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Building Scalable Components

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In this section, you'll learn how you can use just-in-time activation to use server resources efficiently, resulting in more scalable applications and improved performance. You'll also see how a simple change to the Account component allows it to scale efficiently and support a large number of clients, without requiring you to make any changes to the client.

 

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Scenario: Adding Just-In-Time Activation to the Account Component
Add code to your Account component to take advantage of just-in-time activation, which releases the component's resources when Account has completed its work.

 

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Adding Code to Call GetObjectContext, SetComplete, and SetAbort
Add code to call GetObjectContext, SetComplete, and SetAbort.

 

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Application Design Notes: Just-In-Time Activation
Learn how to reuse resources efficiently so you can build scalable applications.

Scenario: Adding Just-In-Time Activation to the Account Component

In this scenario, the Bank client creates an Account object from the Account component and calls its Post method, just as in Creating a Simple ActiveX Component. This time, Account obtains a reference to its context object. When it successfully completes its work on behalf of the client, it uses its context object to call SetComplete. If Account encounters an error and is unable to complete its work successfully, it uses its context object to call SetAbort. When Account calls either SetComplete or SetAbort, it indicates that it's finished with its work and that it doesn't need to maintain any private state for its client. This allows the MTS run-time environment to reclaim and reuse the Account object's resources.

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Adding Code to Call GetObjectContext, SetComplete, and SetAbort

Every Transaction Server object has a context object associated with it. The context object is automatically created at the same time the object itself is created. You can use an object's context to declare when the object's work is complete, as shown in the following illustration.

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Calling either of these methods notifies the MTS run-time environment that it can safely deactivate the object, making its resources available for reuse.

To implement the scenario for this chapter, you will modify the Post method to use the Account object's context object. Then you will use SetComplete and SetAbort to enable just-in-time activation.

First, you call GetObjectContext to get a reference to the context object. When an object has completed its work successfully, it should call SetComplete:

GetObjectContext.SetComplete

SetComplete notifies the MTS run-time environment that the Account object should be deactivated as soon as it returns control to the Bank client.

If the object encountered an error, it should call SetAbort. SetAbort also notifies the MTS run-time environment that the Account object should be deactivated as soon as it returns control to the Bank client.

GetObjectContext.SetAbort

To obtain a reference to an object's context

  1. Open the \Mts\Samples\Account.VB\Step3\Account.vbp project.

  2. Build the component as a DLL and save it as \Mts\Samples\Account.VB\Step3\VBAcct.dll.

Before you can run your new component again in MTS, the registry needs to be updated with the new component information. To do this, refresh the MTS Explorer window.

If you install the Development version of Microsoft Transaction Server, you will get a Visual Basic–compatible add-in that automates this process for you (select the VB Addin box during Setup). The next time you run Visual Basic, the add-in is automatically installed in Visual Basic. The add-in automatically refreshes all of your MTS component DLLs whenever you recompile your project.

You can also turn this feature on and off on a per-project basis by using the toggle command on the Visual Basic Add-Ins menu. To turn it on, on the Visual Basic Add-Ins menu, point to MS Transaction Server, and click AutoRefresh after compile of active project. This puts a check mark next to the command, indicating that the feature is activated. If you want to refresh all of your MTS components at any given time, on the Visual Basic Add-Ins menu, point to MS Transaction Server, and then click Refresh all components now.

Now you'll run the Account component again from the Bank client, and monitor its execution in the MTS Explorer's Status window. Follow the same steps as in "Running and Monitoring the Account Component."

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When the Bank client creates the Account object, the number 1 will appear under Objects and Activated. This indicates that one object is executing in the MTS run-time environment, and that it is currently activated. When the client calls the Post method, the number 1 appears, briefly, under In Call. This indicates that one object is currently executing a method call. When the Post method returns control to the client, the number under Objects is still 1, but the numbers under Activated and In Call return to 0. This is because after calling SetComplete, the object is deactivated as soon as it returns from the current method call.

Note: Because the Post method executes so quickly, you may not actually see this sequence appear.

Application Design Notes: Just-In-Time Activation

When you design a traditional application, you have two options:

  • A client can create, use, and release an object. The next time it needs the object, it creates it again.

    The advantage to this technique is that it conserves server resources. The disadvantage is that, as your application scales up, your performance slows down. If the object is on a remote computer, each time an object is created, there must be a network round-trip, which negatively affects performance.

  • A client can create an object and hold onto it until the client no longer needs it.

    The advantage of this approach is that it's faster. The problem with it is that, in a large-scale application, it quickly becomes expensive in terms of server resources.

While either of these approaches might be fine for a small-scale application, as your application scales up, they're both inefficient. Just-in-time activation provides the best of both approaches, while avoiding the disadvantages of each.

In Creating a Simple ActiveX Component, the Bank client controlled the Account object's life cycle. Clients held onto server resources even when the clients were idle. As you added more clients, you saw a proportional increase in the number of allocated objects and database connections. A quick look at the Account component shows that each call to the Post method is independent of any previous calls. An Account object doesn't need to maintain any private state to correctly process new requests from its client. It also doesn't need to maintain its database connection between calls. The only problem is that, in this scenario, the MTS run-time environment can't reclaim the object's resources until the client explicitly releases the object. If you have to depend on your clients to manage your object's resources, you can't build a scalable component.

By adding just a few lines of code, you were able to implement just-in-time activation in the Account component. When an Account object calls SetComplete, it notifies the MTS run-time environment that it should be deactivated as soon as it returns control to the client. This allows the MTS run-time environment to release the object's resources, including any database connection it holds prior to the object's release. The Bank client continues to hold a reference to the deactivated Account object.

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When a client calls a method on a deactivated object, the client's reference is automatically bound to a new object. Thus, the client has the illusion of a continuous reference to a single object, without tying up server resources unnecessarily.

Although the call to SetAbort has a similar effect, it isn't apparent in this scenario why it is used when errors occur. The next chapter, Building Transactional Components, shows you how transactions can make your applications more robust in the event of an error.

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