Welcome!

SOA & WOA Authors: Liz McMillan, Aruna Ravichandran, Sanjeev Sharma, Phil Whelan, Jason Bloomberg

Related Topics: .NET

.NET: 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.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Technology is enabling a new approach to collecting and using data. This approach, commonly referred to as the "Internet of Things" (IoT), enables businesses to use real-time data from all sorts of things including machines, devices and sensors to make better decisions, improve customer service, and lower the risk in the creation of new revenue opportunities. In his General Session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Dave Wagstaff, Vice President and Chief Architect at BSQUARE Corporation, discuss the real benefits to focus on, how to understand the requirements of a successful solution, the flow of ...
"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...

ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --  IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...

Focused on this fast-growing market’s needs, Vitesse Semiconductor Corporation (Nasdaq: VTSS), a leading provider of IC solutions to advance "Ethernet Everywhere" in Carrier, Enterprise and Internet of Things (IoT) networks, introduced its IStaX™ software (VSC6815SDK), a robust protocol stack to simplify deployment and management of Industrial-IoT network applications such as Industrial Ethernet switching, surveillance, video distribution, LCD signage, intelligent sensors, and metering equipment. Leveraging technologies proven in the Carrier and Enterprise markets, IStaX is designed to work ac...
"There is a natural synchronization between the business models, the IoT is there to support ,” explained Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect of Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 15th International Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
C-Labs LLC, a leading provider of remote and mobile access for the Internet of Things (IoT), announced the appointment of John Traynor to the position of chief operating officer. Previously a strategic advisor to the firm, Mr. Traynor will now oversee sales, marketing, finance, and operations. Mr. Traynor is based out of the C-Labs office in Redmond, Washington. He reports to Chris Muench, Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Traynor brings valuable business leadership and technology industry expertise to C-Labs. With over 30 years' experience in the high-tech sector, John Traynor has held numerous...
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
The 3rd International @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades.
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover how hardware commoditization, the ubiquitous nature of connectivity, and the emergence of Big Data a...
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.
SYS-CON Events announced today that IDenticard will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. IDenticard™ is the security division of Brady Corp (NYSE: BRC), a $1.5 billion manufacturer of identification products. We have small-company values with the strength and stability of a major corporation. IDenticard offers local sales, support and service to our customers across the United States and Canada. Our partner network encompasses some 300 of the world's leading systems integrators and security s...
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, discussed the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. He also discussed how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics discussed were barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what the future may hold. Mike Kavis is Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Pa...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world. The next @ThingsExpo will take place November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, in Santa Clara, California. Since its launch in 2008, Cloud Expo TV commercials have been aired and CNBC, Fox News Network, and Bloomberg TV. Please enjoy our 2014 commercial.
From a software development perspective IoT is about programming "things," about connecting them with each other or integrating them with existing applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Yakov Fain, co-founder of Farata Systems and SuranceBay, will show you how small IoT-enabled devices from multiple manufacturers can be integrated into the workflow of an enterprise application. This is a practical demo of building a framework and components in HTML/Java/Mobile technologies to serve as a platform that can integrate new devices as they become available on the market.
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Located in booth #314, the Bsquare team will present DataV demos and discuss how DataV will help customers put their data to work to improve business outcomes. DataV is unlocking new initiatives across a wide landscape of customers in industries such as industrial manufacturing, transportation, retail and mobile. The solution is designed to complement a new project start or help to enrich an existing machine investment.
The Physical Web incorporates beacons that can be put in any small retail store, for example, so that every store now has "an app" for its customers. In this Birds-of-a-Feather session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Scott Jenson, Product Designer at Google, will discuss the Physical Web and how it is an open standard so any device can broadcast a URL wirelessly, so any phone/tablet/watch nearby can see, and rank those devices. When the user taps on one, they just go to that web page. It's really that simple. It's about thinking small, enabling micro-information (what is in my prescription bottle...
BSQUARE is a global leader of embedded software solutions. We enable smart connected systems at the device level and beyond that millions use every day and provide actionable data solutions for the growing Internet of Things (IoT) market. We empower our world-class customers with our products, services and solutions to achieve innovation and success. For more information, visit www.bsquare.com.