.Net Taking Shape, but Developers Still Wary

Despite the anticipation caused by Microsoft Corp.'s .Net strategy, many developers still are not convinced that the impending Web services platform is stable, reliable or ready for the enterprise

Despite the anticipation caused by Microsoft Corp.s .Net strategy, many developers still are not convinced that the impending Web services platform is stable, reliable or ready for the enterprise.

The Redmond, Wash., company presented several new components of .Net to developers at its TechEd conference here last week, including the second beta of Visual Studio .Net, the centerpiece tool set for building .Net applications. But while the pieces are coming together, the vision is not.

"Microsoft does not appear to have a uniform platform vision," said Roger Sessions, CEO of ObjectWatch Inc., in Austin, Texas, who attended TechEd. "While the individual technologies it is delivering are solid, the many pieces simply do not as yet interact the way you would expect and do not in any way support a common platform vision."

Another user, Tony Scott, chief technology officer at General Motors Corp., in Detroit, said that, while frameworks such as .Net will be an important piece of Web-based products and services, neither Microsoft nor its competitors have got it right yet. Specifically, Scott said, Microsoft has yet to adequately spell out how security and privacy will be managed in a .Net world. "[Microsoft] hasnt cracked the code on that yet," Scott told eWeek in San Francisco last week.

Mark Driver, a Gartner Inc. analyst in Minneapolis, agreed that the technology around .Net is "not yet cooked. Enterprises remain unsure what .Net is. Were seeing nebulous branding, and the last thing Microsoft talks about is the actual technology."

Not that Microsoft isnt trying to address those problems. Executives such as Paul Flessner, senior vice president of Microsofts .Net Enterprise Server division, spent a good deal of his keynote stressing those points.

Flessner also said that Microsoft and its .Net platform had not been regarded as the "safe" choice by enterprise customers to date. "But the tide is changing, and I think we will turn that corner this year," he added.

Bill Gates, Microsofts chairman and chief software architect, stressed that the company will deliver the final code for Visual Studio .Net by the end of the year and is so confident in the quality of the beta code that Microsoft is offering an ASP .Net Go Live license, allowing beta customers to deploy applications in production environments.

But the jury is still out on the tools.

Karl Peterson, an independent programmer in Vancouver, Wash., said, "Everything in [Visual Basic] .Net has been made more complex in the name of making it easier. Its really Orwellian."

John Terris, a Microsoft developer and senior programmer with Kendall Placement Group Inc., in St. Louis, said he remains skeptical when it comes to new technologies from Microsoft, particularly with the initial versions of products.

"They can say theyre enterprise-ready, but theyve been saying that for 10 years now," Terris said.

Developers and Microsoft partners also said they are leery about any broad adoption of Web services in the next two years.

Sunny Wong, managing director of ComponentOne LLC, in Pittsburgh, said there is no market for these services yet, making their licensing and pricing problematic. Microsoft had yet to address the key issue of licensing and how vendors will make money from these services, Wong said.

But Sam Patterson, CEO of ComponentSource Inc., in Kennesaw, Ga., was more upbeat. A study of 250 customers showed that 60 percent are already developing .Net components, with 30 percent of those components expected to be ready by the time Visual Studio .Net is released. "This means that more than a thousand components will be available within months of Visual Studio .Net. Thats quite some support for the platform," Patterson said.