Export (0) Print
Expand All
130 out of 182 rated this helpful - Rate this topic

How to Share Session State Between Classic ASP and ASP.NET

 

Billy Yuen
Microsoft Corporation

February 2003

Applies to:
   Microsoft® ASP.NET

Summary: Discusses how to share session state between classic ASP and Microsoft ASP.NET using Microsoft .NET Framework classes and the serialization feature of the .NET Framework. Sharing session state allows converting existing ASP applications to ASP.NET applications in stages while running the applications side by side. (12 printed pages)

Introduction
Conceptual Overview
ASP.NET Implementation
ASP Implementation
Demo Program
Incorporating the COM Object in an Existing ASP Application
Limitation/Improvement
Conclusion

Introduction

Microsoft® ASP.NET is the latest Microsoft technology for developing Web-based applications. It offers a number of advantages over the classic ASP script technology, including: 1) a better development structure by separating the UI presentation from business logic; 2) its code is fully compiled instead of interpreted as in classic ASP; and 3) its compile feature in conjunction with its caching support means significantly better performance for sites written in ASP.NET over equivalent sites written in classic ASP.

Despite the potential benefit of converting existing ASP applications to ASP.NET, many existing ASP applications are mission critical and complex. The conversion process could be resource intensive and induce additional risk to the existing application. One approach to address these issues is to run the ASP and ASP.NET side by side, and convert one section of the application at a time to ASP.NET. In order to run the new and old application side by side, a mechanism is needed to share the session state between classic ASP and ASP.NET. In this article, I'll discuss how the session state can be shared by using several classes and the serialization feature of the Microsoft® .NET Framework.

Conceptual Overview

Cookies are the most common way for Web applications to identify the user session, and can be used to identify session state for both classic ASP and ASP.NET. Session state information is stored in memory in ASP script and can't be shared with other applications, such as ASP.NET. If the session state is stored in a common format in Microsoft® SQL Server, the session state can be accessible by both classic ASP and ASP.NET.

In this example, a cookie named mySession is used to identify the user session. When a user makes a request to the Web application, the user will be issued a unique cookie to identify the session. On subsequent request, the browser will send the unique cookie back to the server to identify the session. Before the requested Web page is loaded, a custom object will reload the user session data from SQL Server using the unique cookie. The session state is accessible in the Web page through the custom object. After the Web request is finished, the session data will be persisted back to the SQL Server as the request terminates (see Figure 1).

Aa479313.converttoaspnet_fig1(en-us,MSDN.10).gif

Figure 1. Sample data flow

ASP.NET implementation

In ASP.NET, every Web page derives from the System.Web.UI.Page class. The Page class aggregates an instance of the HttpSession object for session data. In this example, a custom Page class called SessionPage is derived from the System.Web.UI.Page to offer all the same features as the Page class. The only difference with the derived page is that the default HttpSession is overridden with a custom session object. (Using the new modifier for the instance variable, C# allows the derived class to hide members of the base class.)

   public class SessionPage : System.Web.UI.Page
   {
      ...
      public new mySession Session = null;
      ...
   }

The custom session class is responsible for storing the session state in memory using the HybridDictionary object. (HybridDictionary can efficiently handle any number of session elements.) The custom session class will limit the session data type to be string only for interoperability with the classic ASP. (The default HttpSession allows any type of data to be stored in the session, which will not interoperate with the classic ASP.)

   [Serializable]
public class mySession 
   {
      private HybridDictionary dic = new HybridDictionary();

      public mySession()
      {
      }

      public string this [string name]
      {
         get
         {
            return (string)dic[name.ToLower()];
         }
         set
         {
            dic[name.ToLower()] = value;
         }
      }
   }

The Page class exposes different events and methods for customization. In particular, the OnInit method is used to set the initialize state of the Page object. If the request does not have the mySession cookie, a new mySession cookie will be issued to the requester. Otherwise, the session data will be retrieved from SQL Server using a custom data access object, SessionPersistence. The dsn and SessionExpiration values are retrieved from the web.config.

      override protected void OnInit(EventArgs e)
      {
         InitializeComponent();
         base.OnInit(e);
      }
      private void InitializeComponent()
      {    
         cookie = this.Request.Cookies[sessionPersistence.SessionID];

         if (cookie == null)
         {
            Session = new mySession();
            CreateNewSessionCookie();
            IsNewSession = true;
         }
         else
            Session = sessionPersistence.LoadSession(
Server.UrlDecode(cookie.Value).ToLower().Trim(), 
dsn, 
SessionExpiration
);
            
         this.Unload += new EventHandler(this.PersistSession);
      }
      private void CreateNewSessionCookie()
      {
         cookie = new HttpCookie(sessionPersistence.SessionID, 
            sessionPersistence.GenerateKey());
         this.Response.Cookies.Add(cookie);
      }

The SessionPersistence class uses the BinaryFormatter of the Microsoft .NET Framework to serialize and deserialize the session state in binary format for optimal performance. The resulting binary session state data can then be stored in the SQL Server as an image field type.

      public  mySession LoadSession(string key, string dsn, 
                                    int SessionExpiration)
      {
         SqlConnection conn = new SqlConnection(dsn);
         SqlCommand LoadCmd = new SqlCommand();
         LoadCmd.CommandText = command;
         LoadCmd.Connection = conn;
         SqlDataReader reader = null;
         mySession Session = null;

         try
         {
            LoadCmd.Parameters.Add("@ID", new Guid(key));
            conn.Open();
            reader = LoadCmd.ExecuteReader();
            if (reader.Read())
            {
               DateTime LastAccessed =
 reader.GetDateTime(1).AddMinutes(SessionExpiration);
               if (LastAccessed >= DateTime.Now)
                  Session = Deserialize((Byte[])reader["Data"]);
            }
         }
         finally
         {
            if (reader != null)
               reader.Close();
            if (conn != null)
               conn.Close();
         }
         
         return Session;
      }
private mySession Deserialize(Byte[] state)
      {
         if (state == null) return null;
         
         mySession Session = null;
         Stream stream = null;

         try
         {
            stream = new MemoryStream();
            stream.Write(state, 0, state.Length);
            stream.Position = 0;
            IFormatter formatter = new BinaryFormatter();
            Session = (mySession)formatter.Deserialize(stream);
         }
         finally
         {
            if (stream != null)
               stream.Close();
         }
         return Session;
      }

At the end of the request, the Page class Unload event is fired, and an event handler registered with the Unload event will serialize the session data into binary format and save the resulting binary data into SQL Server.

      private void PersistSession(Object obj, System.EventArgs arg)
      {      sessionPersistence.SaveSession(
               Server.UrlDecode(cookie.Value).ToLower().Trim(), 
               dsn, Session, IsNewSession);
      }
      public void SaveSession(string key, string dsn, 
mySession Session, bool IsNewSession)
      {
         SqlConnection conn = new SqlConnection(dsn);
         SqlCommand SaveCmd = new SqlCommand();         
         SaveCmd.Connection = conn;
         
         try
         {
            if (IsNewSession)
               SaveCmd.CommandText = InsertStatement;
            else
               SaveCmd.CommandText = UpdateStatement;

            SaveCmd.Parameters.Add("@ID", new Guid(key));
            SaveCmd.Parameters.Add("@Data", Serialize(Session));
            SaveCmd.Parameters.Add("@LastAccessed", DateTime.Now.ToString());
      
            conn.Open();
            SaveCmd.ExecuteNonQuery();
         }
         finally
         {
            if (conn != null)
               conn.Close();
         }
      }
private Byte[] Serialize(mySession Session)
      {
         if (Session == null) return null;

         Stream stream = null;
         Byte[] state = null;

         try
         {
            IFormatter formatter = new BinaryFormatter();
            stream = new MemoryStream();
            formatter.Serialize(stream, Session);
            state = new Byte[stream.Length];
            stream.Position = 0;
            stream.Read(state, 0, (int)stream.Length);
            stream.Close();
         }
         finally
         {
            if (stream != null)
               stream.Close();
         }
         return state;
      }

The SessionPage class and its associated classes are packaged in the SessionUtility assembly. In a new ASP.NET project, a reference will be made to the SessionUtility assembly, and every page will derive from the SessionPage instead of from the Page class in order to share session with classic ASP codes. Once the porting is completed, the new application can switch back to use the native HttpSession object by commenting out the Session variable declaration in the SessionPage class to unhide the base HttpSession.

ASP Implementation

The native ASP session can only store session data in memory. In order to store the session data to SQL Server, a custom Microsoft® Visual Basic® 6.0 COM object is written to manage the session state instead of using the native session object. This COM object will be instantiated in the beginning of each Web request and reload the session data from SQL Server. When the ASP script is finished, this object will be terminated and the session state will be persisted back to SQL Server.

The primary purpose of the Visual Basic 6 COM Session object is to provide access to the Microsoft® Internet Information Server intrinsic objects. The Visual Basic 6.0 COM Session object uses the mySession class of SessionUtility assembly to hold the session state, and the SessionPersistence class of SessionUtility to load and save session data with SQL Server. The mySession and SessionPersistence classes are exposed as COM objects using the regasm.exe utility. The regasm.exe utility can register and create a type library for the COM client to consume Framework classes.

The session state information is reloaded during the construction of the object. The constructor (class_initialize) will first retrieve the session cookie, session timeout (SessionTimeOut), and database connection string (SessionDSN) from the Application object, and create an instance of the class mySession to hold the session data. Then the constructor will try to reload the session data from SQL Server with the given cookie. If the SQL Server does not have the session information, or the session has been expired, a new cookie will be issued. If the SQL Sever does return with the session state data, the session state will be stored in the mySession object.

Private Sub Class_Initialize()
On Error GoTo ErrHandler:
    Const METHOD_NAME As String = "Class_Initialize"
    Set mySessionPersistence = New SessionPersistence
    Set myObjectContext = GetObjectContext()
    mySessionID = ReadSessionID()
    myDSNString = GetConnectionDSN()
    myTimeOut = GetSessionTimeOut()
    myIsNewSession = False
    Call InitContents
    
    Exit Sub
ErrHandler:
    Err.Raise Err.Number, METHOD_NAME & ":" & Err.Source, Err.Description
End Sub

Private Sub InitContents()
On Error GoTo ErrHandler:
    Const METHOD_NAME As String = "InitContents"    
    If mySessionID = "" Then
        Set myContentsEntity = New mySession
        mySessionID = mySessionPersistence.GenerateKey
        myIsNewSession = True
    Else
        Set myContentsEntity = 
        mySessionPersistence.LoadSession(mySessionID, myDSNString, myTimeOut)
    End If
        
    Exit Sub
ErrHandler:
    Err.Raise Err.Number, METHOD_NAME & ":" & Err.Source, Err.Description
End Sub

When the object instance goes out of scope in the script, the destructor (class_terminate) will execute. The destructor will persist the session data using the SessionPersistence.SaveSession() method. If this is a new session, the destructor will also send the new cookie back to the browser.

Private Sub Class_Terminate()
On Error GoTo ErrHandler:
    Const METHOD_NAME As String = "Class_Terminate"
    Call SetDataForSessionID
    Exit Sub 
ErrHandler:
 Err.Raise Err.Number, METHOD_NAME & ":" & Err.Source, Err.Description  
End Sub

Private Sub SetDataForSessionID()
On Error GoTo ErrHandler:
    Const METHOD_NAME As String = "SetDataForSessionID"
    Call mySessionPersistence.SaveSession(mySessionID, 
myDSNString, myContentsEntity, myIsNewSession)
    
    If myIsNewSession Then Call WriteSessionID(mySessionID)
    
    Set myContentsEntity = Nothing
    Set myObjectContext = Nothing
    Set mySessionPersistence = Nothing
    Exit Sub
ErrHandler:
    Err.Raise Err.Number, METHOD_NAME & ":" & Err.Source, Err.Description
End Sub

You can download the source code of ASP.NET SessionUtility project, the COM Session Manager, and the Demo code by clicking the link at the top of the article.

Demo Program

The demo program is designed to increment and display a number. Regardless of which page is loaded, the number will keep incrementing because the number value is stored in SQL Server and is shared between classic ASP and ASP.NET.

Steps to Set Up the Demo Program

  1. Create a new database called SessionDemoDb.
  2. Create the SessState table (osql.exe –E –d SessionDemoDb –i Session.sql).
  3. Create a new virtual directory called Demo.
  4. Turn off ASP Session under the ASP configuration tab.
  5. Copy the web.config, testPage.aspx, Global.asa, testPage.asp, and GlobalInclude.asp to the virtual directory.
  6. Update the DSN string setting in the Global.asa and web.config. The session timeout setting is optional. The default is 20 minutes. 
  7. Install the SessionUtility.dll into the Global Assembly Cache (gacutil /i SessionUtility.dll).
  8. Expose the SessionUtility.dll as a COM object using the regasm.exe (regasm.exe SessionUtility.dll /tlb:SessionUtility.tlb).
  9. Copy the SessionManager.dll to a local directory and use regsvr32.exe to register it (regsvr32 SessionManager.dll).
  10. Grant the IUSR_<machine_name> account to have read and execute access to the SessionMgr.dll.

Steps to Run the Demo Program

  1. Start Microsoft® Internet Explorer.
  2. Load the testPage.asp for classic ASP. The number "1" should appear in the Web page.
  3. Click refresh on Internet Explorer to reload the page. The number should be incremented.
  4. Change the URL to testPage.aspx for ASP.NET. The number should keep incrementing.
  5. The same process can be repeated by starting the testPage.aspx page first.

Incorporating the COM Object in an Existing ASP Application

A common practice in developing ASP applications is to include a file in the beginning of each script to share common codes and constants. The best way to incorporate the custom session object is to add the instantiation code in the common include file. The last step is simply to replace all reference to the session object with the custom session variable name.

Limitation/Improvement

This solution will not support an existing ASP application that stores a COM object in the Session object. In this case, a custom marshaler is needed to serialize/deserialize the states in order to use the custom session object. In addition, this solution does not support storing type arrays of the string. With some additional effort, this feature can be implemented by using the Microsoft® Visual Basic® 6.0 Join function to combine all of the array elements into a single string before storing it into session object. The reverse can be done using the Visual Basic 6.0 Split function to split the string back to individual array elements. On the .NET Framework side, the Join and Split methods are members of the String class.

Conclusion

ASP.NET represents a new programming paradigm and architecture, and offers many advantages over classic ASP. Although porting from ASP to ASP.NET is not a simple process, the better programming model and improved performance of ASP.NET will make the conversion process worthwhile. With the exception of storing a COM object in the Session object, the approach described in this article offers a solution that will make the migration process simpler.

About the Author

Billy Yuen works in Northern California at the Microsoft Technology Center Silicon Valley. This center focuses on the development of Microsoft .NET Framework solutions. He can be reached at billyy@microsoft.com.

Did you find this helpful?
(1500 characters remaining)
Thank you for your feedback
Show:
© 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.