What Is .NET Framework And Its Benefits On Companies?

Developing applications, whether customer-facing or for in-house use, is beneficial to companies of all sizes. By creating your own app, you can automate business processes, improve employee communication and collaboration, and provide a better customer experience. 

However, you need to choose the right platform and tools when developing your own apps to ensure their functionality, security, scalability, and compatibility.

The .NET Framework is a popular choice for developers when creating new apps due to its many benefits. It is a complete platform that provides everything you need to develop, test, and deploy your app.

Defining The .NET Framework

The .NET Framework is a platform for creating software that enables developers to build applications more easily. The .NET Framework provides a common set of class libraries and language interoperability across different programming languages. As a result, developers can use any .NET-compatible language to develop applications on the .NET platform.

The .NET Framework makes it easier for developers to create web-based, service-oriented, and desktop applications that can run on multiple platforms.

The History Of The .NET Framework

The .NET Framework has been around for over two decades, but already has a rich history. Microsoft created it in the early 2000s to standardize software development, and since then, there have been numerous updates and improvements. With that in mind, the following is a brief rundown of the history of the .NET Framework:

The Origins Of .NET Framework

The .NET Framework was first released in 2002. Microsoft created it to provide a complete platform for software development. The .NET Framework was designed to be used with numerous programming languages. There have been numerous updates and improvements since its initial release, with the latest version being 4.8.

The Shift To .NET Core

In 2016, Microsoft released .NET Core, a new version of the .NET Framework that is an open source platform and can be used on any operating system. .NET Core is a significant shift from the traditional .NET Framework in that Microsoft designed it to be more modular, scalable, and performant. 

However, .NET Core did not replace .NET Framework right away – it ran side-by-side with the traditional .NET Framework until 2018 when .NET Framework 4.8 became the final version of the framework series.

.NET Framework Today

Following .NET Framework 4.8 and .Net Core 2.1, Microsoft is now focusing on a single unified platform called ".NET" that includes the best of .NET Framework and .NET Core. Basically, they dropped the “Core” from the name and rebranded the newest version as “.NET,” while no more new versions of the .NET Framework were developed.

The latest version of .NET is .NET 6.0, released on November 8, 2021. The projected release date of .NET 7.0 is said to be the end of 2022.

.NET Framework Components And Architecture

Even though Microsoft is no longer releasing new versions of the .NET Framework, they do still provide support for .NET Framework 4.6.2 and later, which is why many developers still continue to use it.  With that in mind, .NET Framework comprises several components that work together to provide a complete platform for software development. These components include:

1. Common Language Runtime

The Common Language Runtime (CLR) is the heart of the .NET Framework. The CLR helps manage the execution of .NET programs and provides services essential for software development, such as memory management, security, and exception handling. The CLR also enables developers to create applications that can be executed on multiple platforms

2. Class Library

In computer programming, a “type” is a classification that specifies the structure of data and the operations that can be performed on it. The .NET class library is a comprehensive collection of reusable types that developers can use to create software applications. 

The .NET class library includes types that represent data structures, such as arrays and strings, and types that represent common operations, such as file input/output and database access.

3. Languages

The .NET Framework supports multiple programming languages, which means developers can choose any .NET-compatible language to develop software applications. Some of the most popular languages compatible with the .NET Framework include C#, Visual Basic, and F#.

The Design Principle Behind .NET Framework

Microsoft designed .NET Framework with several principles in mind that would facilitate the creation of software applications. These principles include:

1. Interoperability

The .NET Framework is interoperable, which means that .NET Framework applications can seamlessly integrate with other applications and systems. 

For example, a .NET Framework application can easily call a Component Object Model (COM component), and a COM component can easily call a .NET Framework application. To "call" refers to the process of one software component using the functionality of another component.

2. Portability

Portability refers to the ability of software to run in different environments. For example, a .NET Framework application can be run on different versions of the Windows operating system with minimal changes. This is because the .NET Framework is designed to be platform-independent.

3. Security

The .NET Framework provides security in two ways: by verifying the identity of software components and by verifying the safety of the operations performed by those components. It does this by using a security model known as the "sandbox," which essentially creates a barrier between untrusted software and the rest of the system. 

As a result, .NET Framework applications are less likely to be exploited by malicious software, such as viruses and worms.

4. Memory Management

The .NET Framework provides automatic memory management, which means that the CLR automatically allocates and deallocates memory for .NET Framework applications. This feature relieves developers of manually managing memory, which can be error-prone and time-consuming.

 5. Simplified Deployment

The .NET Framework helps simplify the process of deploying software applications so that developers can easily install and run .NET Framework applications on any system that supports the .NET Framework. 

Additionally, the .NET Framework provides a mechanism for updating applications called "side-by-side execution." Side-by-side execution allows multiple versions of an application to run on the same system, which makes it easy to deploy updates.

Difference Between .NET And .NET Framework

Essentially, .NET is the continuation and evolution of .NET Framework. Instead of continuing to update the .NET Framework to newer versions, it was phased out and replaced by .NET Core. 

However, because previous versions of .NET Core were released in conjunction with newer versions of the .NET Framework, Microsoft rebranded the platform as ".NET." With that in mind, the following are a few of the differences between the .NET Framework and .NET:

  • .NET Framework runs only on Windows, whereas .NET runs on all platforms, including Windows, Linux, and macOS.

  • .NET Framework source code is free but doesn't take contributions, whereas .NET is open source and takes contributions.

  • Although Microsoft is still updating .NET Framework 4.8 (its most current release is 4.8.1), all the most recent developments are occurring on .NET because .NET is the future of Microsoft's development platform.

  • .NET Framework comes with Windows and is automatically updated, whereas .NET is shipped separately, which means users have to update it manually.

When To Use The .NET Framework

Although .NET is the most current version of Microsoft's development platform, developers still use the .NET Framework for creating many applications. The following are a couple of examples of how developers can still take advantage of the .NET Framework:

Form-Based Applications

Form-based applications are created with the Windows Forms class library. This class library provides developers with a set of controls, such as buttons and text boxes, that developers can use to create a graphical user interface (GUI). Form-based applications are typically used for desktop applications. 

The .NET Framework includes a set of controls known as the Microsoft Foundation Class Library (MFC), which developers can use to create MFC-based applications. It's why .NET Framework is still relevant for form-based application development.

Web-Based Applications

The .NET Framework is still suitable for creating web-based applications as well. The ASP.NET class library provides developers with a set of controls to create a web-based user interface. Additionally, the .NET Framework includes a set of classes that can access data sources, such as databases. 

As such, businesses can use web-based applications created with the .NET Framework to display data from a database in a web browser.

Web Services

Web services are web-based applications that can be accessed by other applications. The .NET Framework includes a set of classes known as the Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), which is used to create web services. You can use WCF-based web services to exchange data between applications. 

For example, a weather application could use a WCF-based web service to retrieve weather data from a server. With that in mind, the .NET Framework is still a relevant platform for web service development.

Should Companies Continue To Use The Framework?

Yes, companies can continue to use the .NET Framework as long as they continue to run on a supported version of Windows. However, if they want to create and run cross-platform applications, they should consider switching to .NET Core or .NET 6. 

Additionally, companies should consider switching to .NET to take advantage of the latest features and developments in Microsoft's development platform.

Know Your Framework, Know The Future

Organizations and companies that want to continue innovating in technology should plan for a future without the .NET Framework. While the .NET Framework is still a relevant platform for developing applications, .NET is the future of Microsoft's development platform. 

As such, you should consider switching to .NET if they want to take advantage of the latest features and developments in Microsoft's development platform. Additionally, companies should consider switching to .NET if they plan to create and run cross-platform applications.

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