Since Microsoft's announcement at the Professional Developer's Conference (PDC) in July, the computing world has been abuzz with .NET. A major part of the .NET Framework is Active Server Pages + (ASP+). This technology, although it won't ship in production for many months, is exciting to ASP developers and IIS administrators alike. For ASP developers, ASP+ looks similar to ASP; however, it's more structured than the ASP 3.0 that runs in IIS 5.0. For IIS administrators, ASP+ looks much different under the hood.
Until the .NET Framework, ASP was just an OS add-on, an Internet Server API (ISAPI) DLL, and a few system components. ASP+ sits on top of the core OS and is almost entirely component based and modularized. Every page, object, and HTML element you use can be a runtime component object. All that said, let's jump into some of the major features of ASP+.
New Programming Model
ASP+ pages have a programming model similar to Visual Basic (VB) forms. (You might have heard these called ASP+ Web forms.) ASP+ pages use server-side controls to facilitate state management, which lets developers retain form values between pages.
Cleaner, Easier Code
Rich Server Controls
ASP+ already includes a number of rich server controls that you can leverage to create more complex HTML elements. These controls let you write code to set the properties of these controls at runtime. A calendar control and a variety of grid, table, and list controls are a few examples of controls already included in the .NET prerelease.
XML Configuration Files
Components now use XML configuration files in ASP+ so you no longer need to register components on the server. You can deploy applications using File-Copy commands, Microsoft FrontPage Server Extensions, or FTP.
Easy-to-Maintain Session State
By seamlessly managing hidden form variables on the client side, ASP+ lets you easily maintain a user's session state even across Web farms.
Solid Error-Handling Architecture
ASP+ finally gives developers a solid error-handling, debugging, and tracking architecture. Debugging is now seamless across disparate languages. You can now step from one language, such as VB, straight into a C++ component, back to VB, and then to a C# (C sharp) component.
New security-management features in ASP+ provide IIS administrators and developers with many different kinds of authentication, including HTML forms-based authentication in which ASP+ creates and manages custom logon pages. You are no longer pigeonholed by the default browser logon prompt (e.g., with Windows 2000 Integrated and Windows NT 4.0 NT LAN Manager—NTLM—authentication).
ASP+ has server-side caching, which lets developers persist all types of data and objects for reuse in ASP+ pages. In addition, the ASP+ runtime can also cache output from ASP+ pages, facilitating lightning-quick performance.
A rich set of class libraries comes with ASP+, which makes writing powerful Web applications easier. These libraries include data-access components, components for reading and writing the event log, components for Microsoft Message Queue Server (MSMQ), SMTP components, and encryption components.
In short, Microsoft is designing ASP+ from the ground up to overcome the limitations of ASP. ASP+ combines the power to build more complex Web applications with the reduced requirements of developer time. For more information about ASP+, visit the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Web site, where you'll also find the .NET Framework software development kit (SDK), which includes ASP+.