CrossNodes Briefing: Microsoft .NET and Web Services

The emergence of Microsoft .NET applications will change the rules of information technology. In this Briefing, learn how .NET will impact your network, and what alternative choices you may wish to examine for web service-based applications. Each CrossNodes Briefing is designed to act as a reference on an individual technology, providing a knowledge base and guide to networkers in purchasing and deployment decisions.

By Gerald Williams | Posted Feb 19, 2002
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The emergence of Microsoft .NET applications will change the rules of information technology. Essentially functioning as middleware, the Microsoft .NET initiative focuses on integrating applications and data stores regardless of their platform. Under the Microsoft .NET scheme, an application can access programs written in other languages and access the resulting data. This would integrate such activities as browsing, editing and authoring, and information management.

In addition, Microsoft claims that developers using .NET can generate an application that will run on desktop systems, cellular phones, and hand-held computers. The developers create a single agent, and the agent calls or seeks programs on the network to provide the functions and the data the user requested.

In essence, Microsoft's vision for .NET turns the desktop into a powerful browser. Through the browser, users will access text editing functions, spreadsheets, and database software transparently, regardless of where those applications reside. The Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) will allow programmers to develop web service-enabled applications in more than 20 languages. This tool will help IT departments extend existing applications to run within the Microsoft .NET environment.

The promise is great, but the benefits may be slow in coming. Those who embrace web services claim it will save development time and lower the cost of an application. Others point out the fact that moving to a web services environment will require training and an effort to update existing databases and applications.

Let the Games Begin
The web services market is mired in confusion. Although Microsoft released the final version of its developer tools recently, there are more components to come. In addition, other companies, including Sun, announced and released competing tool sets for creating web services. Most industry observers applaud the concept of using the Internet to create flexible, integrated applications, but they split when they discuss which vendor will shape the web services market.

Sun, for example, based its Sun Open Net Environment (Sun ONE) on Java, a popular network programming language. Microsoft centered .NET around the Extensible Markup Language (XML); the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP); C Sharp (C#), an extension of the C programming language; and .NET Framework, which includes the Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) that allows programs written in several languages to execute on a variety of platforms. Still, many observers feel that Microsofts primary interest is to secure Windows as the primary platform.

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