1. Microsoft.NET FoundationMicrosoft must create a framework to make .NET a reality. Some of this framework already exists -- these building blocks ensure that all the Web services can communicate with each other. Using widespread, industry-standard protocols, such as HTTP servers and XML universal language, Microsoft has created simple object access protocol (SOAP). The World Wide Web Consortium standards committee is now reviewing it before a vote. Through SOAP all objects can talk to each other -- even through firewalls and on differing platforms across the Internet. Microsoft has also worked with IBM to create a universal discovery, description, and integration (UDDI) repository, basically a DNS for all Web services. Next, Microsoft will create a common language run-time (CLR) engine, meaning many languages interoperate with each other using the CLR as a base. .NET also provides a set of base classes for necessities, such as security, SOAP support, Web services development, user interface functionality, and finally encapsulating Windows and COM+ services.
2. Structure of Microsoft.NET
Microsoft.NET is comprised of four parts -- Visual Studio.NET, .NET Foundation Services, .NET enterprise servers, and .NET User Experience. First, Visual Studio.NET empowers all current Visual Studio developers to develop Web services as easily as you develop Windows applications. Using the same development environment to which you are accustomed, such as Visual Basic and Visual C++, you can create distributed Web services just as you currently create Windows applications. It becomes an open, extensible development environment that handles multilanguages and works with the .NET framework.
Figure 1. Microsoft.NET Architecture
Second, .NET Foundation Services are building blocks that Microsoft plans to provide, so you do not have to build your own services. Worldwide you can use the same service. Web services are remotable objects that you can use and incorporate into your applications, without installing the object on your PC. These foundation services consist of functionality, such as identity, notification, messaging, personalization, XML storage, calendar, software delivery, directory, and search. Identity, part of the Passport Web service -- found on all Microsoft sites -- is the only service available for use today. Next, Microsoft will sell .NET-enabled servers to help your business run Web services and integrate your business quickly within Microsoft.NET. .NET-enabled servers help with business process integration, data management, and mobile information deployment.
Finally, user experience means you can build an application that you can run anywhere from a PC to a cell phone. If the platform has a CLR then it can use the code from an application or service that was written to the .NET specification. Because of this, you have to separate and create multiple user interfaces to handle different devices, such as tablets, PDAs, cell phones, and even pagers, but the program logic and underworkings are the same .NET code.
3. Why is Microsoft.NET different?
So how does using this new technology differ from the Internet today? Today browsers are more like dumb clients because they must talk to different Web sites one at a time. (Refer to May 11, 2001 Software Corner article, Understanding Client-Server Applications -- Part I for more information on how Web clients and servers operate.) With the .NET platform, Web sites can become Web services and integrate seamlessly. Each service can talk to other services, and clients can talk to many services or other clients to provide the user with an advanced integrated interface to a distributed application. Working in this manner, applications can harness more of the computing power from multiple devices. Much the way Napster used the power of client computers to send songs from client to client, using only a central server to direct traffic.
4. How does Microsoft.NET benefit a measurement and automation developer?
You as a measurement application developer can easily distribute your application across multiple computers and perform incremental tests on your product directly on your manufacturing line. You can also make your application available for worldwide input with little or no extra work. One of the first places Microsoft.NET can help you as an engineer or scientist is the integration of multiple information sources. This means you can create advanced Web applications that can provide information from many respected experts in their field into one seamless interface.
Over the years, National Instruments has been dedicated to leveraging industry-standard technologies to help you solve your measurement and automation needs. As such we strive to keep you informed of emerging technologies that will have an impact in the future. Microsoft.NET is Microsoft’s vision for a platform that harnesses the power of today’s many computers and communications devices to bring fully distributed computing to the Internet and you. We are committed to taking advantage of mainstream powerful technologies to help you develop more powerful measurement applications.