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Microsoft TechEd: ASP.NET vNext Bridges the Lifecycle

Microsoft has used its TechEd North America 2014 to invite key developer-focused journalists and analysts to Houston, Texas from May 12 to 15 inclusive. The firm staged the event for practitioner programmers and hinged its key announcements around an early preview into the next version of ASP.NET to be released soon. Under the name vNext, this will exist as a streamlined framework and runtime specifically optimized for cloud and server workloads.

Microsoft has already used its Visual Studio roadmap pages to say that vNext is a step forward as the firm aims to extend its coverage of the software application development lifecycle and "embrace additional roles" with "trustworthy and transparent bridges" critical to a project's success.

Key & core: flexible componentization

So these developments will allow ASP.NET developers to create applications with automatic cloud support built in. Microsoft wants to be seen to be giving back here and will offer full side-by-side support per application (as well as dynamic compilation based on the new .NET Compiler Platform) and, crucially, the power of flexible componentization.

In terms of what, when, how and where – vNext will be part of the .NET Foundation as an open source project and will run across multiple platforms through a partnership with Xamarin.

Also high on the news agenda this week was a preview of Visual Studio tooling support for Apache Cordova. As Dr Dobb's readers will already know, Cordova is an open source platform for building multi-device hybrid-mobile applications using HTML, CSS and JavaScript. This includes support for iOS and Android, as well as support for Windows Store and Windows Phone… and this is down to efforts put in place by Microsoft Open Technologies contributions to the project. 

According to Microsoft's official statements here, "With the Cordova tools in Visual Studio, web developers can use their existing skills in HTML and JavaScript to create hybrid packaged apps for multiple devices while taking advantage of each device's capabilities. These tools support end-to-end development of cross-platform mobile applications targeting Android, iOS, Windows and Windows Phone using Visual Studio."

NOTE: Project templates are available for both JavaScript and TypeScript, and provide a standard blank Cordova starter project -- developers can pick their HTML/JavaScript framework of choice, whether Backbone and jQuery UI, or Angular.js and Bootstrap, or WinJS.

So then in terms of usage, projects undertaken here can be built, deployed and debugged against a variety of devices, device emulators and web-based mobile simulators. There is a default option to use the Apache Ripple simulator to test an application in the browser before deploying to a device.  This preview release also supports attaching the Visual Studio debugger to Ripple or a local emulator or a device. Programmers have the option to stay in Visual Studio while debugging your JavaScript and DOM layout running on an Android 4.4 device 

Visual Studio across iOS, Android and Windows

With somewhat PR-flavored embellishment, Microsoft describes this preview release is "an exciting first step" to make Visual Studio a tool for creating multi-device apps across iOS, Android and Windows. Whether you want the flexibility of native apps powered by .NET and Xamarin, or the standards-based development provided by the Apache Cordova platform, Microsoft now says that Visual Studio will support you.

In terms of programmer challenges ahead, Microsoft points to the same obvious (but nonetheless true) predicament faced by many i.e. the need to extend their line of business (LoB) applications and processes further into hybrid and cloud-based environments.

As something of an answer to the challenges faced by developers today Microsoft says it is extending Visual Studio Online (Microsoft's cloud-based ALM offering) by releasing a set of APIs and "service hooks providing integration points" to 3rd party services. It's all about making Microsoft platforms look attractive enough and flexible enough for a world that DOES NOT ONLY INCLUDE Microsoft.

The company also announced further enhancements to its DevOps portfolio (who isn't these days?) to allow users to use PowerShell Desired State Configuration (DSC) with an initial set of scripts to help ease configuration, automation and management of on-premises and Azure VM-based cloud infrastructure.

NOTE: There was also the OpsHub TFS to Visual Studio Online Migration Utility, teams using TFS on-premises are now able to migrate their most commonly requested data including source code, work items, test cases, and test results to their Visual Studio Online account.

VM images for Win 7 and Windows 8.1 client

In official statements Microsoft has said that it is also announcing MSDN subscribers will now be able to utilize an on-demand dev/test environment for their Windows client applications on Azure. Available today Virtual Machine images for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 client will be available in the Azure virtual machine gallery.

"MSDN subscribers now have access to virtual machine images for Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 in the Azure VM gallery. These images make it even easier for MSDN users to do development and test in the cloud on Azure using their existing benefits. These images build on top of the Visual Studio 2013 images already in the gallery, and the Azure credits benefit that all MSDN subscribers have access to," said the company.

Microsoft also made note of last month's developer updates which included updates on a variety of new investments in .NET primarily around the core of .NET and device development for Windows. This included universal Windows apps, the .NET Native ahead-of-time compiler, the .NET Compiler Platform ("Roslyn") including new C# and VB compilers and a preview of new language features being considered for C# 6.

"On top of these releases, we also announced the formation of the .NET Foundation, an independent organization created to foster open development and collaboration around the growing collection of open source technologies for .NET. Throughout the last month, we've seen tremendous excitement around the .NET Foundation, with 27 projects submitting proposals to move into the Foundation," according to the company.

Multi-Device Hybrid Apps for Visual Studio 2013 lets developers choose the multi-device strategy best suited for their needs. Developers can use these tools to take advantage of features in Visual Studio such as IntelliSense and syntax highlighting for HTML, CSS, and JavaScript web projects — to code, package and debug apps for multiple mobile devices, including Android, iOS and Windows.

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