The Microsoft ASP.NET Framework

Microsoft’s ASP.NET is an object-oriented, server-side framework, written in the C# programming language and the VB.NET programming language. It was designed by Microsoft to develop websites specifically on Windows browsers and server systems, and is a colossal infrastructure that requires a good amount of knowledge and expertise to work within.

First of all, it’s big. On the surface, .NET does what all frameworks do: it simplifies the building of websites and web applications by giving developers libraries of code and tools, all in one package. Beyond that, it’s just one component of the .NET platform—a complex development environment that’s similar to Java in its scope and structure. From object-relational mappers (ORMs) to integrated design environments like Visual Studio, Microsoft has made sure the .NET platform covers all the bases—and in the process, ensured that any highly experienced .NET developer has a secure foothold in the hiring pool.

But that’s all about to change.

While enterprise technology was long the cornerstone of Microsoft’s business, and the .NET platform was almost exclusively used in a corporate capacity on Windows machines to develop enterprise-level applications, the 2015 launch of ASP.NET 5 has opened the framework up to new operating systems, new machinery, more front-end development support, and a whole new population of developers.

Now’s the time to get ASP.NET on your radar—and learn a little about what’s new with the latest release.

ASP.NET Framework Basics

In 2015, Microsoft released ASP.NET 5, replacing earlier versions of ASP.NET. The ASP.NET platform is complex, but breaking down a few of the key components will help give you a broad perspective:

  • ASP.NET 5 supports the MVC framework, which is used to create layered applications separated into data (Model), presentation (View) and business logic (Controller) layers.
  • The .NET Compact Framework is designed specifically to run on devices with limited resources, like mobile devices and wearables. It’s a version of .NET that uses scaled-down libraries from .NET that are geared toward the capabilities of mobile devices.
  • ASP.NET 4 is the next-gen ASP (Active Server Page), also called “Classic ASP,” which was Microsoft’s first server-side scripting technology. Modern sites aren’t coded in Classic ASP anymore—and most schools aren’t teaching it.
  • The .NET platform itself has three main components: Microsoft’s Common Language Runtime (CLR), a compiler that makes code machine-readable; the Framework Class Library; and the ASP.NET Framework.
  • .NET’s programming languages include, but aren’t limited to C#, VB.NET, and C++CLI (a version of the C++ language modified to work with .NET’s Common Language Infrastructure). ASP.NET pages are primarily written in Visual Basic (VB.NET) or C#. There’s flexibility with languages, however; user controls in ASP.NET can be written in languages like C++ and Java.
  • .NET’s scripting languages include VBScript or JScript, Microsoft’s version of JavaScript.
  • .NET is an example of the Common Language Infrastructure (CLI), a Microsoft-developed standard that dictates how languages can be compiled for different platforms.

What .NET can do:

  • enterprise-level software development
  • builds websites and web applications with HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript
  • builds responsive mobile websites and applications, and native mobile apps
  • builds web APIs

Launching the new .NET: What’s new with ASP.NET 5

The biggest change with ASP.NET 5? It now supports both Linux and OS X operating systems, in addition to Windows, for the first time in the history of ASP.NET. Immediately, this means a major change in the .NET audience—a shift away from the traditional corporate developer using a Windows machine.

For startups that typically use OS X/Linux and Mac hardware, this means ASP.NET is now a viable option. Other big changes include:

ASP.NET’s MVC 6 Framework. Previously, in ASP.NET 4, three development models offered different app-building approaches: Web Forms, MVC, and Web Pages. With ASP.NET 5, these are merged into one: MVC 6.

MVC 6 supports:

        • The C# programming language
        • Linux operating system
        • OS X operating system
        • Node.js—a JavaScript runtime environment used in back-end programming
        • AngularJS—MVC6’s Visual Studio 2015 has templates built in for building modules in this front-end JavaScript framework.
        • Tag Helpers
        • View Components
        • Web API building features
        • GruntJS—a task runner for building CSS and JavaScript files. There are plans for it to support GulpJS in the future.
        • Bower

Hiring a .NET Developer

.NET developers design, modify, develop, and implement software applications and components in the Microsoft .NET framework. They use written specifications and pre-established guidelines to develop then support the software they create. They should be highly experienced back-end developers with a solid knowledge of object-oriented programming.

Now that .NET is open to programmers using non-Microsoft hardware developing for non-Windows environments, the .NET core skill set has broadened considerably. However, in the same way Java has Core Java—a set of bottom-line, basic Java components a well-rounded Java developer should know—the .NET platform has a few “must haves”:

      • C#—now the core language of the .NET framework
      • VB.NET—This object-oriented version of Microsoft’s Basic programming language was used in ASP.NET 4. ASP.NET 5 supports C#, but may bring VB.NET back into the fold as the new release develops.
      • SQL database technology—Databases are written in SQL, a standard language for accessing databases, including the MS SQL Server.
      • Hadoop—This NoSQL database supports big data storing, transfer, and analysis.
      • GitHub
      • JavaScript—also, JScript, Microsoft’s reverse-engineered version of JavaScript
      • MVC Architecture—knowing how to develop applications using the Model, View, and Controller architecture
      • AJAX
      • Windows
      • jQuery
      • HTML5
      • Integration testing
      • Object-oriented programming techniques
      • Windows 8
      • Microsoft Exchange Server
      • Windows Azure cloud platform

ASP.NET 4 Development Tools.

ASP.NET 5 is released but in development, so you may still require a .NET developer who can work within the .NET 4 platform. Those tools include:

        • Visual Studio—Microsoft created this standard IDE (integrated design environment) to give developers everything they need to develop, debug, and deploy applications on the .NET framework.
        • Visual Basic—Microsoft’s programming environment, it allows programmers to use a graphical user interface (GUI).
        • AJAX Control Toolkit—This set of ASP.NET controls has plenty of built-in client-side processing. With Visual Studio 2008, they’ve offered AJAX-enabled WCF Services and are streamlined for asynchronous AJAX callbacks and require little client-side scripting.
        • The Entity Framework—An object-relational mapper, it simplifies how .NET developers work with relational data, cutting out the need for data-access code. This is .NET’s way of matching ORMs built-in to languages like Ruby, PHP, and Python.
        • The Razor syntax language. This new, simple markup syntax (like HTML) embeds server code into ASP.NET webpages. Bonus: it’s easier to learn and implement.

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