why we created this guidance now

The Command Query Responsibility Segregation (CQRS) pattern and event sourcing (ES) are currently generating a great deal of interest from developers and architects who are designing and building large-scale, distributed systems. There are conference sessions, blogs, articles, and frameworks all dedicated to the CQRS pattern and to event sourcing, and all explaining how they can help you to improve the maintainability, testability, scalability, and flexibility of your systems.

However, like anything new, it takes some time before a pattern, approach, or methodology is fully understood and consistently defined by the community and has useful, practical guidance to help you to apply or implement it.

This guidance is designed to help you get started with the CQRS pattern and event sourcing. It is not intended to be the guide to the CQRS pattern and event sourcing, but a guide that describes the experiences of a development team in implementing the CQRS pattern and event sourcing in a real-world application. The development team did not work in isolation; they actively sought input from industry experts and from a wider group of advisors to ensure that the guidance is both detailed and practical.

The CQRS pattern and event sourcing are not mere simplistic solutions to the problems associated with large-scale, distributed systems. By providing you with both a working application and written guidance, we expect you'll be well prepared to embark on your own CQRS journey.

How is this guidance structured?

There are two closely related parts to this guidance:

  • A working reference implementation (RI) sample, which is intended to illustrate many of the concepts related to the CQRS pattern and event sourcing approaches to developing complex enterprise applications.
  • This written guidance, which is intended to complement the RI by describing how it works, what decisions were made during its development, and what trade-offs were considered.

This written guidance is itself split into three distinct sections that you can read independently: a description of the journey we took as we learned about CQRS, a collection of CQRS reference materials, and a collection of case studies that describe the experiences other teams have had with the CQRS pattern. The map in Figure 1 illustrates the relationship between the first two sections: a journey with some defined stopping points that enables us to explore a space.

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Figure 1

A CQRS journey

A CQRS journey

This section is closely related to the RI and the chapters follow the chronology of the project to develop the RI. Each chapter describes relevant features of the domain model, infrastructure elements, architecture, and user interface (UI) that the team was concerned with during that phase of the project. Some parts of the system are discussed in several chapters, and this reflects the fact that the team revisited certain areas during later stages. Each of these chapters discuss how and why particular CQRS patterns and concepts apply to the design and development of particular bounded contexts, describe the implementation, and highlight any implications for testing.

Other chapters look at the big picture. For example, there is a chapter that explains the rationale for splitting the RI into the bounded contexts we chose, another chapter analyzes the implications of our approach for versioning the system, and other chapters look at how the different bounded contexts in the RI communicate with each other.

This section describes our journey as we learned about CQRS, and how we applied that learning to the design and implementation of the RI. It is not prescriptive guidance and is not intended to illustrate the only way to apply the CQRS approach to our RI. We have tried wherever possible to capture alternative viewpoints through consultation with our advisors and to explain why we made particular decisions. You may disagree with some of those decisions; please let us know at

This section of the written guidance makes frequent cross-references to the material in the second section for readers who wish to explore any of the concepts or patterns in more detail.

CQRS reference

The second section of the written guidance is a collection of reference material collated from many sources. It is not the definitive collection, but should contain enough material to help you to understand the core patterns, concepts, and language of CQRS.

Tales from the trenches

This section of the written guidance is a collection of case studies from other teams that describe their experiences of implementing the CQRS pattern and event sourcing in the real world. These case studies are not as detailed as the journey section of the guidance and are intended to give an overview of these projects and to summarize some of the key lessons learned.

The following is a list of the chapters that comprise both sections of the written guidance:

A CQRS journey

  • Chapter 1, "The Contoso Conference Management System," introduces our sample application and our team of (fictional) experts.
  • Chapter 2, "Decomposing the Domain," provides a high-level view of the sample application and describes the bounded contexts that make up the application.
  • Chapter 3, "Orders and Registrations Bounded Context," introduces our first bounded context, explores some CQRS concepts, and describes some elements of our infrastructure.
  • Chapter 4, "Extending and Enhancing the Orders and Registrations Bounded Context," describes adding new features to the bounded context and discusses our testing approach.
  • Chapter 5, "Preparing for the V1 Release," describes adding two new bounded contexts and handling integration issues between them, and introduces our event-sourcing implementation. This is our first pseudo-production release.
  • Chapter 6, "Versioning Our System," discusses how to version the system and handle upgrades with minimal down time.
  • Chapter 7, "Adding Resilience and Optimizing Performance," describes what we did to make the system more resilient to failure scenarios and how we optimized the performance of the system. This was the last release of the system in our journey.
  • Chapter 8, "Lessons Learned," collects the key lessons we learned from our journey and suggests how you might continue the journey.

CQRS reference

  • Chapter 1, "CQRS in Context," provides some context for CQRS, especially in relation to the domain-driven design approach.
  • Chapter 2, "Introducing the Command Query Responsibility Segregation Pattern," provides a conceptual overview of the CQRS pattern.
  • Chapter 3, "Introducing Event Sourcing," provides a conceptual overview of event sourcing.
  • Chapter 4, "A CQRS and ES Deep Dive," describes the CQRS pattern and event sourcing in more depth.
  • Chapter 5, "Communicating between Bounded Contexts," describes some options for communicating between bounded contexts.
  • Chapter 6, "A Saga on Sagas," explains our choice of terminology: process manager instead of saga. It also describes the role of process managers.
  • Chapter 7, "Technologies Used in the Reference Implementation," provides a brief overview of some of the other technologies we used, such as the Microsoft Azure Service Bus.
  • Appendix 1, "Release Notes," contains detailed instructions for downloading, building, and running the sample application and test suites.
  • Appendix 2, "Migrations," contains instructions for performing the code and data migrations between the pseudo-production releases of the Contoso Conference Management System.

Tales from the trenches

  • Chapter 1, "Twilio," describes a highly available, cloud-hosted, communications platform. Although the team who developed this product did not explicitly use CQRS, many of the architectural concepts they adopted are very closely related to the CQRS pattern.
  • Chapter 2, "Lokad Hub," describes a project that made full use of domain-driven design, CQRS, and event sourcing in an application designed to run on multiple cloud platforms.
  • Chapter 3, "DDD/CQRS for large financial company," describes a project that made full use of domain-driven design and CQRS to build a reference application for a large financial company. It used CQRS to specifically address the issues of performance, scalability, and reliability.
  • Chapter 4, "Digital Marketing," describes how an existing application was refactored over time while delivering new features. This project adopted the CQRS pattern for one of its pieces as the project progressed.
  • Chapter 5, "TOPAZ Technologies," describes a project that used the CQRS pattern and event sourcing to simplify the development of an off-the-shelf enterprise application.
  • Chapter 6, "eMoney Nexus," describes migration project for an application that used legacy three-tier architecture to an architecture that used the CQRS pattern and event sourcing. Many of the conclusions drawn in this project are similar to our own experiences on our CQRS journey.

Selecting the domain for the RI

Before embarking on our journey, we needed to have an outline of the route we planned to take and an idea of what the final destination should be. We needed to select an appropriate domain for the RI.

We engaged with the community and our advisory board to help us choose a domain that would enable us to highlight as many of the features and concepts of CQRS as possible. To help us select between our candidate domains, we used the criteria in the following list. The domain selected should be:

  • Non-trivial. The domain must be complex enough to exhibit real problems, but at the same time simple enough for most people to understand without weeks of study. The problems should involve dealing with temporal data, stale data, receiving out-of-order events, and versioning. The domain should enable us to illustrate solutions using event sourcing, sagas, and event merging.
  • Collaborative. The domain must contain collaborative elements where multiple actors can operate simultaneously on shared data.
  • End to end. We wanted to be able illustrate the concepts and patterns in action from the back-end data store through to the user interface. This might include disconnected mobile and smart clients.
  • Cloud friendly. We wanted to have the option of hosting parts of the RI on Azure and be able to illustrate how you can use CQRS for cloud-hosted applications.
  • Large. We wanted to be able to show how our domain can be broken down into multiple bounded contexts to highlight when to use and when not use CQRS. We also wanted to illustrate how multiple architectural approaches (CQRS, CQRS/ES, and CRUD) and legacy systems can co-exist within the same domain. We also wanted to show how multiple development teams could carry out work in parallel.
  • Easily deployable. The RI needed to be easily deployable so that you can install it and experiment with it as you read this guidance.

As a result, we chose to implement the conference management system that Chapter 1, "Our Domain: The Contoso Conference Management System," introduces.

Arrow Legend

Many illustrations in the guidance have arrows. Here is their associated meaning.


Figure 2

Legend for arrows