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.NET Remoting Versus Web Services

  • By Thiru Thangarathinam
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With the advent of .NET and the .NET Framework, Microsoft introduced a set of new technologies in the form of Web services and .NET remoting. .NET remoting and ASP.NET Web services are powerful technologies that provide a suitable framework for developing distributed applications. It is important to understand how both technologies work and then choose the one that is right for your application.

The Web services technology enables cross-platform integration by using HTTP, XML and SOAP for communication thereby enabling true business-to-business application integrations across firewalls. Because Web services rely on industry standards to expose application functionality on the Internet, they are independent of programming language, platform and device.

Remoting is .a technology that allows programs and software components to interact across application domains, processes, and machine boundaries. This enables your applications to take advantage of remote resources in a networked environment.

Both Web services and remoting support developing distributed applications and application integration, but you need to consider how they differ before choosing one implementation over the other. In this article, I will show the differences between these two technologies. I will present samples for each type of implementation and identify when to use which technology.


If you are a real Microsoft platform developer then you have done some work on COM and interface based components. When it comes to distributing your program logic, you are almost tied to Distributed COM (DCOM).

DCOM is a very proprietary RPC-based communication protocol for COM-based distributed component architectures. Even though DCOM allows us to create scalable and reliable architectures in the Intranet environment, there are a lot of problems with DCOM when you try to integrate with different platforms and technologies in an Internet environment.

A Look at .NET Remoting

.NET Remoting uses a flexible and extremely extensible architecture. Remoting uses the .NET concept of an Application Domain (AppDomain) to determine its activity. An AppDomain is an abstract construct for ensuring isolation of data and code, but not having to rely on operating system specific concepts such as processes or threads. A process can contain multiple AppDomains but one AppDomain can only exist in exactly one process. If a call from program logic crosses an AppDomain boundary then .NET Remoting will come into place. An object is considered local if it resides in the same AppDomain as the caller. If the object is not in the same appdomain as the caller, then it is considered remote.

In .NET remoting, the remote object is implemented in a class that derives from System.MarshalByRefObject. The MarshalByRefObject class provides the core foundation for enabling remote access of objects across application domains. A remote object is confined to the application domain where it is created. In .NET remoting, a client doesn't call the methods directly; instead a proxy object is used to invoke methods on the remote object. Every public method that we define in the remote object class is available to be called from clients.

When a client calls the remote method, the proxy receives the call, encodes the message using an appropriate formatter, then sends the call over the channel to the server process. A listening channel on the server appdomain picks up the request and forwards it to the server remoting system, which locates and invokes the methods on the requested object. Once the execution is completed, the process is reversed and the results are returned back to the client.

Out of the box, the remoting framework comes with two formatters: the binary and SOAP formatters. The binary formatter is extremely fast, and encodes method calls in a proprietary, binary format. The SOAP formatter is slower, but it allows developers to encode the remote messages in a SOAP format. If neither formatter fits your needs, developers are free to write their own and plug it in as a replacement.

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This article was originally published on May 6, 2003

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