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Microsoft bets on its .NET Framework to draw out cloud customers

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November 23, 2015

UPDATE: It's been about thirteen months minus a few days that Microsoft announced the open sourcing of its .NET Core, a cross-platform version of its Windows-only .NET Framework.

MS' .NET Framework isn't going away that's for sure, but it's now becoming apparent that the company's focus is on its .NET Core system as the future of its development platform.

Microsoft's .NET Framework goes back a long way, first announced at the company's TechEd Europe in 2000. Yes, that's fifteen long years ago, and in that time the IT community has had plenty of time to work with the technology and become proficient with it.

At the time, it was seen as a defensive move against Sun Microsystem's Java language, which threatened Windows thanks to its cross-platform capability combined with a programming language that was easier and more productive than C or C++.

Microsoft's C# (the primary .NET language) didn't see Java jump off the cliff, but it did prove popular for developing business applications, however. And the interest is still there.

Microsoft also evolved the C# language more rapidly than Sun was able to do with Java, showing what a capable internal team could achieve versus a more bureaucratic community-driven process. And since then, the fact that Sun was acquired by Oracle didn't help things much either.

ASP.NET, co-invented by Microsoft's Scott Guthrie, was a big advance on the old ASP (Active Server Pages) as a framework for web applications.

Why then did Microsoft decide to fork the .NET Framework, with all the risks and confusion that entails, and then embrace open source? There are several reasons in fact.

The first is that the .NET Framework was monolithic and its internal dependencies too convoluted for Microsoft to move forward with certain projects.

In particular, the company wanted to compile its .NET framework to true native code, without needing a runtime installed. Fair enough.

Some of the benefits include faster start-up, a speedier performance in some scenarios, but above all: cleaner and simpler deployment. If various applications depend on an operating system runtime, then there is always a risk that updating the operating system could break the application.

And the compatibility burden also tends to slow down development of the runtime, no matter how you slice it and dice it.

To be sure, Microsoft's original solution was to refactor the .NET Framework into a new, more modular system, while still maintaining the existing version for compatibility purposes.

This new version is .NET Core, and this is what's it all about. It was first used for Windows 8 Store apps, which is why the .NET Native project initially targeted only Store apps, now evolved into Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps for Windows 10.

At the Connect event in New York last week, Microsoft showed the next stage for .NET Native-- targeting .NET Core on Linux, Mac OS X and Windows.

There was a demonstration of .NET Core compiled to native code on Ubuntu, though that feature is not yet in the public release.

Source: Microsoft.

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