Posted on 20 Dec 2005 at 11:53
In a new Real World column, Thomas Lee will be covering Microsoft's .NET platform as it affects IT professionals
Welcome to the first episode of a new Real World Computing column, whose basic theme is '.NET for IT professionals'. The idea is that we'll be looking at Microsoft's .NET development platform through the eyes of an administrator rather than a programmer. I intend to show you how to manage and control .NET application projects -as opposed to how to write them - and also how .NET can make a difference to the systems you administer.
To get the column rolling, I'll first need to define precisely what .NET is and to walk you through its architecture, but before that, who am I and why am I writing this column? My day job is chief technologist at QA, a firm that does a great job training developers in the finer arts of designing, developing and testing .NET applications. (Thus far, we haven't seen much interest from firms in training their IT pro as opposed to programming staff, which suggests a degree of unfamiliarity and trepidation that's the rationale for this column.) I've been doing IT professional training for what feels like forever, have been an MCT for 11 years, have done a couple of stints working as a contractor for Microsoft and over the last few years I've been speaking at Microsoft events around the world, including TechEd and IT Forum.
Let's start this first article by introducing .NET itself and looking at the extensive new architecture it involves. Then, in future articles, I'd like to move on to matters like how to troubleshoot and do performance tuning of .NET applications, and explain what ASP.NET is (and how it differs from the old ASP). I'll also be taking a look at things like publisher policies, Code Access Security and logging. If you have any specific suggestions for topics you'd like covered, don't be shy: just email me at the address at the end of this column.
What is .NET?
Microsoft launched the .NET name over five years ago in June 2000. Originally codenamed Next Generation Windows Services, .NET quickly expanded to embrace everything Microsoft planned for the future - in a frenzy of excessive marketing zeal, Redmond seemed to add the .NET moniker to every product it mentioned. There was Windows .NET Server (later re-renamed plain Windows Server 2003), Visio Studio .NET and even MapPoint .NET. This '.NET with everything' approach certainly confused the market, to the extent that Microsoft later did a U-turn and removed the .NET moniker from almost everything.
Nowadays, Microsoft defines .NET as 'the Microsoft Web Services strategy to connect information, people, systems and devices through software. Integrated across the Microsoft platform, .NET technology provides the ability to quickly build, deploy, manage and use connected, security-enhanced solutions with Web Services.' Beyond all the hype, .NET is several things at once: a new API, a new programming model (along with associated development tools), a new run-time system for applications, and a new style of communications architecture based on XML Web Services. In short, it's both a strategy and an architecture.
When trying to define .NET to IT pros, the diagram I like to start with is shown here as Figure 1 and illustrates the key components of the architecture, which are:
1 Operating system. The .NET story begins with the OS. The current version 1.1 of the .NET Framework runs on all recent versions of Windows, including NT (with SP 6a), 2000, XP and Windows 2003, as well as Windows 98 and Windows ME. Version 2 of the .NET Framework will arrive later this year and is planned to be supported by Windows 2003 Server, XP, Windows 2000 and Vista (Win9x will no longer be supported).
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