Microsoft unveils .NET tool for Web applications

Modelled on Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), VSA will let developers write "event-driven programming for the server," according to Visual Studio programming manager Frank Gocinski. The goal is to avoid digging into source code, or hiring outside consultants to build customised applications.

"There's really nothing like this available," said Robert Green, lead product manager for Visual Studio at Microsoft. "Oracle seems to feel you should not customise applications at all. Sun Microsystems and IBM are very Java-based, so there you're mucking around with the source code. We are in the middle of that, between not doing it [customising applications] at all and mucking around with the source code."

Four ISVs -- Epicor Software, NetIQ, CI Technologies, and Marlborough Stirling -- have signed on as early adopters for VSA, as well as Great Plains Software, an ERP (enterprise resource planning) software vendor Microsoft acquired in December, Green said.

"With VSA you really just focus on the code you write to customise your business logic," Green said. "You don't have to know how the application is put together."

According to Green, the new tool will provide a run-time environment that will be embedded into middle-tier business logic. The code-editing environment will be based on the Visual Studio.NET environment.

Microsoft will release the first beta of VSA in the northern spring, when the second beta version of Visual Studio.NET is released, Green said. Microsoft officials said they hope to ship the final versions of both VSA and Visual Studio.NET sometime in the second half of the year.

The initial release of VSA will only support Visual Basic. Microsoft will add support for other Visual Studio.NET programming languages later, Green said.

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