Microsoft Casts Visual Studio.NET Over Developers

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Last Wednesday (February 13), Microsoft officially unveiled Visual Studio.NET, its flagship suite of development tools for making Web services a reality. While Visual Studio.NET (or VS.NET) will irrevocably change the way that Windows developers design applications, it won't stop there. Sooner or later, it will affect every developer in every company that uses Windows, including those in most iSeries shops.

VS.NET--Just the Facts, Ma'am

Put simply, VS.NET updates all of Microsoft's development tools to support its .NET object-oriented (OO) component model. Unlike the Java 2, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) component model, which runs on any operating system but relies on a single programming language, .NET runs on Windows only and supports multiple languages. Indeed, VS.NET comes packaged with updated versions of three Microsoft language products: Visual Basic.NET (a completely OO version of Visual Basic), Visual C#.NET, and Visual C++.NET. Other vendors are announcing .NET versions of their own languages.

For many Windows developers, and especially Visual Basic users, VS.NET will be a very different development experience. Programming to a component model requires a disciplined approach, and VS.NET's packaging reflects this fact with its tighter integration and new management tools. The suite comes in three versions:

  • The Professional Edition offers all of the tools needed in a heads-down coding environment. This includes language tools, design tools for Web pages and Windows screens, editors, debuggers, and a development environment that integrates these and other technologies more tightly than in Visual Studio 6.0.
  • The Enterprise Developer Edition includes everything in the Professional Edition as well as a development license for SQL Server 2000, reference applications, enterprise templates and frameworks, the Visual SourceSafe team development environment, and tools for testing XML-based and distributed COM applications.
  • The Enterprise Architect Edition includes all the above, then adds Visio-based tools for data and application modeling, a development license for Microsoft's BizTalk Server, and an enterprise template facility that lets programming managers create architectural guidelines for the development team. While the current version of this facility will not force developers to follow those guidelines, word on the street has it that Microsoft will include an option for "hard enforcement" in the next version.

As the following table shows, pricing for the three versions varies considerably. You can upgrade from existing Visual Studio products to VS.NET Professional Edition for $549 or spend as much as $2,499 for the Enterprise Architect Edition. However, if you're a member of the Microsoft Developer Network at the Professional or higher level, you can get one or more of the editions as part of your subscription.





Visual Studio.NET Prices Full Product Version Upgrade
Professional Edition $1,079 $549
Enterprise Developer Edition $1,799 $1,079
Enterprise Architect Edition $2,499 $1,799
 
Microsoft Developer Network Subscription Benefits
Professional or higher subscription levels can order Professional Edition at no charge. Enterprise or Universal levels can order Enterprise Developer Edition at no charge. Universal subscribers can order Enterprise Architect Edition at no charge.

Why .NET Catches Every Developer

Whether you're a Microsoft developer or a diehard user of another programming model, VS.NET will probably become part of your life sooner or later. If your company has Windows servers (and Andrews Consulting Group studies indicate that around 80 percent of all iSeries customers do have them), you probably have a portfolio of Windows applications and Microsoft tools to maintain them. Someday, whether due to a Windows upgrade or a need to make some of those applications available as Web services, your firm will likely upgrade to VS.NET.

If Windows upgrades or Internet enablement requirements don't bring .NET into your organization, the independent decisions of your users will. That's because .NET is more than a programming model. It's also a user experience known as .NET My Services that Microsoft is embedding into all of its applications and Web sites?an experience for which users will sign up without realizing the development headaches it will cause you.

Let's say that some of your users have Hotmail accounts on the Microsoft Network (many of them probably do). Later this year, Microsoft will offer MSN visitors a .NET My Service called .NET Documents that lets them store their documents on the Web and access them across PCs, PDAs, and cell phones. If your users sign up, they will soon want to upload your company's files to their personal document folders. While that could boost their productivity, it will also pose a serious security risk for your firm. As a result, your company will likely end up creating its own .NET Document profile that keeps sensitive information behind your firewall and authenticates requests from profiles outside the firewall. If you think you can avoid this by prohibiting MSN usage, you should know that Microsoft will embed .NET Documents and a slew of other services into its other Web properties as well as in Office.NET. One way or the other, you're going to support .NET.

At the same time, iSeries owners will always have at least one foot in the J2EE component model. As I reported in last week's article, IBM is building J2EE compliance and component services into all of its systems software. Moreover, J2EE provides a robust platform for integrating and extending IBM software such as Domino across the Internet to enterprise applications.

How will iSeries owners resolve this clash of component models within their enterprises? My colleague Tom Stockwell considered one option in his article last week: a wholesale migration away from Java and J2EE. This may be a feasible option for some iSeries shops, but I believe that most of them will end up supporting both component models. While that may seem to be an unacceptable headache to many of you, there are tools materializing on the market today that will help you live comfortably between the two Web services worlds. I'll have more to say about those tools and the companies that offer them in future issues, so stay tuned.

Lee Kroon is a Senior Industry Analyst for Andrews Consulting Group, a firm that helps mid-sized companies manage business transformation through technology. You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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