.NET - a Dummy's Guide to Microsoft's New Vision

by John Loomes


What IS .NET??

In September 2000 Microsoft announced its new vision - .NET

" The .NET Enterprise Servers are the fastest way to integrate, manage, and Web-enable the enterprise." Microsoft

But, I hear you ask, what IS .NET??

Having been asked this question by several people I decided to write this article, which is by no means an in-depth techincal appraisal of .NET, it's a overview, a 'bluffers guide', something you can use to impress people at parties (well perhaps not), but if youve heard of .NET, but never understood what it means, then hopefully this will gop some way to helping you out, and may inspire you to find out more......


Lets face it, Microsoft's 'mission' is to have all IT everywhere running on its products. Not just PC's and Servers, but mobile devices, PDA's, digital TV, fridges..the whole shebang...Now in order to acheive this goal they have to make integration an interoperation between all these different devices (and any new ones that crop up) absolutely seamless, and they have to write software that will look and feel the same no matter what you access this from, be it a PC via an application, via a browser over the web via a mobile phone etc etc... In addition, all these applications and services need to work together, using common data structures and document formats. Well this is essentially what .NET is all about. Using the Internet as the primary communications medium and Windows 2000 (and its followers) as the platform it all runs on.

.NET consists of the following composite parts:

  • Windows 2000

  • XML

  • .NET Enterprise Server Products

  • A set of API's (application programming interfaces)


The .NET Product line is all based around XML or Extensible Markup Language - HTML's big brother - which is used as a standard, platform independant mechansim for exchanging information over the Internet. XML, as its name suggests, is Extensible, which means its scope can be extended, which in theory means that functionality isnt limited and it can grow as time goes on. The .NET Product line uses XML as a communications medium.

.NET Enterprise Servers

At the heart of .NET is a set of Server products which are all XML enabled and are designed for use over the internet via any device. The current product set is as follows: (links take you to Microsofts page for each product)

Microsoft Application Center 2000
Aimed at the Application Service Provider (ASP) market, manages Web based applications
Microsoft BizTalk Server 2000
Manages Business to Business (B2b) ecommerce transactions using XML. Bascially a way of translating information between companies using different systems over the internet.
Microsoft Commerce Server 2000
This is like Internet Information Server - with knobs on! Includes many ecommerce features
Microsoft Exchange 2000
The latest version of an old favourite, includes support for mobile devices and colaboration functionality
Microsoft Host Integration Server 2000
Used to be called SNA Server - provides connectivity to legacy mainframes etc....
Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2000
Microsoft Firewall and Web security product
Microsoft Mobile Information 2001 Server
A product for sharing information across mobile devices
Microsoft SQL Server 2000
The latest version of SQL includes enhanced Web support

Visual Studio .NET

Visual Studio .NET is the development platform designed to allow you to design solutions based around the above server products listed above, think of Visual Studio 6 with XML built in and more Web based features....


So there you have it! Its more of the same really, with increased emphasis on the internet as a business communications medium and the use of mobile devices accessing applications and data remotely. Microsoft appear to be targeting 2 main markets here:

Internet Service Providers (ISP's)/Application Service Providers (ASP's) - these businesses are set to grow and grow and Microsoft wants it all to run on their software...

Large Enterprises - Large Comporations will make increasing use of the internet, and the traditional 'PC on a desk in an office', is set to become a thing of the past (sure...) as workers access applications remotely via wrist watches! (or something...)

Seriously though, people are starting to question how and where we work, and increased use of mobile devices is happening NOW. Again Microsoft want to be the main players here....

This article was originally published on Jan 4, 2001
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