Microsoft to Take .NET Cross-Platform to Linux, Mac

By taking .NET cross-platform and open-sourcing the technology, Microsoft wants to be all things to all developers.

Microsoft Connect

NEW YORK--As Microsoft views developers as central to the new cloud-first, mobile-first world of computing, the software giant is hoping to become the premier provider of development tools for building any application on any platform.

With that top of mind, Microsoft has decided to take its wildly popular .NET framework cross-platform to Linux and the Mac, and to expand on its moves to open-source the .NET technology. Microsoft initially announced plans to open-source key components of .NET at its Build 2014 event earlier this year in San Francisco. Now the company is pledging to open-source the full server-side .NET Core stack.

Microsoft announced these and other significant moves with its core Visual Studio toolset, along with new capabilities for Visual Studio Online, Windows Azure and more at the company's Microsoft Connect event here in New York City on Nov. 12.

“It’s been over 12 years since we launched .NET and it’s been wildly successful,” S. “Soma” Somasegar, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Developer Division, told eWEEK. “We have over six million developers building .NET applications ranging from mission-critical workloads in an enterprise to anything and everything else. Just in the last year, we’ve seen 1.8 billion installs of .NET.”

Visual Studio and .NET have been two bedrocks of the Microsoft developer ecosystem for over a decade, Somasegar said in a blog post. With over 1.8 billion installations of .NET and over 7 million downloads of Visual Studio 2013 in just the last year, Visual Studio and .NET are enabling millions of developers to build some of today’s most important software and services powering businesses, apps and sites, he noted.

So how does Microsoft take its developer platform forward and bring along its .NET developers into a mobile-first, cloud-first world while at the same time making .NET even more attractive for a broader set of people? “There are two things we will do,” Somasegar said. “One is we are going to take .NET cross-platform to Linux and the Mac. And hand-in-hand with that we’re going to open source the entire .NET stack, particularly the server-side .NET stack.”

Microsoft said the full server-side .NET Core stack will be open-sourced, from ASP.NET 5 down to the Common Language Runtime (CLR) and Base Class Libraries, and the open source .NET will be expanded to run on Linux and Mac OS X in addition to Windows.

“We are super-excited about this because this is a huge step forward for us,” Somasegar said. “More importantly I think it’s a great step forward for our existing .NET developers to think about a broader set of opportunities and reaching a broader set of platforms and a broader set of customers. Moreover, there are a number of people who are excited about the benefits of .NET and what .NET can do for them, but they had felt constrained in the past that they couldn’t use it on Linux or something else. We feel it is goodness for our existing guys and for net new guys.”

“A central value of the Docker open platform is application portability to any infrastructure via Docker containers,” Nick Stinemates, head of business development and technical alliances at Docker, is quoted saying in Somasegar’s post. “The delivery of an open-source .NET runtime across all major OS platforms means that Microsoft is extending the concept of portability to the application platform itself. More community driven choice, at every level of the stack, is key to enabling modern software development.”

Somasegar said the open-sourcing of .NET will be done in cooperation with the Mono community and under the guidance of the .NET Foundation. The Mono project, launched in 2004 by Miguel de Icaza, is an effort to deliver an open-source, cross-platform version of .NET. De Icaza, CTO and co-founder of Xamarin, which is also involved with news out of Connect, is a member of the .NET Foundation board.

In addition to taking .NET cross-platform and open-sourcing the technology, Microsoft is providing a new free version of Visual Studio. Visual Studio Community 2013 is a new, free and fully featured edition of Visual Studio, available today, with access to the full Visual Studio extensibility ecosystem and support for targeting any platform, from devices and desktop to web and cloud services.

This development environment is designed for students, open-source contributors, small companies, startups and individual developers. The community edition includes all the capabilities needed to create compelling non-enterprise applications across desktop, devices, cloud, Web and services, including coding productivity features, cross-platform mobile development tools for Windows, iOS and Android, and full extensibility with access to thousands of extensions, Microsoft said.