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Remote Method Invocation ( RMI ) - Java

RMI is a distributed object system that enables you to easily develop distributed Java applications.

Remote Method Invocation ( RMI )


       RMI is a distributed object system that enables you to easily develop distributed Java applications. Developing distributed applications in RMI is simpler than developing with sockets since there is no need to design a protocol, which is an error-prone task.


       In RMI, the developer has the illusion of calling a local method from a local class file, when in fact the arguments are shipped to the remote target and interpreted, and the results are sent back to the callers.


The Genesis of an RMI Application

Developing a distributed application using RMI involves the following steps:

1.     Define a remote interface

2.     Implement the remote interface

3.     Develop the server


4.     Develop a client


5.     Generate Stubs and Skeletons, start the RMI registry, server, and client


Example: File Transfer Application


This application allows a client to transfer (or download) any type of file (plain text or binary) from a remote machine. The first step is to define a remote interface that specifies the signatures of the methods to be provided by the server and invoked by clients.


1. Define a remote interface


The interface FileInterface provides one method downloadFile that takes a String argument (the name of the file) and returns the data of the file as an array of bytes.

FileInterface.java import java.rmi.Remote;

import java.rmi.RemoteException;


public interface FileInterface extends Remote { public byte[] downloadFile(String fileName) throws RemoteException;



Note the following characteristics about the FileInterface:


       It must be declared public, in order for clients to be able to load remote objects which implement the remote interface.


       It must extend the Remote interface, to fulfill the requirement for making the object a remote one.

       Each method in the interface must throw a java.rmi.RemoteException.


2. Implement the remote interface


In addition to implementing the FileInterface, the FileImpl class is extending the UnicastRemoteObject. This indicates that the FileImpl class is used to create a single, non-replicated, remote object that uses RMI's default TCP-based transport for communication.




import java.io.*; import java.rmi.*;

import java.rmi.server.UnicastRemoteObject;


public class FileImpl extends UnicastRemoteObject implements FileInterface {

private String name;


public FileImpl(String s) throws RemoteException{ super();

name = s;



public byte[] downloadFile(String fileName){

try {

File file = new File(fileName);


byte buffer[] = new byte[(int)file.length()];


BufferedInputStream in = new BufferedInputStream(new FileInputStream(fileName)); in.read(buffer,0,buffer.length);





} catch(Exception e){

System.out.println("FileImpl: "+e.getMessage()); e.printStackTrace();








3. Develop the server

The third step is to develop a server. There are three things that the server needs to do:

       Create an instance of the RMISecurityManager and install it

       Create an instance of the remote object (FileImpl in this case)


       Register the object created with the RMI registry.


FileServer.java import java.io.*; import java.rmi.*;


public class FileServer {


public static void main(String argv[]) { if(System.getSecurityManager() == null) {


System.setSecurityManager(new RMISecurityManager());



try {


FileInterface fi = new FileImpl("FileServer");

Naming.rebind("//", fi);

} catch(Exception e) {


System.out.println("FileServer: "+e.getMessage()); e.printStackTrace();






The statement Naming.rebind("//", fi) assumes that the RMI registry is running on the default port number, which is 1099. However, if you run the RMI registry on a different port number it must be specified in that statement. For example, if the RMI registry is running on port 4500, then the statement becomes: Naming.rebind ("//", fi)


. Also, it is important to note here that we assume the rmi registry and the server will be running on the same machine. If they are not, then simply change the address in the rebind method.


4. Develop a client


The client remotely invokes any methods specified in the remote interface (FileInterface). To do so however, the client must first obtain a reference to the remote object from the RMI registry. Once a reference is obtained, the downloadFile method is invoked. In this implementation, the client accepts two arguments at the command line: the first one is the name of the file to be downloaded and the second one is the address of the machine from which the file is to be downloaded, which is the machine that is running the file server.



Running the Application


• To generate stubs and skeletons, use the rmic compiler: prompt> rmic FileImpl


This will generate two files: FileImpl_Stub.class and FileImpl_Skel.class. The stub is a client proxy and the skeleton is a server skeleton.


       To compile the server and the client. Use the javac compiler to do this. Note however, if the server and client are developed on two different machines, in order to compile the client you need a copy of the interface (FileInterface).


       To start the RMI registry and run the server and client. To start the RMI registry on the default port number, use the command rmiregistry or start rmiregistry on Windows. To start the RMI registry on a different port number, provide the port number as an argument to the RMI registry:

prompt> rmiregistry portNumber


Once the RMI registry is running, you can start the server FileServer. However, since the RMI security manager is being used in the server application, you need a security policy to go with it. Here is a sample security policy:

grant {

permission java.security.AllPermission "", "";




• To start the server you need a copy of all the classes (including stubs and skeletons) except the client class (FileClient.class). To start the server use the following command, assuming that the security policy is in a file named policy.txt:

prompt> java -Djava.security.policy=policy.txt FileServer


• To start the client on a different machine, you need a copy of the remote interface (FileInterface.class) and stub (FileImpl_Stub.class). To start the client use the command:

prompt> java FileClient fileName machineName


where fileName is the file to be downloaded and machineName is the machine where the file is located (the same machine runs the file server


• To run the client we mentioned that you need a copy of the interface and stub. A more appropriate way to do this is to use RMI dynamic class loading. The idea is you do not need copies of the interface and the stub. Instead, they can be located in a shared directory for the server and the client, and whenever a stub or a skeleton is needed, it is downloaded automatically by the RMI class loader. To do this you run the client, for example, using the following command:


java -Djava.rmi.server.codebase=http://hostname/locationOfClasses FileClient fileName machineName.


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