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Chapter: C# and .NET Framework

.NET Leasing and Sponsorship

.NET manages the lifecycle of objects using garbage collection. .NET keeps track of memory allocation and objects accessed by all the clients in the app domain.

Leasing and Sponsorship


.NET manages the lifecycle of objects using garbage collection. .NET keeps track of memory allocation and objects accessed by all the clients in the app domain. When an object becomes unreachable by its clients, the garbage collector eventually collects it. If the objects are in the same app domain as the clients, garbage collection functions fine. In fact, even in the case of a client in one app domain accessing an object in a different app domain in the same process, garbage collection still works, because all app domains in the same process share the same managed heap. In the case of remote objects accessed across processes and machines, however, the strategy breaks down because the object may not have any local clients. In this case, if garbage collection were to take place, the garbage collector would not find any references to the object and would deem it garbage, even though there are remote clients (on other machines, or even in separate processes on the same machine) who wish to use the object. The rest of this section addresses this challenge.


In the following discussion, a "remote object" is an object in a different process. The core piece of the .NET remoting architecture designed to address this problem is called leasing and sponsorship. The idea behind leasing is simple: each server object accessed by remote clients is associated with a lease object. The lease object literally gives the server object a lease on life. When a client creates a remote server object (that is, actually creates it, rather than connects to an existing instance), .NET creates a lease object and associates it with the server object. A special entity in .NET remoting called the lease manager keeps track of the server objects and their lease objects. Each lease object has an initial lease time. The clock starts ticking as soon as the first reference to the server object is marshaled across the app domain boundary, and the lease time is decremented as time goes by. As long as the lease time doesn't expire, .NET considers the server object as being used by its clients. The lease manager keeps a reference to the server object, which prevents the server object from being collected in case garbage collection is triggered. When the lease expires, .NET assumes that the server object has no remaining remote clients. .NET then disconnects the server object from the remoting infrastructure. The server object becomes a candidate for garbage collection and is eventually destroyed. After the object is disconnected, any client attempt to access it results in an exception of type RemotingException, letting the client know the object has been disconnected. This may appear strange at first, because the object may very well still be alive. .NET behaves this way because otherwise, the client's interaction with the remote object will be nondeterministic. If .NET allowed remote clients to access objects past their lease time, it would work some of the time but would fail in those cases in which garbage collection had already taken place.


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