Your First Remoting Application

In the following sections, you create a sample .NET Remoting application that demonstrates some of the concepts discussed earlier in this chapter. First and foremost, there are two very different kinds of objects when it comes to remoting: objects that are passed by reference and those that are passed by value. MarshalByRefObjects[2] allow the ability to execute remote method calls on the server side. These objects will live on the server and only a so-called ObjRef will be passed around. You can think of the ObjRef as a networked pointer that shows on which server the object lives and contains an ID to uniquely identify the object. The client will usually not have the compiled objects in one of its assemblies; instead only an interface or a base class will be available. Every method, including property gets/sets, will be executed on the server. The .NET Framework's proxy objects will take care of all remoting tasks, so that the object will look just like a local one on the client.

The second kind of objects will be referred to as ByValue objects throughout this book. When these objects are passed over remoting boundaries (as method parameters or return values), they are serialized into a string or a binary representation and restored as a copy on the other side of the communications channel. After this re-creation, there is no notation of client or server for this kind of object; each one has its own copy, and both run absolutely independently. Methods called on these objects will execute in the same context as the origination of the method call. For example, when the client calls a function on the server that returns a ByValue object, the object's state (its instance variables) will be transferred to the client and subsequent calls of methods will be executed directly on the client. This also means that the client has to have the compiled object in one of its assemblies. The only other requirement for an object to be passable by value is that it supports serialization. This is implemented using a class-level attribute: [Serializable]. In addition to this "standard" serialization method, you'll also be able to implement ISerializable, which I show you how to do in Chapter 6.

The First Sample

This sample remoting application exposes a server-side MarshalByRefObject in Singleton mode. You will call this object CustomerManager, and it will provide a method to load a Customer object (which is a ByValue object) from a fictitious database. The resulting object will then be passed as a copy to the client.


When using remote objects, both client and server must have access to the same interface definitions and serializable objects that are passed by value. This leads to the general requirement that at least three assemblies are needed for any .NET Remoting project: a shared assembly, which contains serializable objects and interfaces or base classes to MarshalByRefObjects; a server assembly, which implements the MarshalByRefObjects; and a client assembly, which consumes them.

In most of the examples throughout this book, you will end up with these three assemblies:

  • General: This represents the shared assembly, which contains the interface ICustomerManager and the ByValue object Customer. As the methods of a Customer object will be executed either on the client or on the server, the implementation is contained within the General assembly as well.

  • Server: This assembly contains the server-side implementation of CustomerManager.

  • Client: This assembly contains a sample client.

Defining the Remote Interface

As a first step, you have to define the interface ICustomerManager, which will be implemented by the server. In this interface, you'll define a single method, getCustomer(), that returns a Customer object to the caller.

 public interface ICustomerManager {    Customer getCustomer(int id); } 

This interface will allow the client to load a Customer object by a given ID.

Defining the Data Object

Because you want to provide access to customer data, you first need to create a Customer class that will hold this information. This object needs to be passed as a copy (by value), so you have to mark it with the [Serializable] attribute.

In addition to the three properties FirstName, LastName and DateOfBirth, you will also add a method called getAge() that will calculate a customer's age. Next to performing this calculation, this method will write a message to the console so that you can easily see in which context (client or server) the method is executing.

 [Serializable] public class Customer {    public String FirstName;    public String LastName;    public DateTime DateOfBirth;    public Customer()    {       Console.WriteLine("Customer.constructor: Object created");    }    public int getAge()    {       Console.WriteLine("Customer.getAge(): Calculating age of {0}, " +          "born on {1}.",          FirstName,          DateOfBirth.ToShortDateString());       TimeSpan tmp = DateTime.Today.Subtract(DateOfBirth);       return tmp.Days / 365; // rough estimation    } } 

Up to this point in the code, there's not much difference from a local application. Before being able to start developing the server, you have to put the interface and the class in the namespace General and compile this project to a separate DLL, which will later be referenced by the server and the client.

Implementing the Server

On the server you need to provide an implementation of ICustomerManager that will allow you to load a customer from a fictitious database; in the current example, this interface will only fill the Customer object with static data.

To implement the sample server, you create a new console application in Visual Studio .NET called Server and add a reference to the framework assembly System.Runtime.Remoting.dll and the newly compiled General.dll from the previous step (you will have to use the Browse button here, because you didn't copy the assembly to the global assembly cache (GAC)). The server will have to access the namespace General and System.Runtime.Remoting plus a remoting channel, so you have to add the following lines to the declaration:

 using System.Runtime.Remoting; using General; using System.Runtime.Remoting.Channels; using System.Runtime.Remoting.Channels.Http; 

As described previously, you will have to implement ICustomerManager in an object derived from MarshalByRefObject. The getCustomer() method will just return a dummy Customer object:

 class CustomerManager: MarshalByRefObject, ICustomerManager {    public CustomerManager()    {       Console.WriteLine("CustomerManager.constructor: Object created");    }    public Customer getCustomer(int id)    {       Console.WriteLine("CustomerManager.getCustomer): Called");       Customer tmp = new Customer();       tmp.FirstName = "John";       tmp.LastName = "Doe";       tmp.DateOfBirth = new DateTime(1970,7,4);       Console.WriteLine("CustomerManager.getCustomer(): Returning " +                            "Customer-Object");       return tmp;    } } 

It still looks more or less the same as a "conventional" nonremoting class would—the only difference is that it doesn't inherit directly from Object, but from MarshalByRefObject.

Now let's have a look at the server startup code. This is a very basic variant of registering a server-side object. It doesn't yet use a configuration file, but the server's parameters are hard coded in void Main().

 class ServerStartup {    static void Main(string[] args)    {       HttpChannel chnl = new HttpChannel(1234);       ChannelServices.RegisterChannel(chnl);       RemotingConfiguration.RegisterWellKnownServiceType(                                      typeof(CustomerManager),                                      "CustomerManager.soap",                                      WellKnownObjectMode.Singleton);       // the server will keep running until keypress.       Console.ReadLine();    } } 

Now take a closer look at the startup sequence of the server:

 HttpChannel chnl = new HttpChannel(1234); 

A new HTTP channel (System.Runtime.Remoting.Channels.Http.HttpChannel) is created and configured to listen on port 1234. The default transfer format for HTTP is SOAP.


The channel is registered in the remoting system. This will allow incoming requests to be forwarded to the corresponding objects.

 RemotingConfiguration.RegisterWellKnownServiceType(         typeof(CustomerManager),         "CustomerManager.soap",         WellKnownObjectMode.Singleton); 

The class CustomerManager is registered as a WellKnownServiceType (a MarshalByRefObject). The URL will be CustomerManager.soap—whereas this can be any string you like, the extension .soap or .rem should be used for consistency. This is absolutely necessary when hosting the components in IIS as it maps these two extensions to the .NET Remoting Framework (as shown in Chapter 4).

The object's mode is set to Singleton to ensure that only one instance will exist at any given time.


This last line is not directly a part of the startup sequence but just prevents the program from exiting while the server is running. You can now compile and start this server.


If you look closely at the startup sequence, you'll notice that the registered class is not directly bound to the channel. In fact, you'd be right in thinking that all available channels can be used to access all registered objects.

Implementing the Client

The sample client will connect to the server and ask for a Customer object. For the client (which will be a console application in this example) you also need to add a reference to System.Runtime.Remoting.dll and the compiled General.dll from the preceding step (you will again have to use the Browse button, because you didn't copy the assembly to the GAC). The same using statements are needed as for the server:

 using System.Runtime.Remoting; using General; using System; using System.Runtime.Remoting.Channels.Http; using System.Runtime.Remoting.Channels; 

The void Main() method will register a channel, contact the server to acquire a Customer object, and print a customer's age.

 class Client {    static void Main(string[] args)    {      HttpChannel channel = new HttpChannel();      ChannelServices.RegisterChannel(channel);      ICustomerManager mgr = (ICustomerManager) Activator.GetObject(         typeof(ICustomerManager),         "http://localhost:1234/CustomerManager.soap");       Console.WriteLine("Client.Main(): Reference to CustomerManager acquired");      Customer cust = mgr.getCustomer(4711);      int age = cust.getAge();       Console.WriteLine("Client.Main(): Customer {0} {1} is {2} years old.",          cust.FirstName,          cust.LastName,          age);       Console.ReadLine();    } } 

Now let's take a detailed look at the client:

 HttpChannel channel = new HttpChannel(); ChannelServices.RegisterChannel(channel); 

With these two lines, the HTTP channel is registered on the client. It is not necessary to specify a port number here, because the client-side TCP port will be assigned automatically.

 ICustomerManager mgr = (ICustomerManager) Activator.GetObject(          typeof(ICustomerManager),          "http://localhost:1234/CustomerManager.soap"); 

This line creates a local proxy object that will support the interface ICustomerManager.

Let's examine the call to Activator.GetObject a little closer:

 Activator.GetObject(typeof(ICustomerManager),                        "http://localhost:1234/CustomerManager.soap"); 

Instead of using the new operator, you have to let the Activator create an object. You need to specify the class or interface of the object—in this case, ICustomerManager—and the URL to the server. This is not necessary when using configuration files, because in that situation the new operator will know which classes will be remotely instantiated and will show the corresponding behavior.

In this example, the Activator will create a proxy object on the client side (or in reality two proxies—more on this later) but will not yet contact the server.

 Customer cust = mgr.getCustomer(4711); 

The getCustomer() method is executed on the TransparentProxy object. Now the first connection to the server is made and a message is transferred that will trigger the execution of getCustomer() on the server-side Singleton object CustomerManager. You can verify this because you included a Console.WriteLine() statement in the server's getCustomer() code. This line will be written into the server's console window.

The server now creates a Customer object and fills it with data. When the method returns, this object will be serialized and all public and private properties converted to an XML fragment. This XML document is encapsulated in a SOAP return message and transferred back to the client. The .NET Remoting Framework on the client now implicitly generates a new Customer object on the client and fills it with the serialized data that has been received from the server.

The client now has an exact copy of the Customer object that has been created on the server; there is no difference between a normal locally generated object and this serialized and deserialized one. All methods will be executed directly in the client's context! This can easily be seen in Figure 2-2, which shows the included WriteLine() statement in the Customer object's getAge() method that will be output to the client's console window. Figure 2-3 shows the corresponding output of the server application.

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Figure 2-2: Client output for first sample

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Figure 2-3: Server output for the first sample

Extending the Sample

Quite commonly, data has to be validated against several business rules. It's very convenient and maintainable to place this validation code on a central server. To allow validation of Customer data, you will extend the ICustomerManager interface to include a validate() method. This method will take a Customer object as a parameter and return another object by value. This returned object contains the status of the validation and explanatory text. As a sample business rule, you will check if the customer has been assigned a first name and last name and is between 0 and 120 years old.

General Assembly

In the General assembly extend the interface ICustomerManager to include the method validate().

 public interface ICustomerManager {    Customer getCustomer(int id);    ValidationResult validate (Customer cust); } 

The ValidationResult is defined as follows. It will be a serializable (transfer by value) object with a constructor to set the necessary values.

 [Serializable] public class ValidationResult {    public ValidationResult (bool ok, String msg)    {       Console.WriteLine("ValidationResult.ctor: Object created");       this.Ok = ok;       this.ValidationMessage = msg;    }    public bool Ok;    public String ValidationMessage; } 


On the server, you have to provide an implementation of the mentioned business rule:

 public ValidationResult validate(Customer cust) {    int age = cust.getAge();    Console.WriteLine("CustomerManager.validate() for {0} aged {1}",                          cust.FirstName, age);    if ((cust.FirstName == null) || (cust.FirstName.Length == 0))    {       return new ValidationResult(false,"Firstname missing");    }    if ((cust.LastName == null) || (cust.LastName.Length == 0))    {       return new ValidationResult(false, "Lastname missing");    }    if (age < 0 || age > 120)    {       return new ValidationResult(false,"Customer must be " +       "younger than 120 years");    }    return new ValidationResult(true,"Validation succeeded"); } 

This function just checks the given criteria and returns a corresponding ValidationResult object, which contains the state of the validation (success/failure) and some explanatory text.


To run this sample, you also have to change the client to create a new Customer object and let the server validate it.

 static void Main(string[] args) {    HttpChannel channel = new HttpChannel();    ChannelServices.RegisterChannel(channel);    ICustomerManager mgr = (ICustomerManager) Activator.GetObject(       typeof(ICustomerManager),       "http://localhost:1234/CustomerManager.soap");    Console.WriteLine("Client.main(): Reference to rem. object acquired");    Console.WriteLine("Client.main(): Creating customer");    Customer cust = new Customer();    cust.FirstName = "Joe";    cust.LastName = "Smith";    cust.DateOfBirth = new DateTime(1800,5,12);    Console.WriteLine("Client.main(): Will call validate");    ValidationResult res = mgr.validate (cust);    Console.WriteLine("Client.main(): Validation finished");    Console.WriteLine("Validation result for {0} {1}\n-> {2}: {3}",                          cust.FirstName, cust.LastName,res.Ok.ToString(),                          res.ValidationMessage);    Console.ReadLine(); } 

As you can see in Figure 2-4, the Customer object is created in the client's context and then passed to the server as a parameter of validate(). Behind the scenes the same thing happens as when getCustomer() is called in the previous example: the Customer object will be serialized and transferred to the server, which will in turn create an exact copy.

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Figure 2-4: Client's output when validating a customer

This copied object is used for validation against the defined business rules. When looking at the server's output in Figure 2-5, you will see that CustomerManager.Validate() and Customer.getAge() are executed on the server. The returned ValidationResult is serialized and transferred to the client.

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Figure 2-5: Server's output while validating a customer

[2]Called so because every object of this kind has to extend System.MarshalByRefObject.

Advanced  .NET Remoting C# Edition
Advanced .NET Remoting (C# Edition)
ISBN: 1590590252
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2002
Pages: 91
Authors: Ingo Rammer © 2008-2017.
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