Microsoft environment uses standard internet protocols
What is it?
The .net Framework provides the infrastructure for Microsoft's web services platform. Version 2.0 was launched alongside Visual Studio .net last year.
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Microsoft describes the .net Framework as "a development and execution environment that allows different programming languages and libraries to work together seamlessly to create Windows-based applications that are easier to build, manage, deploy and integrate with other networked systems". It consists of the Common Language Runtime (CLR) - a language-neutral development and execution environment, providing services to manage applications and data - and the Framework Class Libraries - a large collection of pre-packaged object oriented functionality
Changes in .net Framework 2.0 will make applications written for .net Framework 1.0 and 1.1 behave differently at runtime. Microsoft said there are not many of these, and they are mostly obscure or trivial (the example given on the .net Developer Center website is "The ISO tag in System. Globalization for Kyrgyzstan was updated from KZ to KG").
Where did it originate?
With origins in projects such as Com+Runtime, .net was announced in 2000 and given an 18-month public appraisal. Version 1.1 came out with Visual Studio 2003.
What's it for?
Building Windows and web-based applications and web services. The .net Framework uses standard internet protocols and specifications such as TCP/IP, HTTP, Soap and XML, which allow the integration of data and functionality on different platforms, although the technology remains centred on Microsoft's servers and is best supported by Visual Studio .net.
About 20 programming languages are supported by the Common Language Specification (CLS), meaning developers can work with the one they are most comfortable with. The CLS also enables developers to design public programming interfaces that can be used by all supported languages. The pre-packaged functionality in the Framework Class Libraries speed up development by reducing coding and testing. The CLR deals with services such as language integration, security enforcement, and memory, process and thread management.
What makes it special?
Code and data are managed by the CLR, which takes on the burden of tasks such as memory management and garbage collection, type safety and ensuring interoperability with classes written in other languages. However, there is a performance overhead: unmanaged code is usually faster.
How difficult is it to master?
To qualify as a Microsoft certified solution developer for .net, trainers recommend taking two ASP.net courses and one Ado.net course, totalling 11 days.
Where is it used?
The number of job adverts seeking .net skills rose by more than 50% last year, and .net is now the ninth most requested skill, according to the SSL/Computer Weekly Survey of Appointments Data and Trends.
What systems does it run on?
Although the .net Framework is intended for Windows platforms, there are alternative CLR implementations for Linux, Mac OS/OS X and other operating systems. These include Rotor, Mono and GNU's Portable .net.
What's coming up?
The .net Framework 2.0 Software Development Kit is available as a free download.
Rates of pay
Junior developers working with the .net Framework can earn about £20,000 a year. This rises to £35,000-plus for senior developers.
The Microsoft .net Framework Software Development Kit Quickstart tutorials can be found on the Microsoft-backed Godotnet site. There are also many independent sites offering tutorials.