The software development framework and ecosystem .NET is a popular platform to build robust desktop, mobile, and web applications. Supported by Microsoft, it’s best suited for enterprises that strive to offer a wide range of features, including cloud infrastructure support, desktop software, and web-based services.
While the popularity of the software development framework was in steady decline for a few years, .NET development has seen a dramatic change of fortunes. This led to fierce demand for .NET developers across multiple industries.
If you’re flirting with the idea of switching careers, there’s definitely a future in the Microsoft development stack. However, the demand for .NET full-stack developers comes down to their programming journey being built on a solid foundation.
Conversely, according to Peron, .NET developers show more discipline and they have a better grasp of the fundamentals, keeping them in mind on a daily basis.
In this post I'll give you all you need to know to see whether becoming a .NET full-stack developer is right for you. We'll begin with a brief history of the .NET framework, before looking at the current situation and what to expect being a .NET developer.
A Brief History of the .NET Framework
Microsoft developed the .NET framework in the late 1990s to create a managed code platform where code is executed in a runtime environment. The primary motivation was to improve the developer experience by relieving them of active memory management, low-level C/C++ tasks, and security.
First released in 2002 with C# (a programming language for managed code), .NET was built for Windows-based computers and servers. Today, it has five essential components that have driven its popularity from its inception:
- .NET Building Block Services
- .NET Framework
- Windows Enterprise Servers
- Windows operating system
- Visual Studio .NET toolset
Over the last decade, .NET has evolved to accommodate not only websites but also mobile applications. What started with ADO.NET, ASP.NET, WinForms (compiled and executed with Common Language Runtime), and Windows Presentation Foundation grew to provide a Base Class Library, Framework Class Library, network library, and more.
.NET Is Now a Unified Platform
Four years ago, after the acquisition of Xamarin, there was a dramatic shift that brought about the introduction of .NET Core—a new open-source version that was a cloud-friendly, cross-platform framework. As existing Microsoft services started working with Core, it accelerated the adoption of the .NET framework.
According to Peron, “In terms of competition between programming languages, Microsoft’s great offering is .NET Core. Now you can run your software on almost any type of server. You can have a virtual Linux server in the cloud and push your .NET code developed with visual studio into that environment. You don’t need a Microsoft server anymore, which has a very decent impact on your IT budget.”
The key features that drive .NET development today are as follows:
- A unified platform for anything and everything, including cloud, data science, gaming, IoT, machine learning, mobile, Mac, Web, and Windows.
- Cross-platform with any device, anywhere.
- Deployable in smaller packages.
- Fast, scalable, and ensures high performance.
- Supports all platform capabilities of .NET Core, .NET Framework, and Xamarian.
- Supports most IDE tools, like Command Line Interface (CLI).
- Supported by Microsoft and managed by an open-source community VS Code, VS for Mac, and Visual Studio.
The unified .NET stack comes in four flavors: .NET Framework, .NET Core, Xamarin, and Universal Windows Platform (UWP). The implementation of this combination is called the Unified .NET Development Platform.
Each component contains frameworks and libraries to build robust software. With the introduction of .NET 5.0, developers can work on three separate branches within the Microsoft platform:
- .NET Framework – still dominant across enterprise verticals.
- .NET Core – a fresh environment.
- Xamarin – for mobiles applications.
Furthermore, Microsoft’s .NET Standard library promises to connect APIs across all three branches to make the life of a .NET full-stack developer more manageable.
Busting the Myths Surrounding .NET Development
The prevailing misconceptions surrounding .NET development are unfounded. There’s a rumor that .NET development is unpopular because it’s complicated and expensive.
“If it was a myth, it’s not a myth anymore. The cost concerns aren’t there anymore, and .NET is clearly in the leading development languages,” Peron said.
Microsoft is a technology leader that offers .NET code for free, and as a result, countless experts build robust products with .NET. Furthermore, the cost of hosting an app depends on its popularity, not the platform that was used to make it.
“On the back-end side, I have people using .NET Core and SQL server, taking a hybrid approach to take advantage of both paid and open source options. Microsoft is still pricing many startups out of using their SQL server, so whatever cloud you’re looking at, people often use .NET Core and choose the free MySQL database. Costs were a major concern before and made companies go with PHP almost irrationally, but not anymore,” Peron said.
As a highly scalable development platform, companies benefit from an extensive toolkit to build and cross-integrate enterprise products and seamless cross-platform development, and meet the demands of the marketplace.
Finally, many believe that .NET is only suitable for large enterprise websites with extensive features. This used to be the case to a certain extent, but not anymore.
According to Peron, in order to develop stable, dependable software from scratch, a really good architect is a must, as they can map out their designs on paper before communicating them to the team.
.NET developers are highly sought after as they aren’t self-taught coders. The steep learning curve ensures that they really know the language inside and out. They are also known to follow best practices, making it much easier to work in a large team and build products with minimal technical debt.
However, this doesn’t mean that it’s just for large corporations. Development teams can apply this framework to different types of use cases, including ones that cater to small businesses.
Pros and Cons of .NET Development
Before committing, here are a few positives and negatives to consider:
- Relatively easy to learn.
- Extensive community support.
- Microsoft support.
- Object-oriented development.
- Simple and reliable cashing system.
- Cross-platform design of .NET Core.
- Visual Studio IDE.
- Seamless deployment.
- Seamless maintenance.
- ASP.NET – automatic monitoring.
Although .NET comes with a steep learning curve, the extensive support available to those starting out makes learning relatively easy. While it may feel a little overwhelming in the beginning, it certainly gets easier.
- Licensing costs.
- Limited object-relational support.
- Gaps between new releases and support.
- Memory leaks.
As you can see from the above, the pros outweigh the cons. The .NET platform, including its compilers, libraries, and runtimes, is open source and free, but you’ll have to pay for the Visual Studio IDE.
So, Should You Become a Full-Stack .NET Developer?
The short answer is a resounding yes!
.NET development is a good career move with a future, so it makes sense to dive right in and acquire the necessary skills to become a professional .NET engineer.
This object-oriented programming language is easier to learn than many of its counterparts and boasts extensive support, so you can start your coding journey knowing that .NET development is embraced across the board and here to stay.
After all, Peron said, “The code of .NET isn’t necessarily better than PHP, for example, but .NET philosophy and the mindset creates better software developers.”