Use AppDomain recycling for reliable systems

ASP.NET does it, so why not you? There are two reasons restarting an AppDomain is useful for a reliable .NET server program. First, the only way to change the assemblies loaded into your AppDomain is to restart it. This allows you to upgrade a program quickly without taking it completely down. Though you should probably have the inputs buffered somehow to deal with your program being offline for a split second. Second, when your program inevitably breaks, it is useful to simply restart the program rather than fail. If you design your program so major subsystems are in their own AppDomain, then you can have a master program that monitors their health and restart those that fail. Erlang does this for their processes.

The way to do this is to use .NET Remoting. The entry point into your subsystems will likely be a class factory that inherits from MarshalByRefObject. Then you write a master program that creates a new AppDomain (AppDomain.CreateDomain) and accesses the factory class (AppDomain.CreateInstanceFromandUnwrap). When the AppDomain needs to be restarted, unload it (AppDomain.Unload) and reload it. Remote method calls across the AppDomain barrier are very fast. The hard part is designing a program to use this technique effectively.


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