Software Development optimize

Read about Microsoft's development offerings for 2008

In 2008, Microsoft is planning new releases of its development tools, SQL Server, operating system upgrades, and more. Here's a quick overview of what developers can expect from Microsoft in 2008.

I spend much of my time knee deep in Microsoft technologies, and I often find it difficult to keep up with the new products and versions. Fortunately, I usually have some time to get up to speed because most organizations are slow to adopt new technologies and upgrade to new versions. In addition, there is always a wealth of older code running, so there is plenty of work for those with the set of skills.

But it's still important to keep up with what's new in the development world. For instance, in 2008, Microsoft is planning new releases of its development tools, SQL Server, operating system upgrades, and more. Here's a quick overview of what developers can expect from Microsoft in 2008.

.NET Framework 3.5

It seems like only yesterday that I was diving into the second version (2.0) of the .NET Framework. Now, version 3.5 is apparently ready for primetime with a ton of new features. Version 3.5 includes built-in AJAX support via ASP.NET AJAX 1.0, so no separate download is required.

Base improvements to the development platform include performance improvements via faster garbage collection along with smarter and faster ngen. Anonymous and named pipes IO classes have been added, as well as new data types BigInt and HashSet. Deep integration of Language Integrated Query (LINQ) and data awareness are included.

Smart client support has been added throughout the Framework and development tools; this includes a bunch of new classes in the namespaces System.Web.ClientServices and System.Web.ClientServices.Providers. There's new Web protocol support for building WCF services, including AJAX, JSON, REST, POX, RSS, ATOM, and several new WS-* standards. Microsoft states that new classes have been added to the .NET Framework 3.5 base class library to address the most common customer requests.

When you are ready to jump to .NET Framework 3.5, you will most likely use Visual Studio 2008.

Visual Studio 2008

The most popular development environment for Microsoft .NET development is Visual Studio. Visual Studio 2008 was released to MSDN subscribers about a week ago; it will be available to the public at a later date. You can expect the Visual Studio 2008 buzz to increase next year as it penetrates the market. .NET Framework 3.5 is at the heart of Visual Studio 2008.

A key feature of the product is the ability to build on top of the IDE; that is, developers and vendors can create and distribute their own custom tools built on top of the Visual Studio IDE. This is facilitated by a new feature called Visual Studio Shell.

One of my favorite enhancements is the support for multi-targeting. This means you can develop applications that target different versions of the .NET Framework. The developer picks the version of the .NET Framework to use, and Visual Studio handles everything behind the scene, as the feature set matches the chosen .NET Framework.

Other new features include enhanced HTML/CSS support within the IDE. You can easily create and manage CSS styles as well as Intellisense support in CSS. HTML editing resembles some features of FrontPage as you can view both code and design views at the same time and more features.

AJAX and JavaScript support has been enhanced in Visual Studio 2008. JavaScript now has Intellisense support, and AJAX applications are much easier to debug with the enhanced JavaScript debugger.

Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) is now integrated in the IDE. You can build WPF forms within Visual Studio, and new WPF-based projects have been added as project types when building new applications.

A new feature that has received a lot of coverage is LINQ. LINQ introduces patterns for querying and updating data. A set of new assemblies are provided that enable the use of LINQ with collections, SQL databases, and XML documents.

It also comes with an enhanced debugger and reporting features, as well as strong support for smart clients and promised performance improvements within the IDE (let's hope Microsoft keeps that promise). Also, there is talk of add-ins for Silverlight and other tools, but these have not been released.

SQL Server 2008

The database backend is a key part of almost every development project. While SQL Server 2005 is relatively new, SQL Server 2008 is staring you in the face. It offers plenty of new features, including a new business intelligence platform, enhanced data warehousing support, and more support for server consolidation.

With SQL Server 2008, the integration with Visual Studio 2008 continues as you can build applications with the familiar IDE. SQL Server 2008 provides LINQ support; you can take advantage of LINQ to retrieve SQL Server 2008 data.

Another new feature in SQL Server 2008 is the ADO.NET Entity Framework. This allows you to define a rich conceptual object model based on the Entity Data Model and logically organize database tables and columns into higher-level entities.

More updates

The .NET Framework, Visual Studio, and SQL Server are the core development tools offered by Microsoft, but you can expect updates to the many other products and platforms the company offers, including SharePoint, BizTalk, Expression, and more. Also, on the operating systems side, it remains to be seen how many will move to Vista and new server versions are on the way.

Full steam ahead

The wheels at Microsoft continue to move forward with new versions of its base development tools and platforms. While you don't always have to dive head first and learn everything as adoption of these new tools is slow, you do need to be aware of what is available and on the horizon.

What are your plans for next year with Microsoft technologies? Do you foresee yourself developing with Visual Studio 2008 and .NET Framework 3.5? Share your thoughts and feelings with the .NET community.

Tony Patton began his professional career as an application developer earning Java, VB, Lotus, and XML certifications to bolster his knowledge.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Get weekly .NET tips in your inbox TechRepublic's free .NET newsletter, delivered each Wednesday, contains useful tips and coding examples on topics such as Web services, ASP.NET, ADO.NET, and Visual Studio .NET. Automatically subscribe today!

About

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 productio...

13 comments
naveenr
naveenr

I think Microsoft is acting too fast in introducing new verions of the application development tools. It should rather collect the business requirements and take its time to put them in one single package after a good amount of gap which will provide the developers time to get familiar with the previous versions.

SnoopDougEDoug
SnoopDougEDoug

How much time do you need? The last big update was 2005. Three years is a lifetime nowadays. If you don't keep up, prepare to be trampled. I am looking forward to the new tools as I do a lot of Web 2.0 development and have been grousing about VS's lack of Javascript debugging capabilities. Now I have it and would not want to go back to writing boatloads of alerts. doug

IT-b
IT-b

My shop operates on low margins, and we support many Microsoft apps. We just don't have the financial or physical resources to keep up. We just got most things converted to .NET 2.0, but we don't have time to actually reengineer the code to use the new features. Now 3.0 is old and 3.5 is coming. They don't even have classes in 2.0 anymore (like what the differences are between that and 1.0). By the time we get to 3.5, they'll be on version 8. The new tools are great...I can't wait to use them someday. The pace is blinding, but it doesn't look like Microsoft will slow it down anytime soon.

paolodm
paolodm

Listen up: .NET Framework 3.5 is the SAME damn thing as 2.0 with a few features added on top of it. 3.5 is 2.0's Base Class Libraries plus WPF, Silverlight, CardSpace, LINQ to SQL (things which are OPTIONAL by the way). You can create apps in 2.0 and run them on 3.5 if you wanted to.

mikerisner
mikerisner

Like the article said, these technologies are adopted slowly in the industry. I know shops that are still happy with VS.NET 2003 and classic ASP. VS 2008 won't be all that tempting to them. For me, the newest Visual Studio is a nice, EVOLUTIONARY step. Like most developers, though, my hands will be tied based on which .NET Framework is supported by the hosting services.

aaronjsmith21
aaronjsmith21

I agree that we can be complacent in where we are with some stuff, but progressing forward is still necessary. As you said you are stuck with what the host/provider has for support on your projects. I think that if Microsoft was more serious about there getting there hands into more they would start to develop a more wide range adaptation of there development software! They sort of got the key when they developed that CGI support addition for IIS that gave you the ability to support technologies such as PHP on an IIS Server. If they really wanted to do better, start to develop a more open .net framework for open source compatibility. I would like to be able to plop down there framework on a Linux based apache server and develop .net web based applications using Microsoft technologies on an Open Source system. Instead they did the opposite, they made it so you could support open source on windows based systems. To me that was not to smart, they opened the door backwards. I stand in the middle when it comes to the Open Source / Microsoft battles. I like stuff from both sides equally, they both have strengths and their weaknesses. So in the end, compatibility is the key. Please be open minded about this subject. Most people favor one or the other, and in the real world, you can?t really do that!!!!! ~AJS

simon.whitear
simon.whitear

In recent history Microsoft have set a blinding pace in the advancement of the development platforms and tooling. I believe that they offer an end to end development experience that cannot be matched anywhere in the industry. The pace is tough for some, but this is innovation (of the Microsoft kind) and it should not be tempered. Enterprise development has never been more powerful or more productive, on any platform, ever.

binghamc
binghamc

We our our own worst enemy when it comes to progress...human nature has been slowly tampered with over the last 30 since the advent of the computing machine. If IT profesionals would stop getting excited over the bleeding edge products and crap that gets produced, maybe MS would be forced by the coprporations that are ther buggest clients to actually improve an existing tool or technology instead of re-writing it every year. Let face it, yes we would like to think we can keep up and that makes us feel superior in some way, but really what does it buy us? Less and less time to smell the roses, or think for ourselves. We let MS do all the thinking for us by simply taking what they shove in our faces. Don;t get me wrong, yes they have some of the better tools, so I like to use them over other tools, but come on guys, wake up!!

cira019
cira019

It's too quick.Period.

Justin James
Justin James

Just because Microsoft has released tools for it (as you pointed out, quite immature tools!) does not force you to use it. In fact, Visual Studio 2008 even allows you to target different versions of the .Net Framework, which previous versions did not. Indeed, I have met *many* .Net developers still using version 1.1 of the Framework, or just now transitioning applications from VB6 to VB.Net. To say that you are being "forced" into XAML and other "WinFX" technologies is just not true. The old model will still work 5, 10 years down the road from now. J.Ja

SnoopDougEDoug
SnoopDougEDoug

Don't cry to me when you fall off. Your company has made a decision to work with the bleeding edge. No one held a gun to your head. Anyone with a lick of sense knows you must wait for at least SP2 to start working with MS products. doug

CodeJockey
CodeJockey

Actually, it isn't so optional for some. We're working on a next-generation smart client app. Visual Studio 2008 introduces XAML. The old Windows UI development model is a dead end. Not so optional. So, now we scramble to keep up with MS but... Microsoft's implementation of XAML is terribly immature despite all the hype. XAML, for example, has plenty of holes like missing fundamental components like a data grid and only offers work-arounds for stuff we take for granted in smart client development like support for MDI. The tools they offer for XAML development are terribly immature and not up to the task. VS 2005, of course, doesn't support a XAML designer forcing developers to switch between a very buggy/unstable Express Blend 1.0, a major kluge. Migrate to VS 2008 (as I just did) and you get crappy support for a XAML designer and broken compatability with the Expression Blend 1.0 forcing an upgrade to the beta September Preview version. Who develops production software with beta development tools? Not to mention Expression Blend has a 'first whack' feel to it that's not quite ready for prime time. To get anything done I spend 60% of my time hand coding XAML because Expression Blend (and VS 2008) aren't quite up to the task of managing the overly complex XAML model MS dreamed up. Finally, try to find support for XAML/WPF. MS own documentation sucks. There are few books and they're all written in C# (we're a VB.Net shop). Bottom line? I can't keep up and given the lack of support and immaturity of MS offerings, MS can't keep up either. My productivity has plunged trying to sort the XAML mess all out. MS needs to slow down and push quality over the not-ready-for-prime-time gee whiz.

Justin James
Justin James

I don't see what the problem with their recent release cycle is. If you don't want to use it, don't! For those who do want to use it, it's there! J.Ja