Time to Jump Ship?
By Jonathan Goodyear
If you re reading asp.netPRO, you re probably as excited about ASP.NET as I am. So excited, in fact, that you might be tempted to quit using ASP classic altogether. After all, who wants to use antiquated technology?
Unfortunately, most companies do. Those of you who have been in the software-development field awhile, know that technology transitions often occur at a glacial pace. Some of my clients are still using Windows 3.1 and even DOS-based systems. ASP classic has become woven into the corporate security blanket. You won t be able to tear it away easily, and, in many cases, I don t think you should. The decision of whether to use ASP.NET for a project is not a no-brainer, despite the hype that suggests otherwise. It s a decision that requires careful consideration.
Here are a few key questions to help you determine if ASP.NET is the way to go on your project:
- How far along is the project? Projects that already are designed and half-built in ASP classic probably aren t very good candidates for ASP.NET. Returning to square one could have a significant impact on your budget and project timelines. Unless your project is stonewalled by a technical limitation that is alleviated by ASP.NET (such as the new caching API), you should wait for the next go-around.
- What is the technical skill level of your team? ASP.NET is much more powerful than ASP classic. It allows you to do things that were much more complicated (or impossible) to do before. Contrary to popular belief, however, ASP.NET is not easier to learn and use. Depending on the skill level of your team, you might need a sizable amount of preparation time. Once you are ready, though, the world is your oyster. You just need to assess whether your project allows enough time for your team to make the transition.
- Is your IT infrastructure team on board with you? A lot has changed with respect to Web server administration in the world of ASP.NET. If your infrastructure team is not as technologically current as you are, your project shouldn t use ASP.NET. You might not have the wherewithal to deploy your Web application when it is finished. I m pretty sure your NT administrator is not going to turn over the reigns to you, either. Now is the time to encourage your NT administrator to hit the books, so he or she will be ready when you are.
If it looks like your project is not a good fit for ASP.NET, don t despair. There are still some great ways to get started with ASP.NET in the short term (albeit on a smaller scale). For instance, one of the nicest features about ASP.NET is that it can run alongside ASP classic on the same Web server. Like everything in life, though, there are a few trade-offs. You ll pay a bit of a performance penalty to run both versions simultaneously, and you won t be able to share application and session information between the two platforms (luckily, cookies provide a common ground). One safe way to begin developing in ASP.NET is to convert non-essential pieces of an existing Web application. This will lead to far less stress when things go wrong and they will. When you are more comfortable working with ASP.NET, you can move on to more important parts of the Web application.
Another way to make the move to ASP.NET is to build internal Web application tools. Typically, internal applications have more complex business logic, which will expose you to more parts of the ASP.NET platform than most external Web sites. Internal applications also tend to have deadlines that are more flexible because they are not as closely tied to revenues. This approach gives you the benefit of a captive audience and enables easier damage control. Tame the dog before you slay the dragon.
If it looks as though ASP.NET is not going to be an option in the workplace at all, try building your own Web site. Several relatively low-cost Web-hosting providers offer ASP.NET. That s how I got started, and the experience I gained was tremendous. You also can assist other ASP.NET hobbyists (and I hesitate to use the word hobbyist because many of them are the most skilled developers in the industry).
To sum up, don t throw ASP classic out of your development toolbox. ASP.NET will not be used as widely as ASP for quite some time. There are millions of lines of ASP code out there that need maintenance and bug fixes. Upper-level management tends to be averse to risk and likely will travel the beaten path until ASP.NET has been around long enough to have gotten its feet wet. That said, do as much as you can to get involved with ASP.NET, even if not in the workplace. We are at a critical juncture in the software-development timeline. The time you invest now, when everyone is on a level playing field, will carry you through the next several years (until the next big thing).
Jonathan Goodyear is president of ASPSoft (http://www.aspsoft.com), an Internet consulting firm based in Orlando, FL. He is a Microsoft Certified Solution Developer and is author of Debugging ASP.NET (New Riders Publishing). Jonathan also is a contributing editor for Visual Studio Magazine. Reach him by e-mail at mailto:[email protected] or through his electronic magazine, angryCoder, at http://www.angryCoder.com.
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