After three years of development, open source developers now have an alternative to Microsoft's .Net application development platform, thanks to Novell, which on Wednesday released version 1.0 of its Mono development platform.
The release of Mono gives those who are not using Microsoft's Windows operating system a way of running Microsoft desktop, ASP.Net and Web services applications without having to make major changes to these types of Windows applications, said Miguel de Icaza, vice president of development at Novell, and the founder of the open-source Mono project.
The software, which has been available in beta version since May, includes a runtime environment for Microsoft .Net applications, a compiler for Microsoft's C# language, and an integrated development environment that will ultimately give Linux software developers an alternative to their current range of development tools.
Though Mono has been criticized by some in the Linux community as an ill-advised clone of Microsoft's .Net platform, the fact that it follows Microsoft's strategy of creating easy to use developer tools means that Linux software development will become simpler and more productive, de Icaza said.
"In Linux, the tools that we've been using are fairly primitive," he said.
The Gnumeric spreadsheet application that de Icaza started six years ago, for example, would be much farther along, had the Mono tools been available, he said. "I started Gnumeric in 1998, and it's still not done," he said.
Mono is already being used by German consulting firm Voelcker Informatik AG to port a large number of server applications used by the City of Munich to Linux.
Munich, the third-largest city in Germany, is in the process of migrating the city's entire network of 14,000 computers to Linux.
Voelcker is using Mono to develop identity management, help desk, asset management, and provisioning software that will run on 350 Linux servers in Munich, de Icaza said. "They develop everything using (Microsoft) Visual Studio, and some of their customers deploy with Windows, and some deploy on Linux and Mono," he said.
Novell has also used Mono internally to develop the iFolder software that it released in March, de Icaza said. "They went from prototype to the version we have in less than a year," he said.
Since the May beta release, more than 50,000 copies of Mono have been downloaded, de Icaza said. In addition to Linux, the software runs on the Mac OS X, Windows and Unix operating systems.
Mono can be downloaded free of charge at http://www.mono-project.com