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IT managers expect developers to stay abreast of the constantly evolving development landscape. In fact, it's imperative for you to keep your skill set up to date in order to maintain employment and marketability. The trouble is you may find hard to squeeze in time to learn about the latest technologies.
So we decided to provide an overview of what's on the Microsoft's development radar for this year. From new versions to new initiatives, it looks like it's going to be an interesting year.
.NET Framework 2.0
The .NET Framework version 2.0 is in its second beta. This version improves scalability and performance with improved caching, application deployment, and updating with ClickOnce technology, and offers support for the broadest array of browsers and devices with ASP.NET 2.0 controls and services. There are a variety of new classes as well as updates to others and removing existing classes. This is the base for all .NET-based applications, so it is a major update. You'll need to be aware of the changes for future application development, as well as ensuring existing applications run as planned using it.
While ASP.NET is part of the .NET Framework, it does require additional setup (via Web server) and it is often discussed as a separate technology. I know many Web developers who are very excited about the next version of ASP.NET. Version 2.0 adds more than 50 new controls, an enhanced security model, simplified data access, site themes, and database caching. One major enhancement is ASP.NET 2.0's standards support of XHTML and accessibility standards (Section 508/WCAG).
Visual Studio .NET 2005
Although there are a number of non-Microsoft .NET development environments available, Microsoft's very own Visual Studio .NET (VS .NET) 2005 is the clear frontrunner. It is the most popular .NET IDE, and the next iteration, Visual Studio .NET 2005, addresses the features introduced in the next release of the framework, as well as improvements to the development client.
One of the first things you may notice is the many flavors of VS .NET 2005: Team System, Professional Edition, Standard Edition, and Express Edition. They cover the various roles you may fill—from team member to Web developer. The new team features within VS .NET are a welcome addition and make it much easier to work with other team members—without even leaving your desk. In particular, the Team System is a plethora of tools for the various team roles including architects, developers, testers, managers, and so forth.
In addition, there is tight integration with SQL Server 2005 to create database solutions within VS .NET as well as more support for building multi-tiered solutions. Tighter integration with Microsoft Office is included as well, making it easy to build applications that take advantage of Office features. This is just a sampling of the numerous enhancements included in this next release.
SQL Server 2005
It is hard to believe that we are still using SQL Server 2000. While the technology is solid, it surprises me that it has been so long since Microsoft has released a new version. Well, the time to release a new version is finally approaching with SQL Server 2005.
The new version offers tighter .NET integration with the ability to utilize T-SQL or managed code. In addition, it's possible to develop Web services within the database server. There are also enhancements to XML support, reporting, and T-SQL.
Indigo is a set of .NET technologies for building and running connected systems. It is built around the Web services architecture. Advanced Web services support in Indigo provides secure, reliable, and transacted messaging along with interoperability. Indigo's service-oriented programming model is built on the.NET Framework and simplifies development of connected systems. Indigo will be available for the next version of Windows (Longhorn) as well as for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.
When should you start familiarizing yourself with these technologies?
I know many developers who can't wait to get their hands on new technologies, but I find it difficult to immerse myself in something new when I have to complete existing projects. My existing projects utilize current, accepted technologies like .NET Framework 1.1 so I don't need to confuse myself with new features that aren't available.
On the other hand, I do find it beneficial to be aware of upcoming product versions and their features. This enables me to recognize situations where the new technologies may prove useful, and allows me to provide customers with more comprehensive answers.
One caveat with new technology is the length of time it will take to enter the mainstream once it has been released. This can be a considerable amount of time with large companies, so it is good to know your customers.
Tony Patton has worn many hats over his 15+ years in the IT industry while witnessing many technologies come and go. He currently focuses on .NET and Web Development while trying to grasp the many facets of supporting such technologies in a production environment on a daily basis.