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Noodling on .NET and other similar initiatives

Ed Tittel discusses the basics of the .Net initiative.

Noodling on .NET and other similar initiatives
Ed Tittel

There's been some pretty interesting activity on the technology scene lately related to Microsoft's latest--and still emerging--development initiative. Known as .NET, it involves a great deal of XML-based technology along with major changes or updates to Microsoft's development tools to create an Internet-centric model for creating distributed applications.

A totally simple-minded explanation of .NET is all a tip-length piece will allow, so here goes: At its heart, .NET is a Web service that connects users to services and resources in a way that allows them to access common data and services from any computer and from handheld devices like Web-enabled cell phones or PDAs. The idea behind Microsoft's recently-announced Hailstorm .NET initiative is that users can obtain authentication and payment services, plus access their e-mail, calendars, schedules, and other personal information from anywhere on any kind of device that can communicate with the Internet.

Hailstorm delivers an attractive vision, and could indeed make most people's lives easier, as they struggle to coordinate personal data across a desktop, a cell phone, and a PDA (or for those still bogged down in the previous century, a paper-based equivalent like a DayTimer, a Franklin Planner, or what have you). But biting off on .NET also means jumping into Microsoft's embrace at least to some extent, be it for development tools like Visual Studio.NET, and so forth; or for what Microsoft likes to call "building blocks"--specifically, canned bits of technology to handle important services like user authentication, an electronic wallet, and access to e-mail, calendar, and scheduling services.

The benefits of adopting .NET, like the complete details of using .NET, are still a little hazy (that's where the "emerging" part of this initiative mentioned in the first paragraph shows itself most clearly). But it's clear that .NET could make all kinds of structured data available to users on many kinds of devices across any kind of workable Internet connection. To that end, .NET also includes support for the Web Services Description Language (WSDL), an XML application that provides users with distributed access to Web-based documents and procedure-based services. To help users find such services in the first place, another XML application called Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI) provides a way to create distributed, Web-based registries of Web services as a kind of directory services to advertise and locate distributed Web based information and services.

If we broaden our view of the overall marketplace for a moment, it's possible to understand IBM's WebSphere and Sun's Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) as initiatives that are similar to Microsoft's .NET as well. All of these are rife with XML applications, and easy distributed access to data requires the kind of self-descriptive power that XML documents possess in such great quantities. Thus, from the XML standpoint, it almost doesn't matter if all these initiatives thrive together, or if one or more dominates other weaker ones. XML is a natural choice in any case. What's also appearing equally natural is that Web-based, distributed access to data, services, and information is going to represent the "next big thing" in software development, and that XML is a key technology in making this possible!

For more information on .NET see and For information on WDSL see For information on UDDI see

Send e-mail to Ed at if you have questions on this or other XML topics.

Ed Tittel is a principal at LANWrights, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of LANWrights offers training, writing, and consulting services on Internet, networking, and Web topics (including XML and XHTML), plus various IT certifications (Microsoft, Sun/Java, and Prosoft/CIW).

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Related Book

Introducing .NET
Author : James Conard , Patrick Dengler, Brian Francis, Jay Glynn, Burton Harvey, Billy Hollis, Rama Ramachandran, John Schenken, Scott Short and Chris Ullman
Publisher : Wrox Press
Published : Jan 2001
Summary :
.NET is Microsoft's vision of 'software as a service', a development environment in which you can build, create, and deploy your applications and the next generation of components, termed Web Services. All of Microsoft's major flagship products from Visual Studio to Windows and eventually Office are gradually being integrated into the vision and they will all offer services that will allow greater integration between products. .NET will allow developers to develop in whatever language they are comfortable with, via the introduction of a common language runtime, whilst at the same time provide 'building block services' to ease application development.

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