Should I Use .NET?
What is .NET?
.NET is a software development framework, designed by Microsoft, and intended to be used to create web applications (or "web services", as Microsoft calls them) that will run on a wide variety of platforms and operating systems. The whole idea behind .NET is to create a software environment where centralized information can be shared, over the web, to any device, thereby eliminating the need for proprietary hardware, and allowing cheap PCs or handhelds to do the jobs once left to more expensive, specialized devices.
An application designed in .NET, for instance, could create a web service that allowed sales transactions to be made, and using that same framework, the software could easily be ported to any platform that .NET support, effectively allowing the same task to be performed on handhelds, smart phones, and tablet PCs. Inventory management, pricing updates, or any other business practice could be conducted from any of these machines, giving businesses greater flexibility than ever before. Why does a catalog need a re-buyer? Why aren't out-of-stock items automatically re-ordered, and why isn't the ship date automatically fed to sales associates as soon as something sells out? In all likelihood, it's because different systems handle these tasks, and they're all on unique platforms that can't communicate. The .NET framework is intended to link all of these functions under a single roof, cutting out bottlenecks and allowing business to be conducted without information delays.
The Microsoft .NET framework also attempts to take at least some of the work and prohibitive cost out of software development, particularly when it comes to these web services applications. For one thing, there's no longer any need to develop your software for multiple platforms -- the terminal at the counter, the smart phone in the warehouse manager's pocket, the tablet PCs in the truck, etc. -- when all your development is done under one environment. Secondly, the .NET environment includes standard libraries for a number of mission-critical business functionalities, including security, interface design, and database connectivity. With the right understanding of .NET, you'll be able to create fully powered internal business applications, accessible from anywhere, in less time than ever. .NET Versus Java
The .NET environment's main competitor is the Java Virtual Machine, a more established -- and somewhat less ambitious -- attempt to create a web-based, platform-agnostic computing environment to the masses. There are lots of small differences between the two, but for the end user, one of the key differences is in compatibility. While Java is designed to run everywhere ("write once, run everywhere", says Sun Microsystems, Java's developer), that becomes a liability on the actual desktop, where Java applications fail to take full advantage of the machines they run on. .NET, which at the current time is only available in it's full, commercially ready form on Windows based systems, does a better job with fitting in on the desktop, but then again, it's only available for Windows. To be fair, the .NET environment is available on additional platforms through the Mono open-source project, but this is not directly supported by Microsoft.
Without a doubt, .NET is the challenger, and Java the established platform of choice for a wide variety of applications, thanks in large part to it's compatibility. However, .NET is extremely powerful, and considering how common Windows-based hardware is, it's limited compatibility with other platforms is not nearly as difficult to accept as you might think, especially if you're working with generally cheaper (and common) Windows-based equipment.
How do applications run in .NET?
Programming in .NET involves several elements. Microsoft's Visual Studio.NET is where you'll create your web services; it's a fully functional, integrated development environment for building these applications. Once created, these web services operate in the Common Language Runtime -- .NET's equivalent to the Java Virtual Machine. In this managed run-time environment, you'll also have access to the same kind of debugging, and cross-language integration you'd expect to have in any run-time environment.
Should I use .NET?
Microsoft's .NET environment has several things going for it -- the least of which is that its developer is pouring resources into it's continued improvement. The most impressive thing .NET does is bring truly high tech, 21st business information management practices to smaller businesses without the budget to invest in expensive proprietary hardware. With .NET, you can truly create an interoperative, constantly updated business network between two or two hundred devices, using web service applications you develop yourself, or simply license from others. When you add to that the fact that this can all be done on consumer level hardware, from smart phones to Dells, you've got an appealing alternative to the traditional model of information infrastructure.
Here are some training courses that match this article:
Introduction to the Visual Basic .NET
Enterprise Web Development with .NET
Introduction to Programming with .NET
Fundamentals of Visual Basic .NET - Level I
Programming Visual Basic .NET - Level 2
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