Uncle Bob has a post about why you should limit your use of IoC containers. I read that post with something very close to trepidation, because the first example that I saw told me a lot about the underlying assumptions made when this post was written.
Just to give you an idea about how many problems there are with this example when you want to talk about IoC in general, I made a small (albeit incomplete) list:
- The example is a class that has two dependencies, who themselves has no dependencies.
- There is manual mapping between services and their implementations.
- All services share the same life span.
- The container is used using the Service Locator pattern.
Now, moving to the concrete parts of the post, I mostly agree that this is an anti pattern, but not because of the code is using IoC. The code is actually misusing it quite badly, and trying to draw conclusions about the practice of IoC from that sample (or similar to that) is like saying that we should abolish SQL because of an example using string concatenation has security issues.
I am not really sure about the practices of IoC usage in the Java side, but on the .NET world, that sort of code is frowned upon for at least 4 or 5 years. The .Net IoC community has been very loud about how you should use an IoC. We have been saying for a long time that the appropriate place to get instances from the IoC is deep in the bowels of the application infrastructure. A good example of that is using ASP.Net MVC Controller Factory, that is the only place in the application that will make use of the container directly.
Now, that takes care of the direct dependency on the container, let us talk about a dependency graph that has more than a single level to it. Here is something that is still fairly simplistic:
I colored all the things that share the same instance and those that do not. Trying to keep track of those manually, or through factories, would be a pure nightmare. Just try to imagine just how much code you are going to need to do that.
Furthermore, what about when we have different life spans for different components (logger is singleton, database is per request, tracking service is per session, etc). At this point you raise the complexity of the hand rolled solution by an order of magnitude once again. Using an IoC, on the other hand, means that you just need to configure things properly.
Which leads me to the next issue, manually mapping between services and their implementation is something that we more or less stopped doing circa 2006. All containers in the .Net space supports some form of auto registration, which means that usually we don’t have to do anything to get things working.
As I said, I am not really sure what the status is on the Java world, but I have to say that while the issues that Uncle Bob pointed out in the post are real, the root cause isn’t the use of IoC, it is the example he was working with. And if this is a typical example of IoC usage in the Java world, then he should peek over the fence to see how IoC is commonly implemented in the .Net space.