What does .NET Core mean for me and my DXP?

Digital Experience Platforms (or DXPs) all have regular upgrades or refreshes available to keep up with the latest technologies. Sometimes the benefits are clear to business users, other times they're more 'under the hood' upgrades targeted more at development teams. One major feature that all of the leading .NET DXPs are adopting right now is .NET Core support, and it turns out there are significant benefits for all involved.

Andy Thompson pulling a funny face

By Andy Thompson, 4 minute read

This is not a technology post about how amazing a new version of a new technology is. You might have heard more technical types, or platform vendors, banging on recently about '.NET Core' or '.NET Standard', or even wondering why they're so excited about a particular version such as '.NET 6'. In this post I hope to explain why it might be of particular benefit to you.

Why should I care?

The main reason you might care is that every single major .NET CMS and Digital Experience Platform (or at least the ones we work with!) have recently announced that one of their major features is full support for .NET Core (and in the future, .NET 5, 6, and so on).

Benefits of .NET Core

As I explain in more detail below, there is a migration process to switch tracks to .NET Core. But even without touching a line of code beyond that switch, due to the fundamental efficiencies of the new technology, you'll immediately see significant benefits, including:

Performance

Simply migrating the same application from .NET Framework to .NET Core introduces performance improvements due to the more efficient underlying framework. But even then, successive versions of .NET continue to deliver more and more performance gains.

Why should you, as a non-developer, care about performance? When you're paying for servers or cloud infrastructure, code that performs better requires lower-powered resources to serve the same number of visitors. In other words, higher performance saves you money.

Scalability

.NET Core libraries are designed from the ground up to more easily 'scale out' in a distributed fashion to dynamically handle periods of heavy load. Similar to the performance argument above, being able to rapidly scale your infrastructure up and down translates to only paying for the infrastructure you require.

Flexibility

One of the huge benefits of .NET Core is that it is no longer Windows-only. This means you could feasibly host your application anywhere, in any hosting provider, on Windows, Linux, even your own Macbook! Not being tied to a specific hosting environment or technology frees you up to select any infrastructure provider, which again, you guessed it, saves you money.

Developers

Of course, your team is going to touch lines of code eventually. But there's good news there too. Firstly, being on the latest and greatest tech stack means it's technology developers want to use. As many managers discover eventually, the longer you stay on outdated technology, the harder it is to find developers to work on it, and... they tend to cost you more money!

What is this '.NET Core'?

Put simply, in layman's terms, it's the latest generation of Microsoft's core technology for software development of which I'm sure you've heard: .NET (pronounced 'dot net').

Decades ago when .NET was new, we referred to it as the '.NET Framework', with an upper-case F. It grew and grew into the enormous, and enormously powerful, .NET Framework 4.8, which powers many enterprise applications, including some of the CMS and Digital Experience Platforms you know and love. It is a Windows-only framework, with sweeping support for all sorts of applications including desktop, mobile and web.

Meanwhile, about five years ago, Microsoft released a new framework known as .NET Core. It was a new, open-source, cross-platform effort to rebuild the next generation of .NET. Its development proceeded rapidly and it showed enormous promise.

More recently, as .NET Core hit version 3 in 2019, it had hit the bigtime. Software developers were increasingly using it over the legacy .NET Framework. Microsoft announced that .NET Framework 4.x would be the last major version, and that the future of .NET for both 'Framework' and 'Core', was .NET 5.

Diagram showing the upgrade paths for .NET Framework and .NET Core

So while you're hearing .NET Core a lot now, you won't hear a lot of it into the future. You'll hopefully just hear .NET.

Changing tracks

As you can see from my diagram above, the upgrade path from .NET Core 3 through to .NET 5 is (literally) straightforward. However, there's a bit of a jump across from .NET Framework 4, to .NET 5. It's quite possible that if your CMS implementation is more than a year or two old, you might be looking at making this jump in the near future.

Hopefully, if you're using 'MVC' (ask your developer) then the migration should be fairly straightforward as your actual components and page templates won't need rebuilding. As the name suggests, it's more of a core upgrade of the 'plumbing' of your website.

Either way, as you can see from the diagram, if you're in the Microsoft ecosystem, it's coming sooner or later. So let's assume you're making the jump at some point, and look on the plus side!

Start now

If you're wondering when is the right time to make this jump, my answer is simple: any time from now. The sooner the better. The technology is not brand new, it's at version 5 already, which means it's extremely mature and ready for the prime time. Now that every major platform has made the switch, future versions will gradually drop support for the older '.NET Framework', so by adopting at your own pace now, you will not be affected by a future technology roadblock for your team.

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