Getting stuck in with .Net

.Net - pronounced dot net. It's here, it's interesting, and if you don't like acronyms you're in for a hard time.

.Net — pronounced dot net. It’s here, it’s interesting, and if you don’t like acronyms you’re in for a hard time.

.Net isn’t an acronym (just a quicker way of saying Visual Studio 7.0, really). It relies on a number of newer concepts and technologies, all of which delight in acronymic anonymity. This being said, the basic concepts are not difficult to grasp (I managed) and do present an exciting prospect, for web-developers, firstly, and end-users, eventually.

Okay, first the background. The SOAP (simple object access protocol) allows applications to communicate over the internet. Most importantly, it does this regardless of platform. A SOAP-reader, being the sender-receiver for client-server and server-server transactions, can translate data into the expected format regardless of the originating format — similar to the way a Mac or PC can receive HTML via HTTP. In fact SOAP effectively sends the data as XML with HTTP headers.

As a platform for the development of XML-services .Net is, essentially, a meeting place for the myriad languages that have been used to develop web-based applications. The intention being that if the code exists in C++, say, and does the job with minimal overhead, why rewrite it in, well, anything? Why not grab that code and slap it in, right next to another application that used to sit on another server processing another part of the same transaction? And wouldn’t it be cool to have these both on the same page, working independently or together, as required by user input?

The answer is, of course, yes. .Net acts as a development platform for 20 or so different languages. It is actually possible to debug various different functions within a service even where each has been written in a different language, in the .Net superstructure. It is also possible, therefore, to continue working in whichever language you are most skilled at with little or no regard for the intended recipient of your works output. This is due to MSIL (Microsoft intermediate language), as executed by the common language runtime (CLR). This runtime refers to “at the time of running/execution” as opposed to those pesky page errors. The MSIL, as the name suggests, is the common language of .Net which all other languages boil down to.

Having created a “service” within the .Net framework you may want to register it as a resource to the world so it may be used, free, or on a subscription basis. To do this another trickle-down of XML comes into play, WSDL (web services description language). This is recognised in the UDDI (universal description, discovery and integration), which acts as an online directory for companies engaging in web-based business. A UDDI form can contain information about one service or the gamut of your online presence. An entry for a service contains a description (in WSDL) that defines everything from its syntax to available parameters. This information is stored at a UDDI-node (somewhat similar to URLs on the domain name system).

Many of the concepts on which .Net is built are in their infancy. The test, therefore, will be in the take-up of these concepts and of .Net. They exist independently but, at this stage, it’s a package deal.

Duval works in IT support for Computerworld publisher IDG Communications.

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