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Introduction to session management

Ways of doing session management


Creating and Handling cookies
Problems with User sessions
Improved models and solutions
Session state element
References

A session is defined as the period of time that a


unique user interacts with a Web application.

Programmatically, session state is nothing more


than memory in the shape of a dictionary or hash
table, e.g. key-value pairs, which can be set and read
for the duration of a user's session

Session("Stocks") = "MSFT; VRSN; GE"


On subsequent pages these values are read and the
Web application has access to these values without
the user re-entering them:
' Get Stocks, split string, etc. Dim StockString
StockString = Session("Stocks")

Session management in ASP.NET can be done in


two ways:
Using Cookies
Encoding of URLs with Session ID

Cookie-based Session Handling

To enable cookie-based session handling, make sure that


web.config file of the web-application contains the following
entry:
<sessionState mode="InProc" cookieless="false" timeout="20" />
Lets say the browser makes a request to a server. This is the first request
from the browser to the server. For e.g. for a request:
http://localhost/WebApplication1/WebForm1.aspx
The HTTP request header sent by the browser would be as shown below:
1. GET /WebApplication1/WebForm1.aspx HTTP/1.1
2. Accept: image/gif, image/x- xbitmap, image/jpeg, image/ pjpeg,
application/vnd.ms-excel, application/vnd.ms- powerpoint, application/
msword, application/x-shockwave-flash, */*
3. Accept-Language: en-us
4. Accept-Encoding: gzip, deflate
5. User-Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.0;
Avant Browser [avantbrowser.com]; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)
6. Host: localhost
7. Connection: Keep-Alive

The response send back by the server would consist of a


HTTP response header and response body. The response
header would look something like this:
1. HTTP/1.1 200 OK
2. Server: Microsoft-IIS/5.0
3. Date: Wed, 07 Jan 2004 09:31:07 GMT
4. X-Powered-By: ASP.NET
5. X- AspNet-Version: 1.1.4322
6. Set- Cookie:
ASP.NET_SessionId=ll345q550ozqll45qithgi45; path=/
7. Cache-Control: private
8. Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8 ContentLength: 540

If the browser clicks on a button of the first page to


make a request to WebForm2.aspx, the request header
sent would be:
GET /WebApplication1/WebForm2.aspx HTTP/1.1
Accept: */*
Accept-Language: en-us
Accept-Encoding: gzip, deflate
User-Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0;
Windows NT 5.0; Avant Browser
[avantbrowser.com]; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)
Host: localhost
Connection: Keep-Alive
Cookie: ASP.NET_SessionId=
ll345q550ozqll45qithgi45

For cookie-less Session handling we need to set the cookieless


attribute to true in web.config.
<sessionState mode="InProc" cookieless="true" timeout="20" />
The request header is as shown below. (Similar to earlier request
header in cookie-based session handling)
1. GET /WebApplication1/WebForm1.aspx HTTP/1.1
2. Accept: image/gif, image/x- xbitmap, image/jpeg, image/ pjpeg,
application/vnd.ms-excel, application/vnd.ms- powerpoint,
application/ msword, application/x-shockwave-flash, */*
3. Accept-Language: en-us
4. Accept-Encoding: gzip, deflate
5. User-Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT
5.0; Avant Browser [avantbrowser.com]; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)
6. Host: localhost
7. Connection: Keep-Alive

The response returned by the browser is as follows


HTTP/1.1 302 Found
Server: Microsoft-IIS/5.0
Date: Wed, 07 Jan 2004 10:25:25 GMT
X-Powered-By: ASP.NET
X- AspNet-Version: 1.1.4322
Location:/WebApplication1/
(bcgmybvma1y45czof4me3sq4)/WebForm1.aspx
Cache-Control: private
Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8
Content-Length: 174
<html><head><title>Object moved</title></head><body> <h2>Object
moved to
<a href='/WebApplication1/
(bcgmybvma1y45czof4me3sq4)/WebForm1.aspx'>here</a>.</h2>
</body></html>

The Request header it sends would be as shown below:


GET /WebApplication1/
(bcgmybvma1y45czof4me3sq4)/WebForm1.aspx HTTP/1.1
Accept: image/gif, image/x- xbitmap, image/jpeg, image/
pjpeg, application/vnd.ms-excel, application/vnd.mspowerpoint, application/ msword, application/x-shockwaveflash, */*
Accept-Language: en-us
Accept-Encoding: gzip, deflate
User-Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT
5.0; Avant Browser [avantbrowser.com]; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)
Host: localhost
Connection: Keep-Alive

A Cookie is a small text file that the browser


creates and stores on the hard drive of your
machine. Cookie is just one or more pieces of
information stored as text strings.

The most common use of a cookie is to


storeinformation about the user
andpreferencestheuser makes.

The System.Web namespace offers a class


called HttpCookie to create cookies.
Private Sub Select_Click(By Val sender As System.Object, By Val e As_
System.EventArgs) Handles Select.Click
Dim newCookie As HttpCookie = New HttpCookie("Books")
newCookie.Values.Add("Name", TextBox1.Text)
newCookie.Values.Add("FavBook",
RadioButtonList1.SelectedItem.Text)
newCookie.Expires = #12/31/2008#
Response.Cookies.Add(newCookie)
Label3.Text = "Cookie Created"
Select.Visible = False
TextBox1.Visible = False
Label1.Visible = False
Label2.Visible = False
RadioButtonList1.Visible = False
End Sub

Private Sub Retrieve_Click(By Val sender As


System.Object, By Val e As_
System.EventArgs) Handles Retrieve.Click
Label3.visible=False
Label4.Text = "Hello" &" "& Request.Cookies("Books")
("Name") & "."&_
"We have a new book for you:"
If Request.Cookies("Books")("FavBook") = "VB" Then
Label5.text="XYZ VB Book"
ElseIf Request.Cookies("Books")("FavBook") = "C#" Then
Label5.text="ABC C# Book"
Else
Label5.text="Startvbdotnet.com's ASP Book"
End If
End Sub

Enter your Name


Select your interest
VB
C#
ASP

Cookie details
Hello Username. We have a new book for
you:XYZ VB Book

HttpCookie aCookie = new


HttpCookie("Mycookie");
aCookie.Values["userName"] = user name";
aCookie.Values["lastVisit"] =
DateTime.Now.ToString();
aCookie.Expires = DateTime.Now.AddDays(1);
Response.Cookies.Add(aCookie);
The cookie that will be created with the code will be in
the form of "administrator@www.startvbdotnet[1].txt"
and it can be found in
C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\Cookies.

These limitations include:


Process dependent.
Server farm limitations.
Cookie dependent.

The stateless nature of HTTP makes the inclusion of a


mechanism to save application state between user
requests a mustthe server must be able to identify the
same user across multiple requests.
First, the 120-bit session ID used to identify the session
is always stored as a cookie on the browser. So, if the
security policy of a user's employer disallows cookies,
the Session object cannot be populated.
Second, the data associated with the session and
accessed through the session ID is stored on the Web
server that processed the initial request and started the
session. As a result, the session data cant be shared in a
web farm scenario where multiple web servers are
processing requests from multiple clients.

ASP.NET session state solves all of the above


problems associated with classic ASP session state:
Process independent
Support for server farm configurations.
Cookie independent.

The ASP.NET session implementation addresses both of


these weaknesses by allowing for "cookieless" sessions
and off-server storage of session data. The ASP.NET
session state module is configured declaratively in the
Web.config file like so:
<sessionState mode="InProc" cookieless="false"
timeout="20" />
In this case, the mode attribute is set to InProc (the
default) to indicate that the session state is stored in
memory by ASP.NET and that cookies will not be used
to pass the session ID. Instead, the session ID is inserted
into the query string for a pages URL.

For example, using InProc mode, after a session is


established, a call to a hypothetical ASP.NET page
would look something like the following:
http://my.website.com/
(55mfgh55vgblurtywsityvjq)/education.aspx
ASP.NET offers three session management
solutions. They are:
InProcess,
StateServer (outProcess),
SQLServer (database based)

InProc:
This is same as the conventional ASP session
management. Session is stored in memory on the web
server.
StateServer session management
By setting the mode attribute to StateServer, is storing
session data in a separate in-memory cache controlled
by a Windows service running on a separate machine.
The state service, called the ASP.NET State Service
(aspnet_state.exe), is configured by the
stateConnectionString attribute in the Web.config file.
It specifies the services server and the port it monitors:
<sessionState mode="StateServer"
stateConnectionString="tcpip=myserver:42424"
cookieless="false" timeout="20" />
using the state service has the advantages of process
isolation and sharability across a web farm.

Session management with SQL Server

In this case, ASP.NET attempts to store session data on the SQL


Server specified by a sqlConnectionString attribute that would
contain the data source and security credentials necessary to log on
to the server. To configure the SQL Server with the appropriate
database objects, an administrator would also need to create the
ASPState database by running the InstallState.sql script found in
the WinDir\ Microsoft.Net\Framework\Version folder (where
WinDir is the name of your servers Windows folder and Version
is the installation folder for the appropriate version of the .NET
Framework youre using).
osql S localhost U sa P i Installsqlstate.sql ( cmd prompt)
<sessionState mode="SqlServer" sqlConnectionString="data
source=127.0.0.1;user id= sa; password=" cookieless="false"
timeout="20" />
Once the SQL Server is configured, the application code should
run identically to the InProc mode.
By storing session state in the database, youre effectively trading
performance for scalability and reliability.

To use StateServer mode

Make sure ASP.NET state service is running on the remote server


that will store session state information. This service is installed
with ASP.NET and is located by default at
<Drive>:\systemroot\Microsoft.NET\Framework\version\aspnet_st
ate.exe.
In the application's Web.config file, set mode=StateServer and
set the stateConnectionString attribute. For example,
stateConnectionString="tcpip=dataserver:42424".

To use SQLServer mode

Run InstallSqlState.sql (installed by default in


<Drive>:\systemroot\Microsoft.NET\Framework\version) on the
computer running SQL Server that will store the session state.
This creates a database called ASPState with new stored
procedures and ASPStateTempApplications and
ASPStateTempSessions tables in the TempDB database.
In the application's Web.config file, set mode=SQLServer and set
the sqlConnectionString attribute. For example,
sqlConnectionString="data source=localhost; Integrated
Security=SSPI; Initial Catalog= northwind".

InProc - stored in memory on web server This


is the default setting.
Pros: least overhead, fastest performance
Cons: breaks web clusters, restarting IIS loses
sessions

StateServer - managed by a remote service


(aspnet_state) HTTP protocol over TCP port.
Pros: reasonably fast, works with clusters
Cons: clear text, no authentication, overflows...

SQLServer - stored in SQL Server DB tables


Uses normal ODBC connection.
Pros: reliable, scalable
Cons: relatively slow, much overhead

<sessionState mode="Off|InProc|StateServer|
SQLServer" cookieless="true|false"
timeout="number of minutes"
stateConnectionString="tcpip= server:port"
sqlConnectionString="sql connection string"
stateNetworkTimeout="number of seconds"/>