Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Auto-Start ASP .NET Applications


I always forget that since ASP.NET 4 (IIS 7.5 - Windows 7 / Windows Server 2008 R2) we can enable the web application to auto-start which makes start up times less of an issue if the app is not used frequently throughout the day. This tends to be important for me as we do a lot of application initialization on app start up.

I pulled the following from Scott Guthrie...

Configuring an ASP.NET 4 Application to Auto-Start

To use the ASP.NET 4 auto-start feature, you first configure the IIS “application pool” worker process that the application runs within to automatically startup when the web-server first loads.  You can do this by opening up the IIS 7.5 applicationHost.config file (C:\Windows\System32\inetsrv\config\applicationHost.config) and by adding a startMode=”AlwaysRunning” attribute to the appropriate <applicationPools> entry:


     <add name="MyAppWorkerProcess" managedRuntimeVersion="v4.0" startMode="AlwaysRunning" />


If you load up the Windows task manager, click the “show processes from all users” checkbox, and then hit save on a startMode attribute change to the applicationHost.config file, you’ll see a new “w3wp.exe” worker process immediately startup as soon as the file is saved.

A single IIS application pool worker process can host multiple ASP.NET applications.  You can specify which applications you want to have automatically start when the worker process loads by adding a serviceAutoStartEnabled="true" attribute on their <application> configuration entry:


     <site name="MySite" id="1">

          <application path="/" serviceAutoStartEnabled="true" serviceAutoStartProvider="PreWarmMyCache" />




     <add name="PreWarmMyCache" type="PreWarmCache, MyAssembly" />


The serviceAutoProvider="PreWarmMyCache" attribute above references a provider entry within the config file that enables you to configure a custom class that can be used to encapsulate any "warming up" logic for the application.  This class will be automatically invoked as soon as the worker process and application are preloaded (before any external web requests are received), and can be used to execute any initialization or cache loading logic you want to run before requests are received and processed:

public class PreWarmCache : System.Web.Hosting.IProcessHostPreloadClient {

    public void Preload(string[] parameters) {

        // Perform initialization and cache loading logic here...



IIS will start the application in a state during which it will not accept requests until your "warming up" logic has completed.  After your initialization code runs in the Preload method and the method returns, the ASP.NET application will be marked as ready to process requests. 

You can optionally combine the new auto-start "warming up" feature with the load-balancing capabilities of the IIS7 Application Request Routing (ARR) extension, and use it to signal to a load-balancer once the application is initialized and ready to accept HTTP traffic – at which point the server can be brought into the web farm to process requests.

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