Side-by-Side Execution

Side-by-side execution is the ability to run multiple versions of an application or component on the same computer. You can have multiple versions of the common language runtime, and multiple versions of applications and components that use a version of the runtime, on the same computer at the same time.

The following illustration shows several applications using two different versions of the runtime on the same computer. Applications A, B, and C use runtime version 1.0, while application D uses runtime version 1.1.

Side-by-side execution of two versions of the runtime

Side-by-side execution

The .NET Framework consists of the common language runtime and approximately two dozen assemblies that contain the API types. The runtime and the .NET Framework assemblies are versioned separately. For example, version 1.0 of the runtime is actually version 1.0.3705.0, while version 1.0 of the .NET Framework assemblies is version 1.0.3300.0.

The following illustration shows several applications using two different versions of a component on the same computer. Application A and B use version 1.0 of the component while Application C uses version 2.0 of the same component.

Side-by-side execution of two versions of a component

Side-by-side execution

Side-by-side execution gives you more control over which versions of a component an application binds to, and more control over which version of the runtime an application uses.

Prior to Windows XP and the .NET Framework, DLL conflicts occurred because applications were unable to distinguish between incompatible versions of the same code. Type information contained in a DLL was bound only to a file name. An application had no way of knowing if the types contained in a DLL were the same types that the application was built with. As a result, a new version of a component could overwrite an older version and break applications.

Side-by-side execution and the .NET Framework provide the following features to eliminate DLL conflicts:

  • Strong-named assemblies.

    Side-by-side execution uses strong-named assemblies to bind type information to a specific version of an assembly. This prevents an application or component from binding to an invalid version of an assembly. Strong-named assemblies also allow multiple versions of a file to exist on the same computer and to be used by applications. For more information, see Strong-Named Assemblies.

  • Version-aware code storage.

    The .NET Framework provides version-aware code storage in the global assembly cache. The global assembly cache is a computer-wide code cache present on all computers with the .NET Framework installed. It stores assemblies based on version, culture, and publisher information, and supports multiple versions of components and applications. For more information, see Global Assembly Cache.

  • Isolation.

    Using the .NET Framework, you can create applications and components that execute in isolation. Isolation is an essential component of side-by-side execution. It involves being aware of the resources you are using and sharing resources with confidence among multiple versions of an application or component. Isolation also includes storing files in a version-specific way. For more information about isolation, see Guidelines for Creating Applications and Components for Side-by-Side Execution.

Versions 1.0 and 1.1 of the .NET Framework are designed to be compatible with one another. An application built with the .NET Framework version 1.0 should run on version 1.1, and an application built with the .NET Framework version 1.1 should run on version 1.0. Note, however, that API features added in version 1.1 of the .NET Framework will not work with version 1.0 of the .NET Framework. Applications created with version 2.0 will run on version 2.0 only. Version 2.0 applications will not run on version 1.1 or earlier.

Versions of the .NET Framework are treated as a single unit consisting of the runtime and its associated .NET Framework assemblies (a concept referred to as assembly unification). You can redirect assembly binding to include other versions of the .NET Framework assemblies, but overriding the default assembly binding can be risky and must be rigorously tested before deployment.

Title

Description

Locating Runtime Version Information

Describes how the runtime locates information about which version of the runtime to load for an application.

.NET Framework Assembly Unification Overview

Discusses how the runtime handles references to different versions of .NET Framework assemblies.

Determining Which Version of the Runtime to Load

Discusses the steps the runtime goes through to determine which version of the runtime to load for an application.

Assembly Binding Redirection

Describes how to bind an application to a specific version of an assembly.

Partially Qualified Assembly References and Side-by-Side Execution

Discusses the implications of using partially qualified assembly references in applications intended to run in side-by-side execution.

Publisher Policy Files and Side-by-Side Execution

Provides information and procedures for using publisher policy files to redirect assembly binding.

Satellite Assemblies and Side-by-Side Execution

Discusses how satellite assemblies are handled under side-by-side execution.

Determining Which Version of the .NET Framework Is Installed

Provides information about installing and using multiple versions of the .NET Framework.

How to: Use an Application Configuration File to Target a .NET Framework Version

Describes how to create a configuration file that an application can use to target a version of the common language runtime.

Creating Multiple Versions of an Application or Component

Provides information about how to create and deploy applications and components designed for side-by-side execution.

Determining a Servicing Strategy for Applications and Components

Discusses how to create a service model for versioned components and applications.

In-Process Side-by-Side Execution

Discusses how you can use in-process side-by-side runtime host activation to run multiple versions of the CLR in a single process.

Assemblies in the Common Language Runtime

Provides a conceptual overview of assemblies.

Application Domains

Provides a conceptual overview of application domains.

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