On June 27th, Microsoft announced the release of a project several years in the making — .NET Core. The solution resulted from the need for a nonproprietary version of Microsoft’s .NET Framework — one that runs on Mac and several versions of Linux, as well as on Windows. This cross-platform .NET product offers programmers new opportunities with its open-source design, flexible deployment, and command-line tools. These features are just part of what makes .NET Core an important evolution in software development. The following are ten key facts you should be aware of when it comes to Microsoft’s .NET Core 1.0 and its impact on software.
1. The .NET Core Platform Is Open-Source
.NET Core is part of the .NET Foundation, which exists to build a community around and innovate within the .NET development framework. The .NET Core project builds on these priorities, starting with its creation by both Microsoft’s .NET team and developers dedicated to the principles of open-source software.
Your advantages in using this open-source platform are many — you have more control in using and changing it, and transparency in its code can provide information and inspiration for your own projects based on .NET Core. In addition, .NET Core is more secure, since you and your colleagues can correct errors and security risks more quickly. Its open-source status also gives .NET Core more stability, because unlike that of proprietary software defined and later abandoned by its creators, the code behind this platform’s tools will always remain publicly available.
2. It Was Created and Is Maintained Through a Collaborative Effort
Related to its development using open-source design principles, the .NET Core platform was built with the assistance of about 10,000 developers. Their contributions included creating pull requests and issues, as well as providing feedback on everything from design and UX to performance.
By implementing the best suggestions and requests, the development team turned .NET Core into a community-driven platform, making it more accessible and effective for the programming community than if it had been created purely in-house. The .NET Core platform continues to be refined through collaboration as it is maintained by both Microsoft and GitHub’s .NET community. As a developer, you have the opportunity to influence the future advancement of .NET Core by working with its code and providing your feedback.
3. The Main Composition of .NET Core Includes Four Key Parts
The first essential aspect is a .NET runtime, which gives .NET Core its basic services, including a type system, garbage collector, native interop, and assembly loading. Secondly, primitive data types, app composition types, and fundamental utilities are provided by a set of framework libraries (CoreFX). Thirdly, the .NET Core developer experience is created by a set of SDK tools and language compilers that are part of .NET Core. Finally, the “dotnet” app host selects and hosts the runtime, allowing .NET Core applications to launch. As you develop, you’ll access .NET Core as the .NET Core Software Development Kit (SDK). This includes the .NET Core Command Line Tools, the .NET Core, and the dotnet driver — everything you need to create a .NET Core application or a .NET Core library.
4. Flexible Deployment Means More Options for Using .NET Core
One of the defining features of .NET Core is its flexible deployment — you can install the platform either as part of your application or as a separate installation. Framework-dependent deployment (FDD) is based on the presence of .NET Core on the target system and has many advantages. With FDD, your deployment package will be smaller. Also, disk space use and memory use are minimized on devices, and you can execute the .NET Core app on any operating system without defining them in advance.
Self-contained deployment (SCD) packages all components (including .NET Core libraries and runtime) with your application, in isolation from other .NET Core applications. This type of deployment gives you complete control of the version of .NET Core used with your app and guarantees accessibility of your app on the target system. The unique characteristics of each deployment type ensure you can deploy .NET Core apps in a way that works best for your particular needs.
5. The .NET Core Platform Is a Cross-Platform Design
This unique software platform already runs on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, as its cross-platform nature was one of the main priorities for its development. While this may seem like a strange move for Microsoft, it’s an important one in a technological world that’s increasingly focused on flexibility and segmented when it comes to operating systems and platforms. .NET Core’s availability on platforms other than Windows makes it a better candidate for use by all developers, including Mac and Linux developers, and also gives the entire .NET framework the benefit of feedback and use from a much wider set of programmers. This additional feedback results in a product that works better for all of its users and makes the .NET Core platform a move forward for software-defined, rather than platform-defined applications.
6. Modular Development Makes .NET Core an Agile Development Tool
As part of its cross-compatibility design, the software development platform includes a modular infrastructure. It is released through NuGet, and you can access it as feature-based packages rather than one large assembly. As a developer, you can design lightweight apps that contain only the necessary NuGet packages, resulting in better security and performance for your app. The modular infrastructure also allows faster updates of the .NET Core platform, as affected modules can be updated and released on an individual basis. The focus on agility and fast releases, along with the aforementioned collaboration, positively positions .NET Core within the DevOps movement.
7. .NET Core Features Command-Line Tools
Microsoft states that .NET Core’s command-line tools mean that “all product scenarios can be exercised at the command-line.” The .NET Core Command Line Interface (CLI) is the foundation for high-level tools, such as Integrated Development Environments, which are used for developing applications on this platform. Like the .NET Core platform, this CLI is cross-platform, so that once you’ve learned the toolchain, you can use it the same way on any supported platform. The .NET Core CLI is the basis for applications to be portable whether .NET Core is already installed or an application is self-contained.
8. .NET Core Is Similar to .NET Framework
While .NET Core was designed to be an open-source, cross-platform version of the .NET Framework, there are differences between the two that go beyond those key features. Many of these comparisons result from the design itself as well as the relative newness of the .NET Core software development platform. App models built on Windows technologies are not supported by .NET Core, but console and ASP.NET Core app models are supported by both .NET Core and .NET Framework.
.NET Core has fewer APIs than the .NET Framework, but it will include more as it develops. Also, .NET Core only implements some of .NET Framework’s subsystems in order to maintain the simplified, agile design of the platform. These differences may limit the .NET Core platform in some ways now — however, the advantages of its cross-platform, open-source design should definitely outweigh any limitations as the platform is further enhanced.
9. The .NET Core Platform Is Still Under Construction
The nature of this software development platform makes it a work in progress, continually refined by both Microsoft’s .NET Core team and invested developers worldwide. The .NET Core 1.1 release, scheduled for this fall, is set to bring greater functionality to the platform. One of the intended features is an increase in support for APIs at the BCL level — enough to make .NET Core equal to the .NET Framework as well as Mono. In addition, .NET Core 1.1 will transition the platform’s default built system and project model to MSBuilt and csprog. The .NET Core roadmap on GitHub also cites changes in middleware and Azure integration as goals for the 1.1 release. These features are just a small subset of the purported changes for .NET Core based on natural goals for its development as well as contributions from .NET developers.
10. The .NET Core Platform Is Part of a Digital Transformation
This uniquely conceived and crafted platform for software development is far more than just a new tool for application developers. It represents a much larger shift in technology — one in which you can more easily deploy applications to multiple platforms by using the same initial framework and tools. This is a big change from the traditionally fragmented implementation of the .NET Framework across various platforms — or even across different applications on the same platform.
This addition to software development puts more freedom and control into your hands while you develop, especially when it comes to deploying and updating .NET Core applications in the way that you choose. Although quite new and destined to undergo significant changes in the near future, .NET Core should definitely be a tool of interest to all developers, as it takes the field of programming in an exciting direction.
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