How do I implement DbContext inheritance for multiple databases in EF7 / .NET Core

.net-core entity-framework entity-framework-core


I am building web APIs in ASP.NET Core 1.1.

I have a number different databases (for different systems) which have common base schemas for configuration items such as Configuration, Users and groups (about 25 tables in all). I am trying to avoid duplicating the quite extensive EF configuration for the shared part of the model by inheriting from a base class as shown in the diagram.

My DbContext inheritance tree

However, this does not work because of the Entity Framework (EF) requirement to pass DbContextOptions<DerivedRepository> as a parameter to the constructor, where DerivedRepository must match the type of the repository the constructor is called on. The parameter must then be passed down to the base DbContext by calling :base(param).

So when (for example) InvestContext is initialised with DbContextOptions<InvestContext>, it calls base(DbContextOptions<InvestContext>) and EF throws an error because the call to the ConfigurationContext constructor is receiving a parameter of type DbContextOptions<InvestContext> instead of the required type DbContextOptions<ConfigurationContext>. Since the options field on DbContext is defined as

    private readonly DbContextOptions _options;

I can't see a way around this.

What is the best way to define the shared model once and use it multiple times? I guess I could create a helper function and call it from every derived context, but it's not nearly as clean or transparent as inheritance.

2/10/2017 6:54:32 AM

Accepted Answer

OK, I have got this working in a way which still uses the inheritance hierarchy, like this (using InvestContext from above as the example):

As stated, the InvestContext class receives a constructor parameter of type DbContextOptions<InvestContext>, but must pass DbContextOptions<ConfigurationContext> to it's base.

I have written a method which digs the connectionstring out of a DbContextOptions variable, and builds a DbContextOptions instance of the required type. InvestContext uses this method to convert its options parameter to the right type before calling base().

The conversion method looks like this:

    protected static DbContextOptions<T> ChangeOptionsType<T>(DbContextOptions options) where T:DbContext
        var sqlExt = options.Extensions.FirstOrDefault(e => e is SqlServerOptionsExtension);

        if (sqlExt == null)
            throw (new Exception("Failed to retrieve SQL connection string for base Context"));

        return new DbContextOptionsBuilder<T>()

and the InvestContext constructor call changes from this:

  public InvestContext(DbContextOptions<InvestContext> options):base(options)

to this:

  public InvestContext(DbContextOptions<InvestContext> options):base(ChangeOptionsType<ConfigurationContext>(options))

So far both InvestContext and ConfigurationContext work for simple queries, but it seems like a bit of a hack and possibly not something the designers of EF7 had in mind.

I am still concerned that EF is going to get itself in a knot when I try complex queries, updates etc. It appears that this is not a problem, see below)

Edit: I've logged this problem as an issue with the EF7 team here, and a team member has suggested a change to the EF Core core as follows:

"We should update the check to allow TContext to be a type that is derived from the current context type"

This would solve the problem.

After further interaction with that team member (which you can see on the issue) and some digging through the EF Core code, the approach I've outlined above looks safe and the best approach until the suggested change is implemented.

2/10/2017 7:01:22 AM

Popular Answer

I would like to bring this post from the OP's GitHub issue to everyone's attention:

I was able to resolve this without a hack by providing a protected constructor that uses DbContextOptions without any type. Making the second constructor protected ensures that it will not get used by DI.

public class MainDbContext : DbContext {
    public MainDbContext(DbContextOptions<MainDbContext> options)
        : base(options) {

    protected MainDbContext(DbContextOptions options)
        : base(options) {

public class SubDbContext : MainDbContext {
    public SubDbContext (DbContextOptions<SubDbContext> options)
        : base(options) {

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