.NET Reflection Extravanganza !!!

Over the past few weeks, I have been involved with this module that got the best of both worlds - .NET and I, 😁.

Ok, this was the problem. We have a COM server, let us name it Server. I had to write an assembly in C#, let us call it Bridge, that will listen to all of the events fired by the Server and perform an action Action. To keep that Action simple, let us assume we have to log them to the database. But the Server fires hundreds of events, and it is not wise to write up static event handlers for all of them. Also, if more events are (ever) added in the future, the Bridge should be able to support it without code changes.

The twist in the game was that this was a brown + green field development project. That demanded a wise solution - learn from the past and better the future.

So, I came up with a different approach with the incredible Reflection in .NET. All of the events fired by the Server, its prototype and other relevant information can be got through reflection. For each of the event methods, an event sink [event handler] can be generated at runtime. This means I have to create a method at runtime matching the prototype of the event. The dynamic method thus generated runtime has to appended with some method body performing the desired Action, and then has to be registered as the event sink for the corresponding event. So, when the event is fired by the Server, the dynamically created event handler is called without any intervention. This is the theme of my solution. This keeps the Bridge unaffected for any event related changes in the Server.

Implementing this solution was a great and exciting adventure, although a tiring one too.

I was able to get the event information about the events fired by Server through reflection. I used the following sort of code for generating the dynamic method or the supposedly the dynamic event handler:-

using System;
using System.Threading;
using System.Reflection;
using System.Reflection.Emit;

class TaskDynamicEventHandler
	public static void CreateDynamicEventHandler(
		ref TypeBuilder myTypeBld,
		string methodName,
		Type[] eventMethodParameters,
		Type eventreturnType
		MethodBuilder myMthdBld =
				MethodAttributes.Public | MethodAttributes.Static,

		ILGenerator ILout = myMthdBld.GetILGenerator();
		int numParams = eventMethodParameters.Length;

		for (byte x = 0; x < numParams; x++)
			// Load the parameter onto the evaulation stack
			ILout.Emit(OpCodes.Ldarg_S, x);

		// Use the above sort of logic to access the event parameter
		// values and then package into a hashtable, and then call
		// a static method HandleEvent in TaskDynamicEventHandler,
		// which takes the hashtable as a parameter. All the code is
		// generated in IL using ILGenerator.

	public static void Main()
		AppDomain myDomain = Thread.GetDomain();
		AssemblyName asmName = new AssemblyName("DynamicAssembly1");

		AssemblyBuilder myAsmBuilder =

		ModuleBuilder myModule = myAsmBuilder.DefineDynamicModule("DynamicModule1", "MyDynamicAsm.dll");
		TypeBuilder myTypeBld = myModule.DefineType("MyDynamicType", TypeAttributes.Public);
		string dynamicMethodName = "DynamicEventHandler";


		Type myType = myTypeBld.CreateType();

The drawback in this approach was that a dynamic assembly+module+type was getting created for each event. This was not efficient enough, and so slightly altered the logic to create the dynamic assembly+module+type once and add the methods [dynamic event handlers] to the dynamic type.

Though a level of efficiency may have been achieved, it was not elegant enough to be satisfied. The dynamic event handlers [DEH] are all methods of a specific type belonging to a different assembly that is generated at run-time, and these DEH do not belong to the same assembly as the TaskDynamicEventHandler class. The responsibility of the DEHs was to read its parameter name and values at runtime, package them into a hash table, and call a method HandleEvent of TaskDynamicEventHandler, and it is in HandleEvent that the actual job of logging is done. Well, the actual job is not only logging but other things that require access to the members of TaskDynamicEventHandler. So the non-elegance here was that HandleEvent was exposed as public static method so that the DEH in the dynamic assembly could call, which lead to the ugliness where HandleEvent was exposed to the outside world from the assembly to which TaskDynamicEventHandler belongs to. So HandleEvent cannot be non-public. But it was required for other reasons to be an instance method.

// returnType - event method's return type
// parameterTypes - event method's parameter types list
ArrayList parameterTypes = new ArrayList(parameterTypes);
parameterTypes.Insert(0, this.GetType());

DynamicMethod dynamicEventHandler =
  new DynamicMethod(
    (Type[]) parameterTypes.ToArray(typeof(Type)),

Hence the DEH is now a part of the same assembly and class and it can call even non-public methods. Efficiency was well achieved but still elegant was a few feet away. The dynamic method created and added to TaskDynamicEventHandler using DynamicMethod class is a static method and hence cannot access instance methods of TaskDynamicEventHandler, although it can access non-public methods.

All of these approaches until the final efficient and elegant solution took several iterations of revisit and review. I will not able to explain about the difficulties and tough IL debugging experience that I went through trying to make the HandleEvent an instance virtual method, although I will be able to share the joy and knowledge now. It was a great experience !!!