Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Stackify Blog, Liz McMillan, Simon Hill, Dalibor Siroky, John Worthington

Related Topics: Microsoft Cloud

Microsoft Cloud: Article

The Myth of .NET Purity

The Myth of .NET Purity

There is an increasing amount of discussion around the topic of ".NET Purity" in development circles. When selling an application the question often arises "is your application 100% .NET?" or "How much of your application is .NET?" There is an implied qualitative judgment behind these questions and it's usually pejorative.

The implication is that an application that is entirely written in .NET, presumably without any interoperation with COM or direct calls to the Win32 API, is superior to an application that is a combination of technologies.

Certainly .NET represents a fantastic leap in developer productivity and puts a clean, consistent face on the services that the Windows Platform provides. For many years the set of interfaces provided by the Windows OS Platform - collectively known as the Windows SDK - have been exposed to developers as exported "C"-style functions in DLLs, and in recent years, via the Component Object Model (COM).

Common Language Runtime or Virtual Machine?
Often the .NET Common Language Runtime, or CLR, is directly compared to the Java Virtual Machine. Initially, there are many clear parallels: both are "managed" environments that provide a component container, both consume a "partially chewed" intermediate language, both provide low-level services like garbage collection and threading conveniences.

While these parallels are superficially compelling, these two implementations differ fundamentally in philosophy. Comparing the CLR to the VM is reasonable only to a certain point - their architectural goals are ultimately different.

Sun promotes a marketing program called 100% Pure Java, which is certainly appropriate if code portability and underlying operating system transparency is a desirable endpoint. However, many 3rd party Java Application Servers create a competitive advantage by judicious use of "C" function calls directly down (via Java Native Interface or JNI) into their host Operating Systems value-added services that are not exposed by the Java Application Platform (the Java Class Library). Calling into the core platform is the only way to make use of base functionality that is only presented via a native interface!

The Java VM is truly a "virtual machine" that's ultimate goal is to abstract (virtualize) away the underlying Operating System and provide an idealized (not necessarily ideal, but idealized) environment for development. The Java Virtual machine is also intimately united with the API - the Java Application Platform, which services provided by the VM implementation. Regardless of where you run your compiled Java code, you will run within the context of the Virtual Machine and ostensibly link with supplied Java Platform APIs.

The .NET Common Language Runtime is named well as it is used more as a Language Runtime than a Virtual Machine. While it successfully abstracts away aspects of underlying hardware through its use of an Intermediate Language, when the CLR is combined with the .NET Framework Library of APIs it is married to the underlying platform, which is Windows. The CLR provides all the facilities of the Windows Platform to any .NET-enabled Language.

.NET Framework Library
The Windows Platform has dozens and dozens of high-level system services that are exposed by thousands of APIs. This large library of functionality encompasses various levels of richness. A low-level API may open a file off a disk, while a high-level one might play an audio file. The designers of the .NET Framework wanted to create a consistent object-oriented face on a rich legacy of platform functionality. The CLR and .NET Framework work together to expose the capabilities within the Windows Platform, including those that may have previously been hidden away in difficult or little known APIs.

While the CLR provides a new paradigm for application development, it does not close the door on existing libraries. The CLR provides interop services to the developer but the biggest consumer of these services are the .NET Class Libraries that unlock existing Windows Platform abilities via a .NET API!

For example, when sending email using the .NET Framework Library class System.Web.Mail.SmtpMail, the Class Library uses a helper class that abstracts the existing CDO (Collaboration Data Objects) COM Library. This is just one example where a .NET Library developer chose to rely on a production-ready reliable existing library rather than write something from scratch. This example and dozens of others with the Library not withstanding, the Common Language Runtime still at some point needs to work with the Windows internal APIs.

If Microsoft were to truly virtualize the machine, they would have marginalized their investment in the Windows platform. Certainly it behooved the designers to make transitions to existing libraries as painless as possible. They have enabled this with NET » COM Interop via both Runtime- and COM-Callable Wrappers, the ability to tap into standard Win32 Platform APIs via a technology called P/Invoke (short for Platform Invoke) as well as other options. When writing code that is hosted in the CLR the vast resources of platform are just sitting under the developer - the runtime is transparent rather than virtual! This marks a fundamentally different view of the platform that other virtualizing machine implementations.

While creating a new fresh application using only .NET may offer some benefits in the arenas of deployment or marketing, these benefits may be not realized when weighed against the cost of rewriting non-.NET components in .NET when those legacy components could have been leveraged. A "pure" .NET solution can only make use of either those pieces of functionality that can be achieve entirely within the runtime, or those functions that have been exposed by the Base Class Library - which itself uses COM Interop and P/Invoke!

The .NET Framework Library itself isn't "pure .NET" as it takes every opportunity to take full advantage of the underlying platform primitives. Moreover, the concept of .NET Purity is rendered specious in this new light. The .NET Framework is the best way to create business components on the Windows Platform, but any applications along with the .NET Framework are only lifted as high as the underlying Windows OS services.

"Hybrid" Solutions provide Real Solutions
Many large existing applications are written in Visual C++ and COM. They are written "close to the metal" to take full advantage of native Windows multi-threading and fine-grained memory management. However, new business components may also be written in a .NET language such as C# or VB.NET. The existing system then hosts the .NET Common Language Runtime within its process space and Interops. The interface is usually COM interop but only incurs minimal overhead of between 10 and 40 processor instructions per in-proc call.

.NET Components hosted with in the legacy applicaiton can take advantage of that application's existing services. Lower level developer features such as memory management, object lifetime and object orientation are provided by the CLR, while higher level vertical-specific business functionality is exposed via the legacy application.

This "hybrid" can provide a best-of-breed solution on the Windows Platform exploiting both the highly performant low-level APIs via C++ and the highly componentized and object oriented features of the .NET Framework. These solutions can work very successfully while companies migrate their existing code bases to the .NET Framework.

More Stories By Scott Hanselman

Scott Hanselman will be starting a new job at Microsoft as a senior program manager in the developer division. His blog is at http://www.hanselman.com.

Comments (4) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Tim Huckaby 07/25/03 07:07:00 PM EDT

Your comments on system.directory are interesting. Adsi is simply a com wrapper, so technically it?s a ?wrapped wrapper? of the native ldap api which, of course, is c++ only. Being that said, the directory entry class you are referring to is a ?wrapped, wrapped wrapper?. Ultimately, the big disappointment of the .net framework 1.1 and the hope for 2.0 is more native framework classes.

Derek Ferguson 07/18/03 10:12:00 AM EDT

I would never suggest that COM Interop should be gotten rid of or is in any way, shape, or form "evil." However, as a developer who spends more than 90% of my coding time working with the System.DirectoryServices and System.Management namespaces, let me tell you -- MS could have save developers a lot of gried by having written some managed protocol handlers here, rather than just wrapping up the old, troubled API's.

As one example of this, the DirectoryEntry class in System.DirectoryServices allows you to pass a username and password to its constructor. However, when you use the WinNT ADSI provider, these parameters are sometimes ignored. Why is this? Because of a limitation in the existing API's that were wrapped!

Similar problems abound in the System.Management namespace -- where I recently managed to prove that Impersonation (a native API) interacts differently with EnablePrivilieges (a wrapped API) under ASP.NET than it does under the Console. In working through this with MS, I have been passed around to 10 different people in their Support infrastructure. Why? Because the old, obscure API's that have been wrapped are a "dark art" that are only known by a few individuals within the Redmond infrastructure.

Once again: it would've been better to have recreated the whole thing in C#.

Dean Guida 07/25/03 04:00:00 PM EDT

There is a lot to be said for purity for purity's sake. I have never subscribed to this type of thinking. At the end of the day we all want to build dependable software that solves the business problem at hand. Everything should always be taking in context of a solution with a sense of practicality. I think most of the software development community has this maturity.

Patrick Hynds 07/17/03 10:16:00 PM EDT

I think this article is right on, but felt that we should confront the issue of why this kind of rebuttal is needed (and it is needed). We find people who are earnest only in so far as they can justify their existence. Therefore they brand something heresy as soon as they abandon the practice themselves. Lets assume that COM interop was a horrible waste of resource, it still wouldn't justify discarding a tool and the wealth of existing functionality the last generation always holds in such a wholesale manner. I have seen people in ASP circles a while back declare that "Session State is bad". Like hybrid applications Session State in ASP is a tool, use it, don't use it, but if you happen to need a hammer it doesn't make the saw evil.

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
Let's do a visualization exercise. Imagine it's December 31, 2018, and you're ringing in the New Year with your friends and family. You think back on everything that you accomplished in the last year: your company's revenue is through the roof thanks to the success of your product, and you were promoted to Lead Developer. 2019 is poised to be an even bigger year for your company because you have the tools and insight to scale as quickly as demand requires. You're a happy human, and it's not just...
"Opsani helps the enterprise adopt containers, help them move their infrastructure into this modern world of DevOps, accelerate the delivery of new features into production, and really get them going on the container path," explained Ross Schibler, CEO of Opsani, and Peter Nickolov, CTO of Opsani, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Cavirin Systems has just announced C2, a SaaS offering designed to bring continuous security assessment and remediation to hybrid environments, containers, and data centers. Cavirin C2 is deployed within Amazon Web Services (AWS) and features a flexible licensing model for easy scalability and clear pay-as-you-go pricing. Although native to AWS, it also supports assessment and remediation of virtual or container instances within Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), or on-premise. By dr...
The nature of test environments is inherently temporary—you set up an environment, run through an automated test suite, and then tear down the environment. If you can reduce the cycle time for this process down to hours or minutes, then you may be able to cut your test environment budgets considerably. The impact of cloud adoption on test environments is a valuable advancement in both cost savings and agility. The on-demand model takes advantage of public cloud APIs requiring only payment for t...
Agile has finally jumped the technology shark, expanding outside the software world. Enterprises are now increasingly adopting Agile practices across their organizations in order to successfully navigate the disruptive waters that threaten to drown them. In our quest for establishing change as a core competency in our organizations, this business-centric notion of Agile is an essential component of Agile Digital Transformation. In the years since the publication of the Agile Manifesto, the conn...
identify the sources of event storms and performance anomalies will require automated, real-time root-cause analysis. I think Enterprise Management Associates said it well: “The data and metrics collected at instrumentation points across the application ecosystem are essential to performance monitoring and root cause analysis. However, analytics capable of transforming data and metrics into an application-focused report or dashboards are what separates actual application monitoring from relat...
The benefits of automation are well documented; it increases productivity, cuts cost and minimizes errors. It eliminates repetitive manual tasks, freeing us up to be more innovative. By that logic, surely, we should automate everything possible, right? So, is attempting to automate everything a sensible - even feasible - goal? In a word: no. Consider this your short guide as to what to automate and what not to automate.
We just came off of a review of a product that handles both containers and virtual machines in the same interface. Under the covers, implementation of containers defaults to LXC, though recently Docker support was added. When reading online, or searching for information, increasingly we see “Container Management” products listed as competitors to Docker, when in reality things like Rocket, LXC/LXD, and Virtualization are Dockers competitors. After doing some looking around, we have decided tha...
It’s “time to move on from DevOps and continuous delivery.” This was the provocative title of a recent article in ZDNet, in which Kelsey Hightower, staff developer advocate at Google Cloud Platform, suggested that “software shops should have put these concepts into action years ago.” Reading articles like this or listening to talks at most DevOps conferences might make you think that we’re entering a post-DevOps world. But vast numbers of organizations still struggle to start and drive transfo...
Enterprises are adopting Kubernetes to accelerate the development and the delivery of cloud-native applications. However, sharing a Kubernetes cluster between members of the same team can be challenging. And, sharing clusters across multiple teams is even harder. Kubernetes offers several constructs to help implement segmentation and isolation. However, these primitives can be complex to understand and apply. As a result, it’s becoming common for enterprises to end up with several clusters. Thi...
Many enterprise and government IT organizations are realizing the benefits of cloud computing by extending IT delivery and management processes across private and public cloud services. But they are often challenged with balancing the need for centralized cloud governance without stifling user-driven innovation. This strategy requires an approach that fundamentally reshapes how IT is delivered today, shifting the focus from infrastructure to services aggregation, and mixing and matching the bes...
"Codigm is based on the cloud and we are here to explore marketing opportunities in America. Our mission is to make an ecosystem of the SW environment that anyone can understand, learn, teach, and develop the SW on the cloud," explained Sung Tae Ryu, CEO of Codigm, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
High-velocity engineering teams are applying not only continuous delivery processes, but also lessons in experimentation from established leaders like Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook. These companies have made experimentation a foundation for their release processes, allowing them to try out major feature releases and redesigns within smaller groups before making them broadly available. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Lucas, Senior Staff Engineer at Optimizely, discussed how by using ne...
"CA has been doing a lot of things in the area of DevOps. Now we have a complete set of tool sets in order to enable customers to go all the way from planning to development to testing down to release into the operations," explained Aruna Ravichandran, Vice President of Global Marketing and Strategy at CA Technologies, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
While some developers care passionately about how data centers and clouds are architected, for most, it is only the end result that matters. To the majority of companies, technology exists to solve a business problem, and only delivers value when it is solving that problem. 2017 brings the mainstream adoption of containers for production workloads. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben McCormack, VP of Operations at Evernote, discussed how data centers of the future will be managed, how the p...
DevOps teams have more on their plate than ever. As infrastructure needs grow, so does the time required to ensure that everything's running smoothly. This makes automation crucial - especially in the server and network monitoring world. Server monitoring tools can save teams time by automating server management and providing real-time performance updates. As budgets reset for the New Year, there is no better time to implement a new server monitoring tool (or re-evaluate your current solution)....
While we understand Agile as a means to accelerate innovation, manage uncertainty and cope with ambiguity, many are inclined to think that it conflicts with the objectives of traditional engineering projects, such as building a highway, skyscraper or power plant. These are plan-driven and predictive projects that seek to avoid any uncertainty. This type of thinking, however, is short-sighted. Agile approaches are valuable in controlling uncertainty because they constrain the complexity that ste...
"This all sounds great. But it's just not realistic." This is what a group of five senior IT executives told me during a workshop I held not long ago. We were working through an exercise on the organizational characteristics necessary to successfully execute a digital transformation, and the group was doing their ‘readout.' The executives loved everything we discussed and agreed that if such an environment existed, it would make transformation much easier. They just didn't believe it was reali...
"We're developing a software that is based on the cloud environment and we are providing those services to corporations and the general public," explained Seungmin Kim, CEO/CTO of SM Systems Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The cloud revolution in enterprises has very clearly crossed the phase of proof-of-concepts into a truly mainstream adoption. One of most popular enterprise-wide initiatives currently going on are “cloud migration” programs of some kind or another. Finding business value for these programs is not hard to fathom – they include hyperelasticity in infrastructure consumption, subscription based models, and agility derived from rapid speed of deployment of applications. These factors will continue to...