Applying COM+

Authored by Gregory Brill
1st edition
Paperback, 466 pages
Published by New Riders
Publication date: 2000-10-01
ISBN: 0-7357-0978-5

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Applying COM+ aims at uncovering the details of COM+ (and its predecessor, COM), explaining the platform on which COM+ components are based. For Visual Basic developers, this approach is somewhat counter productive, as Visual Basic itself hides COM's implementation details from the developer. Very little of what is covered in this book is accessible in Visual Basic today. Hopefully, that will change in the near future, and having read this book may prove useful yet.

The uncovering begins with a thorough and, in my opinion, interesting peek into the way COM handles its components. The implementation of COM is explained, but from the C++ programmer's point of view. As the author says, any other look at COM is worthless if you truly want to understand it. Visual Basic developers may find this section interesting, but only from an academic point of view, as the code and instruments uncovered are of little value to them.

With the basic technology in place, Brill starts exploring the services of COM+. This includes familiar topics such as threading models, apartments, and marshalling, all of which are hidden in today's Visual Basic. The insight gained, however, will reveal to Visual Basic developers the steap learning curve they face when new technology is available, and prepare them for a new world of possibilities and dangers.

With MTS being merged into COM+, the book also covers the topics of contexts, transactions and security. Although the subject should already be familiar to transactional component developers, a fresh look at how this is handled in COM+ may lay a good foundation to build from when the migration to COM+ starts -- not everything is similar in the new version.

New features of COM+ are also covered, including the COM+ catalog and asynchronous component interaction. Brill does a good job of uncovering the details, but unfortunately gets a bit carried away with the examples -- for Visual Basic developers, a C++ filter would prove very useful. The use of Microsoft Message Queue to handle distributed, asynchronous component interaction is thoroughly explained, and even if the C++ code is hard to get at, a great deal of these chapters are actually about client and server configuration.

If you keep a clear mind and refuse to fall asleep over C++ code, this book will give a valuable, but highly academic, insight into the near future of Visual Basic. I myself will probably need to refine this knowledge with a book on how Visual Basic.NET handles COM+, but I feel confident that thanks to Brill, at least I'll know what hit me.