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Sending data over sockets

butterhook
butterhook asked
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Last Modified: 2010-04-23
Hello experts,

When sending data from server to client or vice versa, what is the best way to notify the other of the 'nature' of the data? In otherwords, consider the following scenario:

Client sends files to server for processing. It also needs to send periodic status requests whereby the server sends back its progress with a particular file, i.e. how much of it it has processed.

In this scenario, what's the best way for the client to say: "The data I am about to Send() is a file", or "The data I am about to send is a progress request"?

I have considered using the first byte of the message as a notify byte, e.g. 1 = I am sending a file, 2 = I am sending a status request, etc...

The only other way I can think of is using two sockets, one for file transfers and one for status requests. I was just wondering what was the best way of carrying out such a task.
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Commented:
I think you are on the right track with both ideas. Usually when I do tasks like this I’ll setup a small set of commands that the server can speak to the client with and the client can speak to the server with.

Much like your first byte idea you can signal the server to expect a certain type of data next.

I have found that this has worked well for me.

To take this idea to the next step I’ll create a command abstract class. I’ll then inherit from this class for each command I create, such as status update, or file transfer.

Then I implement binary serialization on this object and serialize it to a stream, which I then send out to the server.

I usually send the size of the serialized stream first so the server knows how much data to read before it attempts to de-serialize the command.

Now when the server gets all the bytes it de-serializes the stream and then takes action on the request.

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Commented:
I would like to point out that in my above idea you would need to create a DLL holding the command classes that can be shared by both the client and the server. This may or may not be possible for you.

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Commented:
Thank you. Your command class framework seems like an excellent way to go about it, and also answers another question I had about how to nicely encapsulate message formation and extraction instead of using the System.BitCoverter class all the time.
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