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I have a project that requires a client app to communicate with a server. I was wondering if there is a way for the client app to detect available servers and "know" by some method or another which server is the one it needs.

The client is built with .net and c#, the server is a simple SQL database.They are on the same network.

Is there a built in mechanism to do this or is the task more complex then it seems at first?

I don't have more details ATM, it's still just an idea. The reason behind it is that when a user uses the client app, we don't want him to enter connection strings manually if he doesn't have to.

  • Usually, connection string is placed to App.config file. Google: "c# app.config connection string" – astef May 23 '14 at 14:48
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    Not much experience with it directly, but I believe you'll want to do some sort of UDP broadcast. Here's a similar question I found on StackOverflow that may give you a starting point. stackoverflow.com/questions/210446/… – Matt Klinker May 23 '14 at 15:13
  • They are on the same network. In this case you can use broadcast packets pretty easily, but this can be fragile with things like Wifi client isolation. – Phoshi May 23 '14 at 15:54
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I can think of three main solutions to the issue:

  1. Send a message to the network's broadcast address on a well-known port. Your same-network server picks this up and sends a reply to the source address ("I'm here at: ...").

  2. Make your server occasionally send a message to the broadcast address on a well-known port, once every so many seconds. Clients can listen for this and then connect.

  3. Have a master server responsible for coupling the two: the server sends "I'm not dead yet" packages to the master; client connects to master and gets a server list. (*) I don't recommend this.

1 and 2 are essentially the same, but with active (1) or passive (2) scanning. 1 seems cleaner on the network; 2 is probably a little easier to implement.

(*) This is a lot more hassle and requires another server on a well-known address, and represents a single point of failure, but it can solve discoverability issues.

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Speaking on a higher level than JvR, I would use an existing library that uses broadcast/multicast internally.

I'm not as familiar with the Windows ecosystem, but this would be solved by a zeroconf implementation: either Bonjour (Mac OS X) or Avahi (Linux/BSD). The only thing I've ever used Avahi for myself is mDNS, but I know it supports service discovery as well.

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