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Interview with Ingo Rammer

Alberto Falossi interviews .NET Remoting guru and DevX author Ingo Rammer, asking what he likes and dislikes about Remoting, what are the changes in .NET Framework 1.1, whether a DCOM/CORBA background is useful or not to learn .NET Remoting, and why security is implemented the way it is.




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ngo is an independent consultant, developer, author, and trainer based in Vienna, Austria. His books "Advanced .NET Remoting" and "Advanced .NET Remoting in VB.NET" were published by Apress in 2002. In his day-to-day work, he focuses mainly on the architecture of .NET applications, and works with several companies in the telecommunication and software industry. You can reach him at http://www.ingorammer.com.

Q: Ingo, today you are one of the most regarded international gurus on .NET Remoting. When did you hear about .NET for the first time? Did you focus on Remoting immediately? How quickly did you understand Remoting's potential features?

I started out with .NET when it was still dubbed NGWS (Next Generation Windows Services) – I guess this was some time before beta 1. I however didn’t realize its massive Remoting capabilities until I listened to a talk at a German developer conference. This talk mentioned the extensibility model and I decided right away that I just had to write a book about Remoting, because this technology was absolutely everything I ever wanted from DCOM or Java RMI. So one could say that I grasped the important features and the potential in about 5 minutes at a conference talk ;-)

Q: Let’s talk about your book. It is the first one ever written about Remoting. Despite this, it's probably the best one. Can you tell us how the book was born?

That’s a funny story. Right after the talk mentioned above, Dan Appleman did another talk on Remoting at the same conference. He concluded his talk with “well, as said before, there is no documentation on Remoting, and as you probably know, I’m co-founder of a publishing house. So if anybody wants to write a book about it …” at which point I stood up – right in his talk –, raised my hand, and promised him publicly that I’ll do it. We signed the contract seven days later.

Q: How did you life change after publishing the book?

Turned around 180 degrees. Actually, if one likes to get around and speak at conferences and events in a number of cities in various countries, I can only recommend writing a book.

Q: Your site www.dotnetremoting.cc has a place among the favourite links of every Remoting programmer (and not only). Did you decide to open the site while you were writing the book or after? Are you satisfied with it?

Thanks for your kind words! I opened this page to channel my thoughts while still working (in secrecy) on the book. I really wanted to get some samples and snippets out to the developer community. At the same time I also took part in Microsoft’s newsgroups to listen in on the other developer’s issues with Remoting so that I can cover them in detail in the book. I guess both, the newsgroup participation and dotnetremoting.cc took a large part in helping me to raise the quality of my books.

Q: What do you like most about Remoting?

The architecture with its layers of extensibility. It allows the creation of some great re-usable components when combined with the .NET framework’s custom attributes and reflection.

Q: What do you think could be improved or is missing in Remoting?

I think that some sort of support provided by Visual Studio is absolutely missing. Without it, everybody has to write the configuration files on his own, etc.

Q: Are there relevant changes in Remoting with the .NET Framework 1.1?

The most obvious one is the change in security during serialization. That is, if you want to pass objects by reference or pass private members of objects, you have to specify a flag in a configuration file – else you’ll get a security exception. That’s a very good thing, but unfortunately, it will appear to break a lot of apps which has been written for the 1.0 framework – just don’t forget to add this configuration setting!

Q: Speaking about security, .NET remoting doesn't currently support any built-in security feature. The only "workaround" is to host remoting components in IIS. Do you know if and when the situation is going to change about this? How can this fact influence the adoption of Remoting?

Actually, that’s not really a workaround – Remoting simply uses the transport level protocol’s means of security. That’s actually a very sane design decision – and the very same which is true for ASP.NET web services as well. However, there is also already a security implementation for arbitrary remoting channels (i.e. the TcpChannel) available at MSDN.

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