How to run a DLL-based COM object outside the SQL Server process

Applies to: Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Standard EditionMicrosoft SQL Server 2005 Developer EditionMicrosoft SQL Server 2005 Enterprise Edition


Microsoft SQL Server 6.5 or later provides the capability to load and run custom Component Object Model (COM) objects through a set of OLE Automation stored procedures or through extended stored procedures. By default, DLL-based COM objects are loaded as in process server, which means that the COM objects are not only loaded within the SQL Server process memory address space, but they also have full access to this memory address space. Therefore, a COM object loaded in the SQL Server process space must adhere to the same rules as any DLL file. There is a potential that a COM object could overwrite memory within the SQL Server process or leak resources, causing instability.

If there is suspicion that a COM object may be affecting the robustness of the SQL Server process, you may want to use the steps in this article to instantiate the COM object outside the SQL Server process space. Implementation of the Distributed Component Object Model's (DCOM) specification of "Location Transparency" into the operating system has provided the ability to run a DLL-based COM object outside the SQL Server process space.

The process of running a DLL-based COM object outside of the address space of the main application is called remoting. Remoting requires that another executable be a surrogate process in place of the SQL Server executable. The default executable used by the DCOM Service Control Manager (Rpcss.exe) is named Dllhost.exe. The DCOM support structure uses the Dllhost.exe file to load the DLL into its process space and then uses proxy/stub pairs to marshal the requested interface transparently back to the client, which in this case is the SQL Server. This executable can accept multiple interface/method requests concurrently. After the interface use is complete, the DCOM Service Control Manager (SCM) manages the clean up and unloading of the Dllhost.exe file. COM objects should not be expected to retain state information in between instantiations.

In order for this article to work correctly, the system must be running a DCOM enabled operating system. This would be either Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 2 or later, Microsoft Windows 98 or Microsoft Windows 95 with the DCOM add-in installed. The following steps can apply to any DLL-based COM object that is being created in the SQL Server process space, whether it is being instantiated through sp_OACreate or an extended stored procedure.

More Information

Information about the two basic methods that you can use to instantiate the COM object out of process follows.

COM client requests remoting of the object

By changing the way that you invoke the COM object, you can request that the object be created outside of the SQL Server address space.
  • If the COM object is loaded by using the sp_OACreate procedure, by default it is loaded in process. However, there is an optional third parameter to this procedure that may you can use to indicate the context of where to create the object. If this parameter is not specified, the default setting of five (5) is used, which means to run the object either inside or outside of the process. You need to change the parameter to four (4), which indicates to DCOM that this component is to run as a local executable. Use syntax that is similar to the following example to explicitly inform DCOM to run the COM object "out of process" using the sp_OACreate stored procedure:
       DECLARE @object int   DECLARE @hr int   EXEC @hr = sp_OACreate 'SQLOLE.SQLServer', @object OUT, 4
  • If the COM object is created within an extended stored procedure the third parameter of CoCreateInstance or CoCreateInstanceEx can be changed to CLSCTX_LOCAL_SERVER. This is shown in the following code sample using CoCreateInstance:
       HRESULT hr = CoCreateInstance(CLSID_Test, NULL, CLSCTX_LOCAL_SERVER,     IID_IUnknown, (void**)&piunknown);

Modify registry to force remoting of the object

If you cannot modify the COM client to request that the object be created out of process, two different methods exist to force the object to be created out of process.
  • Use the OLE/COM Object viewer (Oleview.exe) that is shipped with Microsoft Visual C++ and locate the ProgID in the form of OLEComponent.Object under All Objects. Select the COM object, and then from the Object menu, select CoCreateInstance Flags. Make sure that only CLSCTX_LOCAL_SERVER is selected. Next, under the Implementation and Inproc Server tabs select Use Surrogate Process and leave the "Path to Custom Surrogate" blank, which allows the Dllhost.exe file to be loaded and the COM DLL brought within it's process space.
  • Use the following steps to manually update the registry.

    Warning Serious problems might occur if you modify the registry incorrectly by using Registry Editor or by using another method. These problems might require that you reinstall your operating system. Microsoft cannot guarantee that these problems can be solved. Modify the registry at your own risk.
    1. Obtain the Class Identifier (CLSID) of the COM object. The CLSID is a 128-bit number and considered a Globally Unique Identifier (GUID) that is used to uniquely identify the component, module or file that contains this COM object. When creating COM objects using the OLE Automation stored procedures, the first parameter to the stored procedure is a programmatic identifier or the ProgID of the OLE object is used to derive the CLSID. This character string describes the class of the OLE object and has the following form:
      You can use the programmatic identifier to find the class identifier for a COM object.

      Open the Registry Editor (Regedit.exe) and under the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT key use the Find method to locate a key with the name of your <OLEComponent.Object>. You will find it at other levels, but it should be located at the level directly below the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT. After you locate the key, expand the folder for the key name and you should see a subkey named CLSID. Click that folder to see the values within that key. On the right-hand side of the screen is a title named "(Default)". The data for that key should be in the following form:
      Make a note of this value or copy it to Notepad. Include the brackets.
    2. Navigate under the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID key and find the subkey with this GUID number. After you highlight the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID key you can use the Find function in Registry Editor (under the Edit menu) and paste the GUID into the Find dialog box. Make sure that you have found the proper interface by inspecting the InprocServer32 subkey below this key, which points to the location of your COM DLL file. If there is a TypeLib key, check this GUID value. This should be different than what you noted in step 1. Otherwise, you have the TypeLib GUID and not the GUID for the COM object. The ProgID subkey will have a value of 'OLEComponent.Object.1'. The one on the end is for this sample only and is used for versioning information.
    3. While under the GUID's InprocServer32 subkey, make sure that a ThreadingModel value exists and that it is set to either Both or Free to make sure the marshaling understands the threading model of the COM object to enable execution of COM out of SQL Server process space. If there is not a ThreadingModel value or it is set to Apartment, COM object instantiation may not be consistent.

      Note If you add the ThreadingModel value make sure that you test your COM object before implementing.
    4. Highlight the GUID number/subkey under the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID key. From the Edit menu, click New, and then select String Value. Under the Name column, type the following:
    5. Press ENTER and then insert the class identifier or GUID number you noted from step 1 as the value. The GUID should be inside the curly brackets as in the following example:
      The application identifier AppID is used by DCOM to associate the DLL with an executable file.
    6. Add a new subkey under the HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\AppID and set it's name to the same class identifier or GUID number with the brackets as inserted in the preceding step.
    7. Highlight the GUID name. From the Edit menu, click New, and then select String Value. Under the Name column, type the following:
      Leave the Data column blank for this value. Because the data column is blank, this informs DCOM to run the default executable file, Dllhost.exe and load the COM object within it's process space.
    8. Close the Registry Editor. Click Start, and then click Run. In the Run dialog box type the following:
      Press the ENTER key to open the Distributed COM Configuration Properties dialog box. Click the Default Properties tab, and make sure that Enable Distributed COM on this computer is selected. If it is not, select it, and then click Apply.
    9. Make sure that the Microsoft Windows NT user account that SQL Server is running under has "Full Control" permission on the registry keys for this object. If the permissions are not sufficient or the registry keys are input incorrectly the following errors may occur when you are creating the COM object:

      OLE Automation Error Information
      HRESULT: 0x80040154
      Source: ODSOLE Extended Procedure
      Description: Class not registered

      OLE Automation Error Information
      HRESULT: 0x80070005
      Source: ODSOLE Extended Procedure
      Description: Access is denied.

      OLE Automation Error Information
      HRESULT: 0x80080005
      Source: ODSOLE Extended Procedure
      Description: Server execution failed
    10. Test and see if this is running the Dllhost.exe file and loading the COM object in its process space. This requires that the Microsoft Windows NT Resource Kit is on the Windows NT computer on which SQL Server is running. Open a command prompt and from the command prompt run the Tlist.exe file, which shows all the processes and their associated process identifiers, or Process Identifiers (PIDs). In the Transact-SQL script where sp_OACreate is run and after that call is executed, but before the script ends, use the following to delay the script completion for an additional 20 seconds:
      WAITFOR DELAY '000:00:20'
      Run the script and immediately navigate to the command prompt and run the Tlist.exe file. Note the Dllhost.exe PID. Rerun Tlist.exe and pass the PID as a parameter. This shows the DLLs that are loaded within the Dllhost.exe process space. The DLL-based COM object should be listed as running within this process. After the script returns, running Tlist.exe again reveals that the Dllhost.exe process is no longer running.

      In the following sample output the ADODB.Connection object is created outside of the SQL Server process space. This snapshot using Tlist.exe was performed while the COM object existed in the Dllhost.exe process space. Notice that the module Msado15.dll, which is the module that contains the COM object, is loaded.
      C:\>tlist dllhost 275 dllhost.exe   CWD:     C:\NT40\system32\    CmdLine: C:\NT40\System32\dllhost.exe {00000514-0000-0010-8000-00AA006D2EA4}-Embedding   VirtualSize:    19180 KB   PeakVirtualSize:    19180 KB   WorkingSetSize:  1780 KB   PeakWorkingSetSize:  1780 KB   NumberOfThreads: 3    278 Win32StartAddr:0x01001920 LastErr:0x00000000 State:Waiting    215 Win32StartAddr:0x00001b5e LastErr:0x00000000 State:Waiting    253 Win32StartAddr:0x00001b60 LastErr:0x000000cb State:Waiting   4.0.1381.105 shp  0x01000000  dllhost.exe   4.0.1381.130 shp  0x77f60000  ntdll.dll   4.0.1381.121 shp  0x77dc0000  ADVAPI32.dll   4.0.1381.133 shp  0x77f00000  KERNEL32.dll   4.0.1381.133 shp  0x77e70000  USER32.dll   4.0.1381.115 shp  0x77ed0000  GDI32.dll   4.0.1381.131 shp  0x77e10000  RPCRT4.dll   4.0.1381.117 shp  0x77b20000  ole32.dll     6.0.8267.0 shp  0x78000000  MSVCRT.dll                     0x1f310000  msado15.dll    2.30.4265.1 shp  0x766f0000  OLEAUT32.dll    4.0.1381.72 shp  0x77bf0000  rpcltc1.dll
      With SQL Server version 7.0 Desktop Edition running on Microsoft Windows 95 or Microsoft Windows 98 workstations, the "32-bit Modules Loaded" within the Microsoft System Information application tool can be used during the execution to see the loading\unloading of the Dllhost.exe file and the COM object DLL during this test. To access the tool, click Start, point to Programs, point to Accessories, and then click System Tools.
Note Because of security limitations, Windows 95 or Windows 98 does not support starting a DLLSurrogate process and loading a COM DLL by a remote client. Therefore, the COM object must exist within the Running Object Table (ROT) and be running/loaded if it is to be available for use by a remote client computer. You can use the steps in this article to help isolate COM objects when they are suspected to be the cause of instability in the SQL Server. Make sure that each component is tested thoroughly running out of process to ensure consistent behavior. Performance difference in instantiating a COM object in the SQL Server process and outside the process space varies. Also, some COM objects were not built to be remoted and can leak resources. Test thoroughly before implementing the steps in this article for something other than a troubleshooting step. The following Microsoft Knowledge Base article has an example of how remoting a COM object can cause a resource leak:

197426 FIX: Handle leak when passing ADO objects between processes
Note Microsoft SQL Server 6.5, by default, operates with Single Thread Apartment (STA) model and handles initialization of COM objects on a separate internal thread. In this model, one thread is selected to control the creation of all the OLE objects within the SQL Server process and to proxy back to all client connections needing access to this COM object. Because this is handled internally by the SQL Server, the object's persistence cannot be guaranteed between instantiations of the COM object.



For more information about the SQL Server 6.5 COM Object model, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:

194661 SQL Server COM object persistence model

For more information about the way that the Sp_OA stored procedure is implemented, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:

180780 How Sp_OA procedures extension to SQL Server is implemented

For more information about running DLL-based COM objects within DLL Surrogates; please refer to the following:

Eddon, Guy; Eddon Henry, Inside Distributed Com (Mps). Microsoft Press, 1998, (ISBN 1-57231-849-X), Chapter Eight: 'DLL Surrogates and Executable Components'

Box, Don, Essential COM. Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., (ISBN 0-201-63446-5) Chapter Six: 'Applications' Grimes, Richard, Professional DCOM Programming. Wrox Press Inc. (ISBN 1-861000-60-X), Chapter Four: 'Distributed Component Object Model' The DCOM Add-In for Windows 95 is shipped with the SQL Server 7.0 media and the file is named Dcom95.exe. You can download Dcom95.exe from the following Web site: