BY NOW YOU'VE read and heard plenty about .NET, Microsoft's new enterprise application strategy. A nuts-and-bolts rundown of .NET's features may leave you asking, "Does this have anything to do with me?" If you run Windows on desktops, .NET's impact will be minimal, and if you operate Windows servers, .NET could require making a few changes. But if you specify, design, develop, or implement enterprise software or Web applications, keep in mind that .NET drastically changes Windows' profile. You can't use the old rules to determine Windows' suitability for an enterprise task. The assumptions, design models, and development techniques that have worked since Windows NT 3.51 will soon be obsolete.
In contrast to the poorly defined Windows DNA (Distributed interNet Architecture), .NET is a tangible and easily defined software product. It is an application framework, meaning that it provides applications with the system and network services they require. The .NET
services range from displaying graphical user interfaces to communicating with other servers and applications in the enterprise. It replaces Windows COM (Component Object Model) with a much simpler object model that is implemented consistently across programming languages. This makes sharing data among applications, even via the Internet, easy and transparent. .NET also substantially improves application scalability and reliability, with portability being a stated but not yet realized objective. These are clear benefits demonstrated by the pre-beta edition of .NET.
We've been testing the .NET pre-beta (now downloadable from msdn.microsoft.com/net) for several weeks. Attendees of Microsoft'sProfessional Developers Conference (PDC) 2000 in Orlando,Fla., ourselves among them, received a stack of CDs with the .NET preview, plus a good deal of software not yet released. The combination of the .NET components adds up to a strikingly complete picture of what .NET will be on its release. With an uncharacteristically stable and...