CORBA, which stands for Common Object Request Broker Architecture, is an extremely popular and proven middleware standard from the Object Management Group. There are many commercial and open source products that allow you to develop distributed applications using CORBA.
As you say that performance is important, at the current time, it is best for you to develop your application using CORBA. In general CORBA applications tend to be faster than the corresponding Web services applications, as they use a binary (IIOP) protocol for messages sent on the network as opposed to a text protocol (like SOAP) used by Web services.
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This was first published in June 2005