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Microsoft is sprucing up its .Net technology

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May 13, 2014

If you were concerned that Microsoft was moving away from its .Net technology, don't be-- the software behemoth had many .Net-related announcements to make at its annual TechEd North America conference this week.

To be sure, recent Build Developer conferences have been rather light on .Net content, between Microsoft pushing JavaScript and web technologies for Windows Store apps, and its renewed emphasis on C++ for the desktop.

However, yesterday's TechEd announcements saw Microsoft sprucing up its .Net technology for a different role than either of those technologies, one aimed squarely at server-side applications and the cloud. And that shouldn't come as a surprise to most people.

"On the cloud side of servers, the future of .Net is about the modern web," Microsoft developer and vice president Soma Somasegar wrote in a blog post.

"Our immediate goal is for the next version of .Net to be the first and only framework designed for the cloud, helping you to create on-premises applications and move them to the cloud with no changes and at the same time leveraging all the power of the infrastructure."

Collectively, such efforts are being lumped under the name ".Net vNext", a multi-pronged initiative that will take the platform in several new directions all at once. At least that's what Microsoft is hoping.

One of the more significant announcements on Monday was that .Net vNext will include a "cloud optimized mode," which will be a lightweight version that eliminates libraries that aren't needed for server-side deployments, such as Windows Forms and Windows Presentation Foundation.

The cloud mode will also allow developers to bundle the .Net Framework libraries they need with their apps on an app-by-app basis.

And different apps running on the same server will be able to run different versions of the same libraries without any conflicts.

The libraries themselves will also be streamlined to reduce their footprints. Building on top of this more agile version of .Net will be ASP.Net vNext, the next version of Microsoft's server-side web technology and what the .Net team described as "our big announcement at TechEd."

From what we know so far, ASP.Net vNext was clearly designed with the cloud in mind. According to Microsoft's developers, applications built on it will automatically adjust the behavior of such services as caching and session state depending on whether they are running in a traditional hosting environment or in the cloud.

"We use dependency injection behind the scenes to provide your app with the correct implementation for these services," the .Net team explained. "Using this approach, it is really easy to move your app from on-premises to the cloud, since our code changes, not yours."

API.Net vNext will also include updated versions of a number of APIs, where MVC, Web API, and Web Pages have all been merged into a unified programming model.

A single controller can return MVC views and Web API responses, for example. The revamped platform will also be integrated with Microsoft's new .Net Compiler Platform, aka "Roslyn," allowing near-real-time recompilation of ASP code.

Overall, code changes made in Visual Studio will be reflected immediately in the browser after a refresh, without a separate build cycle.

And in a surprising but welcome move, Microsoft says it is taking a few steps to make sure all of this works on more platforms than just Windows.

Although .Net is a managed-code platform, much like Java, in the past Microsoft has never gone in for Java's "write once, run anywhere" concept.

But for .Net vNext it has been working with Xamarin to make sure its .Net packages run on OS X and Unix/Linux, via the open source Mono project.

The company has even gone as far as to develop a tool called ApiPort that can analyze .Net code for its portability.

The tool not only alerts developers to any potential issues, but it also uploads its analysis to the company in order that Microsoft can prioritize the "most requested" API/platform combinations.

Finally, Microsoft says that it has committed to releasing all of the .Net vNext technologies as open source software via its newly inaugurated .Net Foundation – which it says shouldn't come as a surprise, since all of the ASP.Net Web stack is already open source.

So it looks like Microsoft has ambitious plans for .Net and by targeting cloud deployments it's addressing a healthy, growing market.

Whether it can win over enough converts to grow .Net's share of that market remains to be seen. "We'll share much more in the months to come before we release the final versions," the .Net team said in a blog post.

"We're looking forward to shipping pre-release versions in order to get your feedback," the post said.

In other IT news

Australia's Pawsey Supercomputing initiative has revealed some basic information about an upgrade to its 'Magnus' supercomputer.

The upgrade in question will see Magnus transform itself into a Cray XC-30 supercomputer with over 35,000 CPU cores.

Intel's future Xeon processor E5-2600 version 3 will be soon be introduced in service to give Magnus its upgrade and take it past the petaflop barrier.

The new Intel CPU is due to be announced by the end of Q2 2014, and to have clock speeds of 100 MHz to 200 MHz faster than the current generation of Xeon processors.

Pawsey says that the upgrade means that Magnus “is largely expected to be the most powerful supercomputer in the southern hemisphere.”

The new Xeon CPUs are certainly giving Magnus a very comprehensive upgrade as it currently possesses 3,328 active cores and runs at 69 teraflops.

That's rather fewer than Pawsey's other super Galaxy, which at 9,440 cores comes in at number 209 on the November 2013 list of the world's top 500 supercomputers.

Getting Magnus to a petaflop will likely mean it beats Galaxy's position on that list.

The supercomputers' ranking list is pretty fluid because new ones are being built all the time. But with Magnus going large and Galaxy on track to add two more entries alongside its five other systems in the top 500 before long, things are certainly looking up for the Pawsey Supercomputing initiative.

Overall, Magnus spends most of its time on radio astronomy and geoscience computational issues.

The upgrade to the petascale level will help it do better in both fields, and whatever other purposes researchers from the iVEC consortium that funds the machine can dream up, the new system is bound to perform as expected.

In other IT news

IBM has refreshed its SVC (SAN Volume Controller) and Storwize storage array products, providing doubled processing power, boosting compression as well as increasing Storwize capacity to around 4 PB.

There are two detailed blogs about the new hardware and software, one from inventor Barry Whyte and the other from Tony Pearson, also an IBM inventor.

Pearson ventures this claim-- “Having sold over 55,000 systems and managing over 1.6 Exabytes of data, IBM continues to be the Number One leader in storage virtualisation solutions.”

That’s a claim that will be evaluated and probably denied by EMC, HDS and NetApp, and probably HP as well, but we'll have to see about that.

The Storwize family of products looks like this:

  • SAN Volume Controller (SVC)
  • Storwize V7000
  • Storwize V7000 Unified
  • Flex System V7000
  • Storwize V5000
  • Storwize V3700
  • V3500
  • SVC refresh
  • The SVC 2145-DH8 follows on from the previous 2145-CG8 product, which came in a 1U X86 server node enclosures, with each needing cache protection as well.

    So we now have a 2U device which contains two hot-swap batteries instead of the separate UPS. It also has a new engine featuring:

    Source: Microsoft.

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