Thursday, February 22, 2007

Tightly coupling .NET and Java components utilizing IIOP.NET

Loosely coupled sort of integrations such as SOA are common since business processes are becoming more dynamic and object-based development platforms are expanding. But I don’t think the era of tightly coupled systems is over yet for reasons such as lower integration cost or having stateful distributed objects (rare but valid requirement).

The objective of this post isn't to debate the pros and cons of such integration methods, but to introduce a .NET library using which .NET components can expose interfaces compliant with CORBA's IDL and thus, simply put, be integrated with any other component that understands IDL (e.g.: Java components via RMI-IIOP).
I'm assuming you're not familiar with CORBA and hence I'll start with a brief introduction to ORB and CORBA.

The following picture depicts the basic concept behind an ORB. The general purpose of an ORB is to provide communication means between different components of a software application. The component providing a service is represented by an object which encapsulates the code.
A client can request service from an object by sending a request through an ORB.

CORBA is OMG’s vendor-independent architecture that defines true interoperability by specifying how ORBs from different vendors can communicate.
Following figure shows some of the finer grained details from the CORBA model.
The shaded section between the application and the ORB infrastructure is the only part that is standardized by CORBA; semantics. CORBA doesn't standardize the underlying mechanisms though. Consequently the selected underlying mechanisms may not be compatible across different vendors.
To resolve this issue an additional standard called Internet Inter ORB Protocol (IIOP) has been defined to specify how different ORB mechanisms can interoperate transparently.

IIOP .NET is a .NET Remoting channel based on IIOP's conventions. IIOP .NET acts as an ORB and converts .NET’s CTS to CORBA’s types and vice versa making .NET objects accessible to Java components that deliver CORBA capabilities via RMI-IIOP (RMI over IIOP).

There have been other projects around this idea. But this one (IIOP.NET) seems to be the most stable one.
To see a complete example, please refer to the following URL:
http://www.codeproject.com/csharp/dist_object_system.asp

I'm really keen to know if there is anyone who has hands-on experience with IIOP .NET. What issues did you face and how did you resolve them?
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