Internaut: Ready for .Net? Read this first

Shawn P. McCarthy

The Microsoft Windows .Net platform is emerging as a powerful toolbox for integrating Web services with applications. Although .Net can work with multiple types of systems, it's mainly for Microsoft-centric sites.

You're a .Net candidate if you have been using Active Server Pages on Windows 2000 or NT platforms, and you've been developing with Visual Basic or Visual Studio.

But don't jump for .Net without a detailed needs analysis. Don't upgrade if:
  • You maintain mostly desktop apps.

  • You must stay with legacy systems for budget reasons.

  • Your developers are tuned in to Java and Common Gateway Interface scripts.

Caution is warranted, because .Net requires you to transition apps to a run-time environment and to restructure any existing Component Object Model applications.

All code must reside within so-called assemblies'sets of associated .EXE, Dynamic Link Library, graphics and other file types.

Here are the good parts of .Net:
  • An excellent class library can consistently access most system functions and programming constructs.

  • The managed run-time environment removes worries about memory access errors.

  • Combined server-side, client and distributed programming platforms all work together for more speed.

  • Assemblies are a powerful organizational structure and a cure for COM's 'DLL hell.'

There are some not-so-good aspects, too:
  • The class library is big to the point of ponderousness.

  • A run-time abstraction layer separates you from your hardware.

  • You must learn Common Language Runtime, Common Type System, console user interface, manifests, metadata and Microsoft Intermediate Language.

  • Mountains of legacy Windows code won't work under .Net and could be expensive to port; other legacy code might not easily adapt to the assemblies framework.

  • Many developers will likely end up working in parallel'running older apps on existing servers but developing with Visual Studio .Net or C# on new .Net servers.

    Shawn P. McCarthy designs products for a Web search engine provider. E-mail him at :smccarthy@lycos-inc.com.

    About the Author

    Shawn McCarthy, a former writer for GCN, is senior analyst and program manager for government IT opportunities at IDC.

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