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IQueryable vs. IEnumerable

October 4, 2014 Leave a comment

What is the difference between returning IQueryable<T> vs IEnumerable<T>?

IQueryable<Customer> custs = from c in db.Customers
where c.City == "<City>"
select c;

IEnumerable<Customer> custs = from c in db.Customers
where c.City == "<City>"
select c;

Will both be deferred execution and when should one be preferred over the other?   Yes, both will give you deferred execution. The difference is that IQueryable<T> is the interface that allows LINQ-to-SQL (LINQ.-to-anything really) to work. So if you further refine your query on an IQueryable<T>, that query will be executed in the database, if possible. For the IEnumerable<T> case, it will be LINQ-to-object, meaning that all objects matching the original query will have to be loaded into memory from the database. In code:

IQueryable<Customer> custs = ...;
// Later on...
var goldCustomers = custs.Where(c => c.IsGold);

That code will execute SQL to only select gold customers. The following code, on the other hand, will execute the original query in the database, then filtering out the non-gold customers in the memory:

IEnumerable<Customer> custs = ...;
// Later on...
var goldCustomers = custs.Where(c => c.IsGold);

This is quite an important difference, and working on IQueryable<T> can in many cases save you from returning too many rows from the database. Another prime example is doing paging: If you use Take and Skip on IQueryable, you will only get the number of rows requested; doing that on an IEnumerable<T> will cause all of your rows to be loaded in memory.

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