Despite having its official launch on Wednesday, Microsoft's Visual Studio .Net development environment already has users. Investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein (DrKW) has built two applications with .Net -- one of which replaced a Java application -- and is already building more. .Net is Microsoft's framework for letting applications talk to each other over the Web.
"Microsoft has learnt from Java, and is winning at the moment because of price/performance," said Jan Jones, who led the .Net development effort within DrKW. "Development in .Net seems to be two or three times faster than using equivalent Java tools."
Visual Studio .Net will get its official launch late on Wednesday in Europe and the United States.
A former Java programmer, Jones thinks C# is a worthy successor: "C# has better versioning," he said, adding that the framework makes it easier to reuse components in different languages as well. "The .Net framework was stable from the first build."
Taking part in a Microsoft development programme for .Net and Visual Studio .Net, DrKW built an internal application to manage IT projects, and then a public-facing Web-based service.
The internal application uses C# and ASP.Net to build an internal Web site to manage IT projects within the bank. "Called IT Register, the new intranet application allows our IT professionals to take a personal view of projects, their status, milestones, dependencies and many other crucial pieces of information," said Jones.
The second application, BrokerPulse, is an online investor relations service, which tracks IPOs, and share ownership for UK clients. A Java-based version of BrokerPulse was launched in 2000, but the application was moved to ASP.Net last year.
DrKW has hundreds of Java programmers, and seems set to continue using both environments, although it has shifted a lot of resources to .Net. "There are at least half a dozen major .Net projects in development now," said Jones, "and about a dozen Java projects."
"Everyone is sceptical initially," said Jones, but retraining programmers turns out to be easy. Although the basics take only a day to absorb, most Java programmers at DrKW are taking a very wide-ranging one-week course, he explained.
Although one might naturally be suspicious that a case study wheeled out by the vendor at a product launch might have cut a better deal for the product in exchange for good publicity, Jones seems genuinely enthusiastic about .Net, and claims that the company did not get any price breaks for its appearance in the development programme.
Indeed, according to Jones, DrKW actually had a strong input into the building of Visual Studio -- especially in security. "We wanted very good client support for authentication," said Jones." We worked hard with Microsoft to iron out bugs. It was a two-way thing. Microsoft got a lot out of it."
He sees no big effects on .Net from Microsoft's recent public commitment to make security a priority. ".Net has its own security model, and is effectively sandboxed. But (the commitment) will be a good thing. It is good to see Microsoft developers going on security courses."
The new version of Visual Studio is a big improvement over version 6, said Jones. "It gives good code, where the previous version gave unwieldy code. You would find yourself hand-coding HTML to get tidy HTML."
The company is also considering moving its corporate directory away from a generic standard LDAP directory from Netscape, to Microsoft's Active Directory. "It is under consideration, and there is no definite date, but a number of projects in Microsoft will require it." The company is currently using libraries, so can use either Active Directory or an LDAP product.
Overall .Net has won through, said Jones: "The old arguments about stability and scalability have gone."