Connection Establishment

Connections are established as a side effect of using proxies. The first invocation on a proxy causes the Ice run time to search for an existing connection to one of the proxy's endpoints; only if no suitable connection exists does the Ice run time establish a new connection to one of the proxy's endpoints.

This page describes how and when Ice establishes a new connection.

On this page:

Endpoint Selection for New Connections

A proxy performs a number of operations on its endpoints before it asks the Ice run time to supply a connection. These operations produce a list of zero or more endpoints that satisfy the proxy's configuration. If the resulting list is empty, the application receives NoEndpointException to indicate that no suitable endpoints could be found. For example, this situation can arise when a twoway proxy contains only a UDP endpoint; the UDP endpoint is eliminated from consideration because it cannot be used for twoway invocations.

The proxy performs the following steps to derive its endpoint list:

  1. Remove the endpoints of unknown transports. For instance, SSL endpoints are removed if the SSL plug-in is not installed.
  2. Remove endpoints that are not suitable for the proxy's invocation mode. For example, datagram endpoints are removed for twoway, oneway and batch oneway proxies. Similarly, non-datagram endpoints are removed for datagram and batch datagram proxies.
  3. Perform DNS queries to convert host names into IP addresses, if necessary. For a multi-homed host name, the proxy adds a new endpoint for each address returned by the DNS query.
  4. Sort the endpoints according to the configured selection type, which is established using the ice_endpointSelection proxy method. The default value is Random, meaning the endpoints are randomly shuffled. Alternatively, the value Ordered maintains the existing order of the endpoints.
  5. Satisfy the proxy's security requirements:
    • If Ice.Override.Secure is defined, remove all non-secure endpoints.
    • Otherwise, if the proxy is configured to prefer secure endpoints (e.g., by calling the ice_preferSecure proxy method), move all secure endpoints to the beginning of the list. Note that this setting still allows non-secure endpoints to be included.
    • Otherwise, move all non-secure endpoints to the beginning of the list.

If connection caching is enabled and the Ice run time already has a compatible connection, it reuses the cached connection. Otherwise, the run time attempts to connect to each endpoint in the list until it succeeds or exhausts the list; the order in which endpoints are selected for connection attempts depends on the endpoint selection policy. This policy can be set using a default property (Ice.Default.EndpointSelection), using a proxy property (name.EndpointSelection), and using the ice_endpointSelection proxy method.

Error Semantics for Failed Connections

If a failure occurs during a connection attempt, the Ice run time tries to connect to all of the proxy's remaining endpoints until either a connection is successfully established or all attempts have failed. At that point, the Ice run time may attempt automatic retries depending on the value of the Ice.RetryIntervals configuration property. The default value of this property is 0, which causes the Ice run time to try connecting to all of the endpoints one more time.


Define the property Ice.Trace.Retry=2 to monitor these attempts.

If no connection can be established on this second attempt, the Ice run time raises an exception that indicates the reason for the final failed attempt (typically ConnectFailedException). Similarly, if a connection was lost during a request and could not be reestablished (assuming the request can be retried), the Ice run time raises an exception that indicates the reason for the final failed attempt.


Reusing an Existing Connection

When establishing a connection for a proxy, the Ice run time reuses an existing connection when all the following conditions are met:

  • The proxy has connection caching enabled.
  • The remote endpoint matches one of the proxy's endpoints.
  • The connection was established by the communicator that created the proxy.
  • The connection matches the proxy's configuration. Connection timeout values play an important role here, as an existing connection is only reused if its connection timeout value (i.e., the connection timeout used when the connection was established) matches the endpoint timeout in the new proxy. Similarly, a proxy configured with a connection ID only reuses a connection if it was established by a proxy with the same connection ID.

When a proxy has connection caching disabled, the Ice run time does not prefer an endpoint with an already established connection over other endpoints. It can select an endpoint without an established connection and create a new connection; or it can select an endpoint with an established connection and reuse that connection.

Applications must exercise caution when using proxies containing multiple endpoints, especially endpoints using different transports. For example, suppose a proxy has multiple endpoints, such as one each for tcp and ssl. When establishing a connection for this proxy, the Ice run time will open a new connection only if it cannot reuse an existing connection to any of the endpoints (assuming connection caching is enabled). Furthermore, the proxy in its default (that is, non-secure) configuration gives higher priority to non-secure endpoints. If you want to ensure that a particular transport is used by a proxy, you must create the appropriate proxy, for example by calling the proxy method ice_secure.

Protocol Compression and Connection Reuse

The Ice run time does not consider compression settings when searching for existing connections to reuse; proxies whose compression settings differ can share the same connection (assuming all other selection criteria are satisfied).


Influencing Connection Reuse

The default behavior of the Ice run time, which reuses connections whenever possible, is appropriate for many applications because it conserves resources and typically has little or no impact on performance. However, when a server implementation attaches semantics to a connection, the client often must be designed to cooperate, despite the tighter coupling it causes. For example, a server might use a serialized thread pool to preserve the order of requests received over each connection. If the client wants to execute several requests simultaneously, it must be able to force the Ice run time to establish new connections at will.

For those situations that require more control over connection reuse, the Ice run time allows you to form arbitrary groups of proxies that share a connection by configuring them with the same connection identifier. The proxy method ice_connectionId returns a new proxy configured with the given connection ID. Once configured, the Ice run time ensures that the proxy only reuses a connection that was established by a proxy with the same connection ID (assuming all other criteria for connection reuse are also satisfied). A new connection is created if none with a matching ID is found, which means each proxy could conceivably have its own connection if each were assigned a unique connection ID.

As an example, consider the following code fragment:

auto prx = communicator->stringToProxy("ident:tcp -p 10000");
auto = g1 = prx->ice_connectionId("group1");
auto g2 = prx->ice_connectionId("group2");
prx->ice_ping(); // Opens a new connection
g1->ice_ping(); // Opens a new connection
g2->ice_ping(); // Opens a new connection
auto i1 = Ice::checkedCast<MyInterfacePrx>(g1);
i1->ice_ping(); // Reuses g1's connection
auto i2 = Ice::checkedCast<MyInterfacePrx>(prx->ice_connectionId("group2"));
i2->ice_ping(); // Reuses g2's connection
Ice::ObjectPrx prx = comm->stringToProxy("ident:tcp -p 10000");
Ice::ObjectPrx g1 = prx->ice_connectionId("group1");
Ice::ObjectPrx g2 = prx->ice_connectionId("group2");
prx->ice_ping(); // Opens a new connection
g1->ice_ping(); // Opens a new connection
g2->ice_ping(); // Opens a new connection
MyInterfacePrx i1 = MyInterfacePrx::checkedCast(g1);
i1->ice_ping(); // Reuses g1's connection
MyInterfacePrx i2 = MyInterfacePrx::checkedCast(prx->ice_connectionId("group2"));
i2->ice_ping(); // Reuses g2's connection

A total of three connections are established by this example:

  1. The proxy prx establishes a new connection. This proxy has the default connection ID (an empty string).
  2. The proxy g1 establishes a new connection because the only existing connection, the one established by prx, has a different connection ID.
  3. Similarly, the proxy g2 establishes a new connection because none of the existing connections have a matching connection ID.

The proxy i1 inherits its connection ID from g1, and therefore shares the connection for group1; i2 explicitly configured its connection ID and shares the group2 connection with proxy g2.


Connection Caching

When we refer to a proxy's connection, we actually mean the connection that the proxy is currently using. This connection can change over time, such that a proxy might use several connections during its lifetime. For example, an idle connection may be closed automatically and then transparently replaced by a new connection when activity resumes.

After establishing a connection in response to proxy activities, the Ice run time adds the connection to an internal pool for subsequent reuse by other proxies. The Ice run time manages the lifetime of the connection and eventually closes it. The connection is not affected by the life cycle of the proxies that use it, except that the lack of activity may prompt the Ice run time to close the connection after a while.

Once a proxy has been associated with a connection, the proxy's default behavior is to continue using that connection for all subsequent requests. In effect, the proxy caches the connection and attempts to use it for as long as possible in order to minimize the overhead of creating new connections. If the connection is later closed and the proxy is used again, the proxy repeats the connection-establishment procedure described earlier.

There are situations in which this default caching behavior is undesirable, such as when a client has a proxy with multiple endpoints and wishes to balance the load among the servers at those endpoints. The client can disable connection caching by passing an argument of false to the proxy factory method ice_connectionCached. The new proxy returned by this method repeats the connection-establishment procedure before each request, thereby achieving request load balancing at the expense of potentially higher latency. This type of load balancing is performed solely by the client using whatever endpoints are contained in the proxy. More sophisticated forms of load balancing are also possible, such as when using IceGrid.

Enabling or disabling connection caching on a proxy has two separate effects:

  • when caching is enabled, the proxy remembers ("caches") a connection until the connection is closed, while when caching is disabled, the proxy does not remember the connection it previously used.
  • when caching is enabled, Ice provides to this proxy an already established connection if possible; when caching is disabled, Ice does not prefer endpoints with established connections over other endpoints when providing a connection to this proxy.


Timeouts and Connection Establishment

The default timeout for all connections is 60 seconds, as determined by the Ice.Default.Timeout property. This connection timeout value applies to all network operations. If a connection cannot be established within the allotted time, Ice raises ConnectTimeoutException.

You can set a connection timeout on a proxy using the ice_timeout proxy method. To use the same connection timeout for all proxies, you can define the Ice.Override.Timeout property; in this case, Ice ignores any connection timeout established using the ice_timeout proxy method or the Ice.Default.Timeout property. Finally, if you want to specify a separate timeout value that affects only connection establishment and takes precedence over a proxy's configured timeout value, you can define the Ice.Override.ConnectTimeout property.

Connection timeout values affect connection reuse. For example, if the endpoint in proxy A is identical to the endpoint in proxy B except their connection timeout values differ, the proxies cannot share the same connection.

The timeout in effect when a connection is established is bound to that connection and cannot be changed. If a network operation times out, all outstanding requests on that connection receive a TimeoutException and the connection is closed forcefully. The Ice run time automatically retries these requests on a new connection, assuming that automatic retries are enabled and would not violate at-most-once semantics.

Invocation timeouts are a separate feature and do not affect connection reuse.

Source Address for New Connections

You can force Ice to use a specific source address for TCP/IP connections. This can be useful in specific uses cases, such as to overcome the limited number of ephemeral ports. There are two ways to do this:

  • Define the Ice.Default.SourceAddress property to establish a default source address for all outgoing connections created by a communicator
  • Include a --sourceAddress option in proxy endpoints, which overrides any setting for Ice.Default.SourceAddress

The value in each case must be an IP address.

See Also