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How Does MTS Work?

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This topic describes the elements of Microsoft Transaction Server (MTS) and explains how they provide the infrastructure and programming model to develop and deploy MTS components.

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Elements of MTS

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Application Components
MTS Executive
Server Processes
Resource Managers
Resource Dispensers
Microsoft Distributed Transaction Coordinator
MTS Explorer

Application Components

Application components model the activity of a business. These components implement the business rules, providing views and transformations of the application state. Consider, for example, the case of an online bank. Records in one or more database systems represent the durable state of the business, such as the amount of money in an account. The application components update that state to reflect such changes as debits and credits.

MTS shelters developers from complex server issues, allowing them to focus on implementing business functions. Because components running in the MTS run-time environment can take advantage of transactions, developers can write applications as if they run in isolation. MTS handles the concurrency, resource pooling, security, context management, and other system-level complexities. The transaction system, working in cooperation with database servers and other types of resource managers, ensures that concurrent transactions are atomic, consistent, have proper isolation, and that, once committed, the changes are durable. For more information on the benefits of transactions, see Transactions.

MTS also makes it easier to build distributed applications by providing location transparency. MTS automatically loads the component into a process environment. An MTS component can be loaded into a client application process (in-process component), or into a separate surrogate server process environment, either on the client's computer (local component) or on another computer (remote component).

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In-process, local, and remote components

MTS Components and COM

MTS components are COM in-process server components contained in (DLLs). They are distinguished from other COM components in that they execute in the MTS run-time environment. You can create and implement these components with Visual Basic®, Visual C++®, Visual J++™, or any ActiveX-compatible development tool.

Note that the term component represents the code that implements a COM object. For example, Visual C++ components are implemented as classes. Likewise, Visual Basic components are implemented by class modules.

MTS imposes specific requirements on components beyond those required by COM (see MTS Component Requirements). This allows MTS to provide services to the component that would not otherwise be possible. These include increased scalability and robustness and simplified system management.

MTS Executive

The MTS Executive is a dynamic-link library (DLL) that provides run-time services for MTS components, including thread and context management. This DLL loads into the processes that host application components and runs in the background.

MTS also provides a set of resource dispensers that simplify access to shared resources in a server process. For more information, see Resource Dispensers.

Server Processes

A server process is a system process that hosts the execution of an application component. A server process can host multiple components and can service tens, hundreds, or potentially thousands of clients. You can configure multiple server processes to execute on a single computer. Each server process reflects a separate trust boundary and fault isolation domain.

Other process environments can also host application components. As a result, you can deploy applications that meet varying distribution, performance, and fault isolation requirements. For example, you can configure MTS components to be loaded directly into Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS). You can also configure them to load directly into client processes.

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Server Process

Resource Managers

A resource manager is a system service that manages durable data. Server applications use resource managers to maintain the durable state of the application, such as the record of inventory on hand, pending orders, and accounts receivable. Resource managers work in cooperation with the Microsoft Distributed Transaction Coordinator to guarantee atomicity and isolationto an application.

MTS supports resource managers, such as Microsoft SQL Server version 6.5, that implement the OLE Transactions protocol.

Resource Dispensers

A resource dispenser manages nondurable shared state on behalf of the application components within a process. Resource dispensers are similar to resource managers, but without the guarantee of durability. MTS provides two resource dispensers:

  • The ODBC resource dispenser

  • The Shared Property Manager

ODBC Resource Dispenser

The ODBC resource dispenser manages pools of database connections for MTS components that use the standard ODBC interfaces, allocating connections to objects quickly and efficiently. Connections are automatically enlisted on an object's transactions, and the resource dispenser can automatically reclaim and reuse connections. The ODBC 3.0 Driver Manager is the ODBC resource dispenser; the Driver Manager DLL is installed with MTS.

Shared Property Manager

The Shared Property Manager provides synchronized access to application-defined, process-wide properties (variables). For example, you can use it to maintain a Web-page hit counter or to maintain the shared state for a multiuser game.

Microsoft Distributed Transaction Coordinator

The Microsoft Distributed Transaction Coordinator (MS DTC) is a system service that coordinates transactions. Work can be committed as an atomic transaction even if it spans multiple resource managers, potentially on separate computers.

MS DTC was first released as part of Microsoft SQL Server version 6.5 and is included in MTS, providing a low-level infrastructure for transactions. MS DTC implements a two-phase commit protocol to ensure that the transaction outcome (either commit or abort) is consistent across all resource managers involved in a transaction. MS DTC ensures atomicity, regardless of failures.

MTS Explorer

You can use the MTS Explorer to deploy application components. You can also use it to view and manipulate items in the MTS run-time environment.

For a complete discussion of using the MTS Explorer for application administration, see the Administrator's Guide.

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