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.
Microsoft to Take .NET Cross-Platform to Linux, Mac
In addition, although it is not delivering a new version of Visual Studio, such as it did last year at a similar event in New York when it released Visual Studio 2013 and Visual Studio Online, Microsoft has named the next release of the toolset Visual Studio 2015 and is releasing a preview. Visual Studio 2015 Preview and .NET 2015 Preview are now available for download. Visual Studio 2015 and .NET 2015 will deliver new capabilities enabling developers to build applications across multiple platforms—from Windows to Linux to iOS and Android.
Key new features in Visual Studio 2015 Preview include the ability to create ASP.NET 5 Websites that can run on multiple platforms, including Windows, Linux and Mac; integrated support for building apps that run across devices with integration of Visual Studio Tools for Apache Cordova and Microsoft’s new Visual C++ tools for cross-platform library development; a Connected Services experience enabling easier integration of services into apps including Office 365, Salesforce and Azure Platform Services; Smart Unit Testing (formerly PEX) technology from Microsoft Research integrated into Visual Studio 2015; and new coding productivity capabilities, enabled by the new .NET compiler platform known as Roslyn.
Microsoft also announced that Visual Studio 2013 Update 4 is available now for every Visual Studio 2013 user, including dozens of improvements across the product plus several great new features, including integrated tools for Unity development. Visual Studio 2013 Update 4 is now available for download and includes a new GPU Usage tool in the Performance and Diagnostics hub which helps developers determine whether the CPU or the GPU is the performance bottleneck; improvements to JSON and HTML editors, as well as enhanced tools for Azure WebJobs; support for SQL Server 2014 from SQL Server Data Tool projects and other enhancements; and numerous enhancements and new features to Team Foundation Server, with highlights such as Git Pull Requests and other improvements to work planning, test case management, release management and other capabilities.
Microsoft has added a neat little tool for Android developers. The new Visual Studio Emulator for Android Preview is now available for download, supporting Visual Studio 2015 Preview. This emulator will provide an integrated experience for developers using Visual Studio to build for Android, including top-notch performance and support for both Apache Cordova and Xamarin projects.
“As developers target multiple mobile device form factors, great emulators are key to productive development cycles,” Somasegar said. “As part of Visual Studio 2015, developers now get access to the Visual Studio Emulator for Android, a high-performance x86-based emulator for the Android platform that supports a variety of productivity features for emulating device inputs like accelerometer, location and network conditions.”
Meanwhile, additional enhancements and announcements at Connect(); include that Azure SDK 2.5 is now available for download. In this release new features were added for Visual Studio 2012, 2013 and 2015 Preview developers. New capabilities include improvements to cloud diagnostics and remote debugging support for Azure VMs and Cloud Services and Azure HDInsight tooling. Developers working on big data scenarios will now have tooling support for HDInsight right from Visual Studio, this includes the capability to author, run and manage Hive jobs and create and manage Schema.
Visual Studio 2015 Azure developers will now have access to the preview release of Cloud Code Analysis Pack via NuGet, bringing real-time code analysis for Azure-specific scenarios right into the code editor for early warning of problems that could impact deployed applications.
Visual Studio Tools for Unity (VSTU) 2.0 Preview will deliver its first release for Visual Studio 2015 Preview. This 2.0 release will include new features such as better support for debugger attributes and visualization for objects.
The Visual Studio Tools for Apache Cordova updated CTP for Visual Studio 2013 is now available. This release continues to provide support developers for testing the Apache Cordova tooling in Visual Studio 2013, including new features such as iOS debugging support and many other new features and bug fixes.
Microsoft also noted a release management licensing change. Effective Jan. 1, target nodes or endpoints to which an application is being deployed to no longer need to be licensed. And the company said Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) subscribers now have access to top-of-the-line developer training from Pluralsight. The new benefit provides subscribers with technical, developer-focused training delivered by industry experts.