.NET Framework vs .NET Core: What to Choose for Your Project
<p>Microsoft’s .NET is the go-to for enterprise software development. However, whether you should use .NET Framework or .NET Core still remains a question.</p>
Microsoft’s .NET is the go-to for enterprise software development. Original framework research will help you determine whether you should use .NET Framework or .NET Core.
Quick Introduction to .NET
Before starting the comparative analysis of .NET Framework vs .NET Core we need to understand what this technology is. It is a platform created by Microsoft for full-cycle software development. It provides tools and libraries to make this process more efficient.
Both runtimes share a common API called .NET Standard and support libraries in Visual Basic, F#, and C#. The latter makes the learning curve more manageable for developers who already use this programming language.
Originally .NET Framework was intended for Windows only. However, with introduction of other frameworks, it supports all of the most popular platforms such as macOS, Linux, and mobile operating systems. More on that later.
What unites all the different runtimes of this platform are the four architectural components. This is what makes this stack consistent. They are, as follows:
- Common language specifications (CLS) make sure that objects work across all platforms.
- Framework class library (FCL) collects reusable classes, value types, and interfaces.
- Common language runtime (CLR) is a virtual machine that manages the execution of all programs and runs the framework.
- Tools for the development of standalone apps across different platforms.
This framework has been a mainstay of the software development landscape ever since the late 1990s. For the longest time, it has been regularly improved with new features while retaining the wealth of existing ones. However, the latest 4.8 version is supposed to be the last iteration with no future plans for updates. You can interpret this in two ways: either the framework has run its course or it has reached a comfortable balance that allows the team to focus on other technologies.
By itself, this runtime environment only supports the development of web services and apps for Windows. The former uses the open-source ASP.NET MVC (model-view-controller). The latter has more options:
Two main components of the framework are common language runtime and an extensive class library. CLR is an engine that executes all of the programs and provides memory management. Respectively, an extensive class library is a collection of reliable and reusable code components that any developer can use.
By its nature, .NET is a powerful object-oriented environment. It’s easy to understand and use. However, it is closed-source, which drove many developers to migrate to other platforms. In response, Microsoft has created .NET Core to provide an open-source alternative for its framework.
The strong sides of this platform:
- Memory management
- Type and memory safety
- App deployment
- Data structures
When to choose this technology:
- A time-sensitive project which does not allow for learning a new technology.
- You are working on a project already using .NET Framework.
- Desktop development for Windows.
- A stable and mature environment is key to the project.
- Changes or updates to the framework can undo your work.
- Existing expertise with this technology.
.NET Core is considered by many to be a direct upgrade of the .NET Framework. It is gradually growing and improving its features while still maintaining a solid time-proven base. According to Google Trends, it’s the more popular of the two as well. Microsoft has also stated that it sees this platform as the future of their technology stack.
Unlike its predecessor, Core is a cross-platform framework that works well with Windows, Mac, and Linux. It has multiple APIs and components that allow the migration of web apps to this platform. The creation of web applications is done on ASP.NET Core while UWP handles desktop and mobile development.
Even though there are some differences and difficulties, the two frameworks can also work together and share elements of code.
When to choose this technology:
- Cross-platform development
- Scalability is essential
- The software has to be containerized
- Dependencies on different versions of .NET
- Have time to learn a new technology
- Your project includes a microservice-based system
.NET Framework vs .NET Core Comparison
.NET Framework is, as the name suggests, a framework. It allows you to create applications with all of their components and features. Database connectivity, APIs, and user interface are among them.
.NET Core is a platform on top of which the frameworks such as ASP.NET Core and Universal Windows Platform (UWP) function.
As mentioned before, only Core provides the functionality to develop for different platforms. Even those are still on desktops (Windows, macOS, Linux). For mobile, you shouldn’t use either and adopt Xamarin.
The creation and deployment of microservices are only supported by .NET Core. This allows you to use elements from other programming languages and mix technologies.
Packaging and Deployment
.NET Framework comes as a complete bundle with all of the libraries already included. This makes the setup somewhat quicker but less flexible.
The Core runtime has a modular approach. You can install the packages you require and leave the rest. Your projects will automatically be updated without any risk of version incompatibility.
Performance and Stability
Generally speaking, .NET Core simply runs better. It is more stable and doesn’t require as many hardware resources. An automatic recompilation feature makes the coding process more efficient while also improving its performance.
The performance of .NET Framework applications can somewhat lag in comparison especially on the first launch. However, the image is cached into the Native Image Cache making the subsequent launches quicker.
What About Xamarin?
In hopes of expanding its reach in the software development market, Microsoft realized that it needed to support mobile and cross-platform development. As a result, they have acquired the subsidiaries that have showed promise. Among them are the mature Mono and subsequently Xamarin with their eponymous framework. If you need to build a mobile app on C#, it’s the option for you. It shares code across all of the other .NET platforms. This makes Xamarin easy to adopt and helps you save on engineering costs. To learn more about this and other similar solutions check out our article on the realities of cross-platform development.
The Relevance Research
To back up the facts in this article original research was conducted. It determines and illustrates which technology is more widely used and relevant in the current software development landscape. As the criteria of the analysis, this research takes into account the number of repositories, projects, and open job positions available.
A high number of repositories means that developers are actively using any given framework for projects, personal and otherwise. The best place to gather that data is undoubtedly GitHub. It has the largest collection of repositories after all. Open job positions indicate the need for developers with expertise in a particular stack. The more of them are open, the more sought after these specialists are. Services such as Upwork and Indeed, both of which were analyzed in this research, paint a picture of how popular each one of these frameworks is.
In order to track relevance, an analysis of all of the frameworks available on each respective platform was made. These statistics allowed us to make a ranking from 18 to 1 according to the number of open repositories on GitHub. After that, a similar analysis with the number of open job positions on Upwork in the USA that require knowledge of the frameworks has been conducted. Based on this, the framework with the largest number of hits takes the first place in the ranking and so on until the least popular one taking the 18th. Using the same process the employment search platform Indeed was also covered. The last criterium was the global ranking. It needs to be pointed out that the field this research didn’t include environments made exclusively for web or mobile development and provided wider functionality similar to .NET.
By analyzing these platforms and comparing them to the other technologies, there has been a noticeable trend of the top most used frameworks in the respective fields. Rounding up the results, by March of 2020 on GitHub, both .NET Framework and .NET Core take the top 4th and 10th positions in the worldwide rating. However, the former has substantially more open repositories than the later with 13,783 against 2,898. That makes sense since one is more mature than the other.
The analysis of the job listings websites has returned even more favorable results. Upwork has .NET Framework at the second place in the relevancy of positions, while .NET Core takes the 4th place. Indeed has them at numbers 6 and 8 respectively. Notably, Xamarin also entered the top 10 on Upwork.
There is a chance that one day this .NET Framework vs .NET Core debate will be settled once and for all. Microsoft has expressed the desire to merge their best qualities along with Xamarin and Mono under a single runtime and framework. But before that happens, there still is an argument to be made in favor of choosing one technology over the other.
Both technologies are incredible for enterprise software. If possible, acquire expertise in both of them. Digital Skynet has experience backed by more than 50 projects. Whether you need someone to develop new enterprise software or improve your existing infrastructure, you can always count on us.