Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) is an architecture and specification for creating, distributing, and managing distributed program objects in a network. It allows programs at different locations and developed by different vendors to communicate in a network through an "interface broker." CORBA was developed by a consortium of vendors through the Object Management Group (OMG), which currently includes over 500 member companies. Both International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and X/Open have sanctioned CORBA as the standard architecture for distributed objects (which are also known as components). CORBA 3 is the latest level.
The essential concept in CORBA is the Object Request Broker (ORB). ORB support in a network of clients and servers on different computers means that a client program (which may itself be an object) can request services from a server program or object without having to understand where the server is in a distributed network or what the interface to the server program looks like. To make requests or return replies between the ORBs, programs use the General Inter-ORB Protocol (GIOP) and, for the Internet, its Internet Inter-ORB Protocol (IIOP). IIOP maps GIOP requests and replies to the Internet's Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) layer in each computer.
A notable hold-out from CORBA is Microsoft, which has its own distributed object architecture, the Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM). However, CORBA and Microsoft have agreed on a gateway approach so that a client object developed with the Component Object Model will be able to communicate with a CORBA server (and vice versa).
Distributed Computing Environment (DCE), a distributed programming architecture that preceded the trend toward object-oriented programming and CORBA, is currently used by a number of large companies. DCE will perhaps continue to exist along with CORBA and there will be "bridges" between the two.
More information is available in our definitions of Internet Inter-ORB Protocol and Object Request Broker.