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Technology Overview

What Is Microsoft .NET?

Microsoft .NET is software that connects information, people, systems, and devices. It spans clients, servers, and developer tools, and consists of:

  • The .NET Framework 1.1, used for building and running all kinds of software, including Web-based applications, smart client applications, and XML Web services—components that facilitate integration by sharing data and functionality over a network through standard, platform-independent protocols such as XML (Extensible Markup Language), SOAP, and HTTP.
  • Developer tools, such as Microsoft Visual Studio® .NET 2003 which provides an integrated development environment (IDE) for maximizing developer productivity with the .NET Framework.
  • A set of servers, including Microsoft Windows® Server 2003, Microsoft SQL Server™, and Microsoft BizTalk® Server, that integrates, runs, operates, and manages Web services and Web-based applications.
  • Client software, such as Windows XP, Windows CE, and Microsoft Office XP, that helps developers deliver a deep and compelling user experience across a family of devices and existing products.

What Is the .NET Framework?

The .NET Framework is an integral Windows component for building and running the next generation of software applications and Web services. The .NET Framework:

  • Supports over 20 different programming languages.
  • Manages much of the plumbing involved in developing software, enabling developers to focus on the core business logic code.
  • Makes it easier than ever before to build, deploy, and administer secure, robust, and high-performing applications.

The .NET Framework is composed of the common language runtime and a unified set of class libraries.

Common Language Runtime

Common language runtime

The common language runtime (CLR) is responsible for run-time services such as language integration, security enforcement, and memory, process, and thread management. In addition, the CLR has a role at development time when features such as life-cycle management, strong type naming, cross-language exception handling, and dynamic binding reduce the amount of code that a developer must write to turn business logic into a reusable component.

Class Libraries

Base classes provide standard functionality such as input/output, string manipulation, security management, network communications, thread management, text management, and user interface design features.

The ADO.NET classes enable developers to interact with data accessed in the form of XML through the OLE DB, ODBC, Oracle, and SQL Server interfaces. XML classes enable XML manipulation, searching, and translations. The ASP.NET classes support the development of Web-based applications and Web services. The Windows Forms classes support the development of desktop-based smart client applications.

Together, the class libraries provide a common, consistent development interface across all languages supported by the .NET Framework.

Note: The .NET Compact Framework does not ship natively with the .NET Framework. Developers may access the .NET Compact Framework using Visual Studio .NET 2003.

Adoption Momentum

The .NET Framework has been live since version 1.0 was released in January 2002. It has achieved numerous adoption milestones:

  • Compilers for over 20 programming languages are available for use with the .NET Framework.
  • Over 350 tools are available from third-party vendors to aid in .NET Framework development, including approximately 250 add-ins for Visual Studio .NET, as well as IDEs from Borland and Macromedia.
  • Over 350 books have been published or soon will be published discussing software development with the .NET Framework.
  • Over 750 .NET Framework user groups exist worldwide.
  • Over one million developers are using Visual Studio .NET.
  • Thousands of leading companies, from Autodesk to Credit Suisse First Boston to Honeywell to Xerox, are realizing tremendous cost savings, new opportunities for integration, and improved time-to-market by developing and deploying their applications with the .NET Framework.
  • Microsoft is aggressively deploying applications built using the .NET Framework. MSN®, Microsoft CRM, Windows XP Media Center Edition, and the Microsoft.com Smart 404 are just a few of the many Microsoft applications already built using the .NET Framework.

Rapid Development

The multiple-language capability of the .NET Framework enables developers to use the programming language that is most appropriate for a given task and to combine languages within a single application. Components written in different languages can consume functionality from each other transparently, without any extra work required from the developer. Support for the .NET Framework has been announced for over 20 commercial and academic programming languages.

The component-based, plumbing-free design of the .NET Framework minimizes the amount of code developers have to rewrite and maximizes potential for code reuse.

In the Industry

"With the capabilities provided by [the .NET Framework], we'll be 25- to 50-percent more productive in delivering new solutions. Every aspect of the software development life cycle is made easier, from the creation of user interfaces to debugging and deploying the solution." Brandie Lerner, team leader/manager, Pfizer, Inc.

Improved Operations

The .NET Framework improves the performance of typical Web applications.

  • The Middleware Company, founders of the leading J2EE developer forum TheServerSide.com, have conducted a benchmark of the .NET Framework and J2EE, finding the .NET Framework to significantly outperform J2EE for Web application hosting, Web services, and distributed transactions, as shown in the graphs below.
  • The .NET Framework also offers significant performance and scalability benefits over the previous Active Server Pages (ASP) technology, thanks to its just-in-time (JIT) compilation and caching technologies.

The results below were achieved with both Windows 2000 Advanced Server and Windows Server 2003 running versions 1.0 and 1.1 of the .NET Framework, respectively. Both setups used a SQL Server 2000 database.

Web application benchmark, peak throughput

Peak throughput distributed, transactions per second

Web service peak throughput

In the Industry

"We get subsecond page loads while handling millions of page views a day. We deployed on December 23, 2000 and haven't had a minute of downtime as of October 3, 2001, and we saved $1.3 million (US) over a Java 2 Enterprise Edition solution." Stephen Forte, chief technology officer, Zagat Survey

"Compared with similar projects in the past, we're measuring deployment time in hours instead of weeks." Ferdy Khater, director of application development, Continental Airlines

Agile Architecture

Companies worldwide are using the XML Web services communication mechanism that is native to the .NET Framework to integrate quickly and easily with suppliers and customers.

In the Industry

"From our partners' perspective, accessing our content via XML Web services will be far easier than what they've had to go through in the past. They will no longer need to build the infrastructure to import, store, and manage it. When combined with our new flexibility in licensing options, this means we'll have a far more attractive package to offer to prospective partners." Stephen Forte, chief technology officer, Zagat Survey

"This makes it easier for us to inform portals and enterprises about how our code handles user data, security concerns, and integration with existing databases. Particularly handy are the automatically generated documentation and test Web pages, which enable our partners to integrate their systems with ours using minimal assistance." Tore Lode, senior developer, CyberWatcher

Vibrant User Community

Numerous user groups and discussion lists exist around the world on a variety of topics and in a multitude of languages, including English, Japanese, German, and Spanish. More information can be found on the Microsoft technical community pages , which provide access to newsgroups, chats, user groups, and other opportunities to interact with developers who are interested in Microsoft products and technologies.

More than 350 publications covering the .NET Framework and programming languages for the .NET Framework are either currently available or will soon be released. Some highlights include:

  • .NET Framework Essentials, O'Reilly Press
  • Professional ASP.NET, Wrox Press Ltd.
  • Visual Basic to Visual Basic .NET, Sams Publishing

For more books and articles, visit the .NET Books site.

For training and events, visit the .NET Framework Training and Events page.

References, Links, Sources, and More Information

To obtain the latest version of the .NET Framework, visit the Downloads for the .NET Framework page.

To learn about new features in version 1.1 of the .NET Framework, check out What's New in the .NET Framework 1.1.

Language compilers that support the .NET Framework have been announced for the following programming languages:

Supported programming languages
APLFortranPascal
C++HaskellPerl
C#Java LanguagePython
COBOLMicrosoft JScript®RPG
Component PascalMercuryScheme
CurriculumMondrianSmallTalk
EiffelOberonStandard ML
ForthOzMicrosoft Visual Basic®

Follow the links below for more information on key .NET Framework topics:

  • Microsoft .NET Pet Shop 2.0
    Compare the performance of .NET and J2EE implementations of a J2EE reference application for building highly scalable Web applications.
  • XML Web Services
    Visit the XML Web services developer center on MSDN®.

Customer Solutions Built on the .NET Framework

Honeywell: Using XML Web Services, Honeywell Seamlessly Integrates E-Commerce Sites
The current pace of business, with growing mergers and reorganizations, creates both opportunity and challenges. Honeywell International is no exception. Honeywell's Automation and Control Solutions (ACS) division needed to provide a central authentication service that could integrate the legacy systems of the seven e-commerce sites under its responsibility. Using Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Framework, ACS developed a best-of-breed, business-to-everyone portal providing comprehensive access to profiles for employees, customers, partners, and affiliates. The solution, which took just four weeks to code, provides users with access to back-end systems through an integrated Web solution.

USATODAY.com: USATODAY.com Moves Toward Dynamic Publishing Model and Saves $400,000 US Annually with .NET
Using Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Framework, USATODAY.com produced its Automated Fronts application. ASP.NET made the development of the application easy and quick, and staffers were able to use the time that they saved to add more features to the application. The use of ASP.NET allowed USATODAY.com to introduce dynamic Web pages without having to scale its hosting infrastructure, while the .NET Framework COM interop technology simplified integration with the legacy system and allowed USATODAY.com to proceed with the migration to the .NET Framework at its own pace. Automated Fronts represents an initial step toward a fully dynamic publishing model and is expected to save 7,800 hours annually (valued at an estimated $400,000 US per year)—a labor savings that can be reinvested into the overall quality of USATODAY.com.

Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein: Investment Banker Achieves Performance and Uptime, Retains Clients with Microsoft .NET
Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein (DrKW) provides a wide range of services and information to its international clientele. Offering timely market data and analysis is key to retaining corporate clients for whom such information can be worth millions and even billions of dollars. To provide an easy way for its clients to securely access valuable data, DrKW developed its BrokerPulse application using Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Framework, all in just three months. With its excellent performance, BrokerPulse lets DrKW clients access valuable data with just a Web browser, anytime and from just about anywhere.

Ingram Micro: Leading Global Wholesaler Builds Next-Generation E-Commerce Application in Record Time
Ingram Micro developed the latest version of its IMPipeline business-to-business e-commerce storefront using Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Framework. The company estimates that it was able to build and deploy the application in half the time that it would have taken before the move to .NET. Featuring a data management solution built on SQL Server 2000, IMPipeline uses Web services to make valuable product, customer, and order information readily available to reseller partners in a format that is easy to integrate into their own storefronts. Ingram Micro anticipates continued growth and is confident that Microsoft and .NET-connected technologies offer the best strategy to meet the company's global expansion requirements and scalability issues.