interprocess communication (IPC)

Definition of interprocess communication (IPC) in The Network Encyclopedia.

What is IPC (Interprocess Communication)?

A mechanism for establishing a connection between processes, running on two computers or on a single multitasking computer, to allow data to flow between those processes. Interprocess communication (IPC) mechanisms are commonly used in client/server environments and are supported to various degrees by the different Microsoft Windows operating systems.

How it works

A networked IPC generally consists of the following two components:

  • An application programming interface (API) that defines the standard set of functions that can be called when software tries to use an IPC.
  • A protocol that specifies the format in which the information is transmitted using the IPC. When IPCs are passed over the network, the format specified is the format of the packet or frame transmitted between the computers.

The following table lists some IPC mechanisms and the platforms that support them.

IPC Mechanisms Supported on Windows Platforms

Process Windows NT Windows 95 Windows 98 Windows 2000
Named pipes
x
x
x
x
Mailslots
x
x
x
x
NetBIOS
x
x
x
x
Windows Sockets
x
x
x
x
Remote procedure call (RPC)
x
x
x
x
Network Dynamic Data Exchange (NetDDE)
x
x
x
x
Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM)
x
 
x
x