Microsoft worried over .NET fragmentation
August 11, 2008 —
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Multiple product groups at Microsoft are contributing functionality to the .NET Framework, but juxtaposed with that growth is the company’s concern that too many cooks might spoil the broth, a Microsoft internal document reveals.
The document, viewed by SD Times, notes that upon its introduction in 2002, .NET’s greatest value proposition was its delivery of a consistent, clean and relatively small framework that was more easily approachable by developers than Microsoft’s prior stacks. It calls out ActiveX, MFC, Win32 and various OLE libraries as examples of fragmented technologies.
Larry O’Brien, an independent analyst and consultant who writes the Windows & .NET Watch column for SD Times, said he agreed with Microsoft’s assessment “100%.”
Now, .NET itself is at risk from “rampant” growth of its libraries and a lack of coordination among concepts introduced by and since .NET 3.0, according to the document.
Some of the subsets cited in the document as causes for concern are Windows Communication Foundation, Windows Presentation Foundation and the ADO.NET entity framework. The latter is an offshoot of Microsoft’s shelved Windows Future Storage subsystem.
Several industry experts were in agreement. “I think the biggest risk is the competition between the program groups that are adding things to the mix,” said Patrick Hynds, a regional director of the volunteer Developer Platform evangelism group, recognized by Microsoft for technical expertise. “For instance, right now you have LINQ to SQL and the Entity Framework, which seem to solve some of the same problems with very different approaches.”
He added that while Microsoft was introducing “very good innovations,” the piling on of concepts might leave developers hard-pressed to recognize which ones are appropriate for their requirements without first consulting documentation or seeking other guidance.
The problem of fragmentation is not unique to .NET, according to Gartner research vice president Mark Driver. “Microsoft has the same problem that Java has,” said Driver. He explained that each platform is introducing provisions for different contingencies and developer niches, each with its own approach to doing things.