Monday, June 17, 2024

What is .Net

Dot Net is Microsoft’s plan for the next-generation Internet and Web strategy. It is not a new operating system like Windows2000, but rather a new infrastructure in which web and other database servers communicate with each other using various software to fulfill Web-based services.

What is .Net
Mr. Robert Hess, Group Manager for Microsoft’s Platform Strategy Group, said during an interview exploring how Web services can be used in a company’s strategy:

“Imagine that you’re wanting to cook a big dinner and you go to the grocery store and you buy the different products that were manufactured by different companies and stick them in your shopping cart. Your own abilities as a cook will determine whether you are getting raw vegetables, or whether you’re getting pre-cooked vegetables, or whether you’re buying salad in a bag; whether you’re buying mayonnaise in a jar or whether you’re buying the eggs and the oil separately and mixing it yourself. You can choose how you combine these different ingredients together.

In the same fashion, Web services can be designed in such a way that you as the constructor, the person that has the big vision of what your final goal is, can go out and shop for Web Services—find a credit card authorization function, a merchant billing function, a local time converter function. All these different functions that are being supplied by other people, but you bring them together, you combine them with a little bit of loving code of your own that you write, and out pops a brand new functionality that maybe someone else had never even thought of before.”
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Success Stories of .Net Companies are Already Implementing .Net
The idea is fantastic, revolutionary and has tremendous possibilities—but will it become a reality and what are the ramifications that it will have on e-commerce? . NET XML Web services have already been implemented in several scenarios. The most popular has to be Dollar-Rent-A-Car’s .Net services which programmers implemented and tested in two weeks time. Dollar’s .Net services can now smoothly communicate their reservation information and other data in their VMS-based server with their airline partners’ UNIX-based servers. Although this is not anything new, what stands out is that since .NET is a framework it can now have other partners’ services also smoothly and easily plugged in. Continental Airlines and are just some of the major companies using .NET to make their companies communication processes much smoother. To read more about the seventeen case studies of companies implementing .NET, check.

Governments Consider Implementing .Net
.NET has been taken seriously not only by the corporations named in the case study, but also governments of countries. There has been talk that the governments of both the United Kingdom and The Untied States are seriously considering using .Net or a part of it for their respective government computing strategies.. See for the UK, “Why Web Services Will Gradually Dominate e-Business Development”, and for the US consideration of .NET’S Passport service, check “US govt evaluates Microsoft Passport for Services.”

On a side note, it should be mentioned that when it was reported that the White House technology Czar, Mark Forman, was considering using the Passport service (an intrinsic part of Web services as it holds the data of individuals and their preferences), he caught a lot of heat from privacy organizations. His decision to consider using Passport was because, as GartnerGroup found out, the number of registered Passport users jumped from seven million people in August 2001 to fourteen million people in February 2002. However, Gartner found out that 84% of them registered because the were forced to in order to use other Microsoft applications such as Microsoft’s’ Messenger, Hotmail and XP. In lieu of this, the decision is still up in the air.

Last August, Newsbytes vilified Passport in a story called “Microsoft Passport Security Flaws Now On The Radar”. In the article, AT&T Labs researchers said, “Microsoft’s Passport service, in use today at dozens of online merchants, carries significant risks to users. Newsbytes said that the researchers concluded “that until fundamental changes are made to the single sign-in and electronic wallet service, ‘efforts such as Passport must be viewed with suspicion.’”

To prevent the security holes, Microsoft struck a deal with Versign to provide more security features for .NET, namely the authentication procedure of the Passport program.

However, the 17 companies used in the case study mentioned above reflect that they are using .NET to streamline their business practices and save quite a bit of money. Additionally, I spoke with Jens Jorgensen, the man who headed up the IT team to convert to a Web services operation and he really liked using .NET to make the transformation. I will write a article on the interview with Jens in the near future.

Colleges and .Net
Other than the successful case studies, there are colleges and universities which seem to really embrace .Net and are working earnestly to build the infrastructure. The DePaul University Center for Urban Education is using .Net to “create a portal communication system for the Center and educators to speed data entry and report generation and provide automated data analysis.” Furthermore, Texas A&M University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology, uses Web services for student enrollment, and scheduling services. Additionally, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pennsylvania are also working with Web services.

Has Support with Excellent Magazine Tutorials
In order to help with the development of .Net, there are a couple really good magazines available, namely .net Magazine and XML & Web Services. If you are interested in developing or implementing .Net XML Web services for your company, you should familiarize yourself with these two magazines. For example, in the April 2002 issue of .net Magazine, there were two excellent features articles on security; one on globalizing your company with .Net and one as a case study of how it is being implemented.

Although, there is a selective adoption of .Net by these institutions, the fact remains that there are problems with .Net and Web services in general.

Major Problems of .Net Microsoft is Forced To Make Changes To The Heart of .Net
One of the major problems is the centerpiece of the .NET strategy –.NET’s My Services — has been shelved. My Services was originally called Hailstorm. Hailstorm received tremendous attention when it was first announced. There was even talk of huge changes in the way we view technology. According to Microsoft’s My Services website, “.NET My Services authenticates users, provides the ability to send alerts, and stores personal information, including contacts, e-mail, calendar, profile, lists, electronic wallet, physical location, document stores, application settings, favorite Web sites, devices owned, and preferences for receiving alerts.”

The problem with this is that while Microsoft thought that people would voluntarily give this information in exchange for the convenience of not filling out website forms; in reality, people didn’t trust Microsoft with their personal information. Additionally, corporate entities such as financial industries and others did not want a third party (Microsoft) to hold their clients sensitive information. This was based on alienating their customers as well as Microsoft’s well reported security holes.

To resolve the problem, Microsoft has given in to having their server as a central repository to hold all the .NET users personal information and is packaging it so that it will be similar to a standalone software. Therefore, enterprises and other business entities will have the latitude to store the information in their own servers. This means that if you use a company’s NET services, you will have to depend on the security of its computer systems. This change in policy from user information residing on Microsoft’s servers to each company’s server does deal a major blow for the initial vision of .NET.

Security Another issue is the security holes in creating the .NET framework itself. PC Mag reported on Valentines Day (Feb 14th 2002) in an article titled, “.Net Security Flaw Exposed,” that “there is a security flaw in Microsoft Corp.’s new .Net compiler that could lead programmers to unknowingly include buffer overflows in any code they write for the new .Net Framework.” See here for further details. Approximately three weeks later, a hacker named HD Moore, who works as a senior security analyst for Digital Defense said that .NET is intrinsically secure and “.Net Framework could nearly eliminate most of Microsoft’s vulnerabilities…[h]owever, the server software is still too easy to misconfigure, especially since much of the documentation teaches insecure programming techniques.“Please see “Hacker says .Net is pretty good”. These types of flaws cannot be good when Microsoft wants people to use their tools to build a framework through which a company’s valuable transactional information will pass Conclusion

Bill Gates wrote in his June 14th 2001, memo to developers and IT professionals, “How will businesses and their customers benefit from this[.Net]? Because XML Web services break down the distinctions between the Internet, standalone applications and computing devices of every kind, they enable businesses to collaborate to offer an unprecedented range of integrated and customized solutions–solutions that enable their customers to act on information any time, any place and on any device.”

.NET is an innovative idea spawned by the brains of arguably the most powerful company in the world. However, their lack of foresight into the the values of people not wanting their personal information stored by a company know for security problems has hurt them tremendously.

These problems lead to the conclusion that .NET, and perhaps on a greater scale, Web services, will not be the answer for the next generation B2C ecommerce solutions. However, its ability to provide a framework so that modules from various partners can be plugged in to work in concert allow major industries to work together efficiently. Therefore, while it would be very useful to use .Net for B2B connectionbetween retailers such as Wal-Mart and their suppliers, it would not be workable in the short-run for B2C.

US govt evaluates Microsoft Passport for services
Microsoft Has Shelved Its Internet ‘Persona’ Service
MS pulls the plugs on Hailstorm, pending rethink
MS to block internet apps by default in .NET
Microsoft recasts .Net My Services to allow customer control
Why Web Services Will Gradually Dominate e-Business Development
Microsoft accuses industry of Web services hype
Microsoft beefs up .Net security
Hacker exposes holes in .Net

Today’s article is an in depth investigation by Murdok’s very own Peter Thiruselvam. We’re proud of his latest work, and think it will be useful to our Internet community.

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