In 2000, Microsoft announced its .NET software environment, a new addition to Windows. The .NET (“dot – net”) environment is effectively a “virtual computer” that runs on a real computer, with the advantage that any program written for it will run on any computer which is running .NET. One important aspect of the .NET strategy is its independence from a specific language or platform. Developers can create a .NET application in any .NET – compatible language and participate in the same software project writing code in the .NET languages in which they are most competent (such as Visual C++.NET, Visual Basic .NET, C#, Perl and others). Part of the .NET software environment includes Active Server Pages (ASP) .NET technology, which allows developers to develop applications for the Web.
The .Net architecture can exist on multiple platforms, further extending the portability of .NET programs. Additionally, the .NET software environment involves a new program development process that could change the way programs are written and executed, leading to increased productivity.
The most important component of the .NET architecture is Web Services, which are applications that can be used over the Internet. One example of a Web service is the tour operator’s flights booking system. The tour operator wanted to enable customers to book flights from the tour operator’s Web site. To do so, the tour operator needed to access the airline’s booking system. In response, an airline partner created a Web service that allowed the tour operator to access the airline’s database and make bookings. Web services enable the two companies to communicate over the Web, even if they use the different operating systems (the tour operator uses UNIX and the airline uses Windows). By creating a Web service, the airline can allow other tour operators to use its booking system without creating a new program.
The .NET strategy extends the concept of software reuse to the Internet, allowing developers to concentrate on their specialties without having to implement every component of every application. Instead, companies can buy Web services and devote their time and energy to developing their products.
The .NET strategy incorporates the idea of software reuse. When companies link their products in this way, a new user experience emerges. For example, an online store could buy Web services for online credit-card payments, user authentication and inventory databases to create an e-commerce Web site. The keys to this interaction are XML and SOAP, which enable Web service to communicate. XML gives meaning to data, and SOAP is the protocol that allows Web services to communicate easily with one another. XML and SOAP act together combining various Web services to form applications.
Another important concept in the .NET technology is universal data access. If two copies of a file exist (such as on a personal computer and a company computer), the less recent version must constantly be updated, this is called file synchronization. If the separate versions of the file are different, they are unsynchronized and could lead to serious error. Using the .NET data could reside in one central location rather than on separate systems. Any internet-connected device could access the data, which would then be formatted properly for use on access device (a desktop PC, a PDA or other device). Thus, the same document could be displayed and edited without the need to synchronise the data, because it would be up to date in central area.