Microsoft courts .net developers with tools and guidelines

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Microsoft courts .net developers with tools and guidelines

Microsoft is extending to its enterprise customers a developer program previously only available to commercial software vendors, offering free resources and tools for building applications and systems based on the .net. platform.

Yesterday the company launched a program called the .net Architecture Center, and has created an online community for developers building applications with Microsoft software.

Online at the MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) Web site (msdn.microsoft.com/architecture/), the online community has a collection of technology road maps, application blueprints and reference architectures that enterprise developers can use in the development process.

The content available on the Web site has been collected from Microsoft's internal development team and from Microsoft partner companies, said Sam Henry, technical product manager for Visual Studio .net.

"We're providing development teams with the information to architect and design applications, and providing teams with the information they need to be able to manage those applications based on Microsoft best practices," Henry said.

CommVault Systems, a software company that provides enterprise data management software with a focus on backup and recovery, is one contributor to the .net Architecture Center. It has made available documentation for building backup and recovery systems, said Randy DeMeno, director of advanced applications at CommVault.

DeMeno said the developer community is an important step for Microsoft to take in order to boost interest in its .net infrastructure.

"In a lot of ways Microsoft is realising that it can't do everything," DeMeno said, noting that contributions from third-party vendors such as CommVault are beneficial to enterprise developers. "Here are tried, proven and tested recommended solution sets that developers can use."

CommVault worked with Microsoft for six months testing its backup and recovery software, shutting down data centres and bringing them back, before posting its suggested guidelines for setting up backup systems on the Web site, DeMeno said.

Ben Gaucherin, chief technology officer at business and technology consulting company Sapient, said his company has also contributed to the site with content from Sapient regarding the building of large-scale enterprise applications. One benefit to the .net Architecture Center is its ability to offer consistent methods for developing enterprise applications, he noted

"Any core technology, be it .net or J2EE (Java 2, Enterprise Edition), is powerful in that it is extremely flexible. But flexibility comes with responsibility and you could very much get yourself in trouble if you use the flexibility of these core technologies in the wrong way," Gaucherin said.

"The right way is something that you want to adhere to consistently from project to project," he said. "There is danger in inconsistency within the design of a single system in that the system becomes less maintainable, and the behaviour is not consistent because you didn't code it and design it in a consistent fashion."

Microsoft also announced a free software development kit for enterprise developers, which lets them create their own programming tools and integrate them into Microsoft's Visual Studio .net developer environment. The tool, called Visual Studio .net Integration SDK, was previously only available to partners such as Rational Software and Mercury Interactive.

The SDK will be available for free to Microsoft customers that use it for building plug-ins for internal use, skirting the $10,000-a-year fee (£6,470) that commercial tool vendors must pay for the SDK, said Microsoft's Henry.

One beta customer that has been using the SDK is digital animation house LucasArts Entertainment. The company has developed its own scripting language that its digital designers use for projects at LucasArts, and has recently integrated it into Visual Studio .net. Previously, LucasArts' plug-in had to be used as a separate application.

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