The Differences of ASP.NET Core and .NET eCommerce Platform

When choosing an ecommerce platform for your business, it's important to research the technology stack on which the platform is built. In most cases, the choice will be between the Microsoft .NET stack and various versions of PHP or Java/JavaScript.
Business owners need to know the differences in programming stacks and technologies in order to hire the right number of developers for their ecommerce IT team. Every retail or manufacturing business has its unique features and business processes, so they’ll need a team to customize and maintain the online store solution.
What Is a Framework for Developers?

When it comes to software development, you’ll always hear the word “framework” being referenced. In today’s fast-paced environment, technology is evolving rapidly: new websites, applications, and software of all kinds are created every minute. Developers use frameworks to speed up the work on these projects.

Microsoft ASP. net platform

A framework is a set of software products that simplifies the creation and support of technically complex or loaded projects. These foundational elements contain only the most basic program modules, so all specific, customized components are implemented by programmers, according to their specifications. This highly accelerates the development speed.

If frameworks did not exist, each site would take a long time for it to be created. Having this foundational structure allows you to connect to different types of databases without immersing yourself in their specifics. A framework offers ready-made solutions for working with the file system, along with tools for optimization and acceleration of the application.

Let's list the main benefits of using frameworks:

  1. Easy troubleshooting and debugging process
    In addition to reducing your work, frameworks simplify software debugging and maintenance. The debugging process involves running the code step by step to find the point at which an error was made when writing the program. Some frameworks have their own internal code-testing system, which allows programmers to run a module and perform tests at the same time. This enables you to invest time in testing rather than fixing errors.
  2. Increased code efficiency
    Frameworks also promote code reuse, which in turn increases code efficiency. To avoid writing complex frameworks containing hundreds of lines of code from scratch, it is possible to refer to the platform base. Using this method, the developer gets a code sample to which it is easy to make changes and apply additional functions. You can also create your own code sample to use in future projects.
  3. Accelerated development
    Comprehensive frameworks contain basic program modules, libraries, a user-friendly interface, flexible coding environment, and other features that simplify the work. Developers don't have to worry about anonymizing data, session management, error handling, authentication, or other common concerns. The framework software handles most of these functions automatically. This allows the programmer to start writing code immediately, without being distracted by other tasks.
Analyzing all the advantages, the framework does most of the developer’s work. For example, developers do not need to think about how to write data to the file, they just call up a method that solves this task.

How the Atomic Architecture™ Framework Helps Virto Commerce Developers

Considering the general benefits for developers outlined above and a number of interesting features that will be discussed later in this article, we at Virto DevLabs have chosen .NET 6 and ASP.NET Core as the atoms of Virto Atomic Architecture™.

Virto Commerce atomic architecture scheme

Virto Atomic Architecture™ is the framework on which our ecommerce platform is built. If you want to learn more about this architecture, we invite you to read the posts in our blog:

What Is Virto Atomic Architecture™?
Reusing and Recomposing as Key Benefits of Virto Atomic Architecture™
Replatforming and Adaptability Features of Virto Commerce Platform for Developers

For people who want more technical details, I recommend my post in the Virto community, which is full of links to technical docs from Virto and Microsoft:

Virto Commerce Atomic Architecture In Action


Virto Atomic Architecture™ benefits your business

through the efficacy of your developers.

Instead of wasting time on architectural issues

they can stay focused on business tasks.

How are .NET and ASP.NET Core foundational structures in Virto’s Atomic Architecture™? As described in the Virto Commerce Atomic Architecture In Action post, atoms form the basic building blocks of the Virto Commerce architecture.

First, atoms include patterns as architectural approaches, such as modularity or dependency injection. Second, the atoms layer also accommodates third-party frameworks and components, with .NET being the bedrock of such frameworks—all modules are created in this base. And finally, there are software components that we ourselves built.

The Scope of ASP.NET Core (former ASP.NET)

Let’s assume you need to build a website with a database at its back end, and are looking for a good tool to use. There is ASP.NET Core and there are competitors—you can build web applications using Java, Spring, PHP, Laravel, Python or Python with Flask, JavaScript with NodeJS, and so on.

What is the difference and why might you prefer to use ASP.NET Core? The answer is simple: ASP.NET Core gives you a tool to create enterprise-level applications. More importantly, this framework is not only to build apps for the big brands. With Microsoft C# and ASP.NET Core, you can build web applications for your startup too.


The scope of ASP.net Core
ASP.NET Core and ASP.NET were highly rated

within the Top 10 most loved web frameworks in the

Stack Overflow 2021 developer survey. 

Forward-thinking businesses should understand that, for projects in ecommerce, continuity of development tools is important. Hot trends for development tools change quickly. Your ecommerce web site, on the other hand, should be built to live for at least ten years, and should be maintained and updated all that time—meaning, you must be sure that you will find both developers and software in ten years. And here is where Microsoft significantly outperforms the competition: ASP.NET has been around since 2001 and is continually evolving.

What is the difference between ASP.NET Core and ASP.NET?

These are versions of the same framework.

ASP.NET is an outdated version, requiring the Microsoft IIS server

to run your web application.Since 2016, ASP.NET Core inherited ASP.NET

as a free and open-source cross-platform

web framework and successor to ASP.NET.
 

Use the following scheme when comparing ASP.NET Core and ASP.NET:

  1. Does the technology have ASP or ASP.NET in its name? If yes, it means the technology is related to the WEB. If it's just "ASP", most likely .NET was simply forgotten to be added, because ASP technology is very old and is no longer used.
  2. Does the name of the technology have Core in it? If yes, then the program has cross-platform technology based on the .NET framework. If the name of the technology contains framework or simply does not contain the word Core, then most likely this means it is using the .NET framework, running only on Windows.
  3. Does the name of the technology include MVC? If yes, then the Model-View-Controller splitting pattern is applied. If not, they either somehow managed without it, or they abbreviated part of the acronym, believing that everyone would guess anyway.
At the time of this writing, the current version was .NET 6,

which includes ASP.NET Core 6.

This framework will be supported by Microsoft till mid-2024.

Understanding All Parts of The ASP.NET Core Term

ASP.NET Core: Let's decipher each part of that term to clarify your understanding of Microsoft technology.

  • ASP stands for active server pages. It's kind of a leftover term from earlier technologies in the 2000s, but they still keep ASP in the name.
  • .NET is Microsoft's solution to develop software of all kinds, available since 2001. It's a run-time environment where you can create applications for multiple platforms, including web applications.
  • The word Core is somewhat new and unique to Microsoft. Core is a special term that refers to the open-source version of Microsoft’s web development kit. It has cross-platform technology, so you can run your web applications on any server, whether it's Linux, Windows, or Mac.

As mentioned, ASP.NET Core is Microsoft's solution to developing web software and is a part of .NET. In turn, .NET is a unified platform, enabling you to build almost anything in software—desktop applications, web applications, hosting on the cloud, creating apps in mobile, gaming, Internet of things (IoT), and artificial intelligence (AI).

Microsoft is a very powerful player in software development

and .NET is its open-source, cross-platform

development solution for building applications. 

ASP.NET Core is an end-to-end solution, meaning it runs the back end and the front end. This is why ASP.NET Core is also called a full-stack environment, containing a back-end database, business logic as its middleware, and HTML as the front end.

ASP.NET Core can be combined with popular front-end JavaScript programming languages like React, Angular, and Vue or a mobile application.

.NET at a Glance

Created by Microsoft, .NET is an open-source developer platform useful for building a plethora of applications. One important consideration is that .NET is free to use for any developer.

If you want to learn about .NET in greater detail, we recommend this comprehensive article, Announcing .NET 6 — The Fastest .NET Yet. It includes a huge number of links to Microsoft's clarifying documents. However, this article was written mainly for developers, so frankly, business people won't understand much there.

.Net - unified development platform

Let me comment on this diagram from Microsoft, outlining what components are included in .NET using Virto Commerce developers as an example.

.NET Common Base Libraries/APIs have been chosen as our main platform framework on which our ecommerce platform is written. Now let's go left to right and talk about these .NET components.

  • ASP.NET Core is a framework with a .NET component for creating web applications. Blazor is a tool or service that enables you to create rich, interactive UIs using C# rather than JavaScript. It also allows for the sharing of server-side and client-side applications logic between both environments with .NET. The power behind Blazor lies in its ability to break down traditional limitations imposed by today's internet browsers, thus paving the way for more complex apps.

  • Desktop Windows Forms (WinForms) is a UI tool that allows developers to create native Windows desktop applications with .NET wrappers over user interface libraries such as User32 and GDI+. WinForms also offers controls specifically for use within the context of this particular type or style guide. Currently, the Virto developers do not use desktop tools, as we’ve switched our attention to cloud development.

  • Mobile .NET Multi-Platform App UI (.NET MAUI) enables you to build apps that perform great on any device running Windows, macOS, or iOS from a single code base. Coupled with Visual Studio productivity tools and emulators, it significantly speeds up the development process of building modern workloads targeted toward all major platforms including Android and iOS. Virto developers are always ready to help clients who want to integrate their mobile apps with Virto Commerce.

  • IoT, the .NET libraries available for IoT devices and scenarios, allows developers to write applications that interact with sensors, displays, and input devices. These capabilities are provided on top of features like GPIO pins or serial ports. This enables them in building powerful software solutions tailored specifically toward interacting with physical world objects via IoT connections. In ecommerce, for example, these are mainly warehouse sensors and barcode scanners. Azure Functions service is great for IoT signal processing in an ecommerce solution.

  • AI (Machine Learning for .NET) is a cross-platform, open-source, machine learning (ML) framework for .NET. It allows the development of custom AI models in applications such as Windows and MacOS, by creating them with minimal knowledge about ML model development, or previous experience in tools like Python or R, to build, train, develop, and evaluate results. The platform provides data load from files and databases, enables transformations, and includes many ML-based methods. Our Virto Professional Service team has experience integrating Azure ML services with the Virto Commerce platform.

Would you like to learn more about ML? Read our post AI in eCommerce: Challenges & Solutions. How to Use Machine Learning in eCommerce.

Now let’s talk about application development services, which Microsoft calls “the ecosystem.”

  • NuGet is the code-sharing mechanism supported by Microsoft for .NET, which defines how to create, host, and use .NET applications and provides tools for each of them. The mechanism by which programmers can create and share code with others is an important tool for any modern development platform. Occasionally this code is distributed in "packages", which includes compiled code (in the form of DLLs) and other required information on the projects for those who work on them.

  • GitHub is a cloud-based service and platform that helps developers store code, as well as track and control changes to code. GitHub works by way of two principles:
    1. Version control
    2.
    Git

Version control helps developers manage changes to an application's code, as well as track and manage changes in software projects. When the development of software projects grows, version control is important. The Git is a specific open-source version control system invented by Linus Torvalds. With GitHub, you have the possibility of accessing all codebase and history on every developer’s computer, allowing easy branching and merging.

Feel free to use Virto Commerce’s repository in GitHub.

  • Components, tools, and library are simply references to the presence of related services that developers use in .NET. These are identification and authorization services, etc.

The last column is the .NET integrated development environment (IDE). This means software applications that provide comprehensive facilities to computer programmers for software development. This consists of a program that provides complete resources and support in the field of software development. At the moment, an IDE is normally composed of source code editor and build-automation tools, as well as a debugger and intelligent code completion.

  • Visual Studio, Visual Studio for Mac, and Visual Studio Code. The first two create an integrated environment for Windows and Mac that provides tools and services to develop apps for desktops, mobile devices, and the cloud. Visual Studio is a suite of component-based software development tools. On the other hand, Visual Studio Code is Microsoft’s version of Sublime code editor.

  • .NET CLI (Command Line Interface) is a cross-platform toolchain for developing, building, running, and publishing .NET applications. The .NET Command Line Interface is included in the SDK for .NET. The CLI works with the dotnet command and performs two functions. It provides commands to work with .NET projects and it runs .NET applications. For example, the dotnet build command builds the project.

After reading this post, you now have a good understanding of the inner workings of .NET—at least, better than most people who are not developers. To consolidate the success of your new knowledge, take a look at the FAQs section.

Cross-Platform Development in .NET with Xamarin

Xamarin is a tool for creating applications in the .NET family of languages (C#, F#, Visual Basic), which allows you to create a single code that runs in Android, iOS, and Windows.

Imagine yourself as a developer given the following cross-platform development task:

  • Create an iOS app that works on the iPad;
  • Develop the same application with extended functionality for Windows 10;
  • Allow updates to both apps simultaneously or separately; and
  • Make the applications as flexible, supportable, and extensible as possible.

Creating several applications is not the right decision in this case. It would be more productive to develop a single code base for two platforms with the ability to add individual functionality where needed. Consider the technology stack: C# to be chosen as the programming language, and Xamarin.Forms as a tool for cross-platform development.

A frequent question is whether it is necessary to choose one platform as a priority and another as a catch-up. During development, it is desirable to avoid refactoring of all visual components. Therefore, the development of a cross-platform project should be done in parallel on all intended platforms.

Summary

Choosing .NET for your ecommerce solution is still a good choice in the 2020s because Microsoft has refined it to near perfection since its first release in 2002. The .NET platform includes the ASP.NET Core web application development framework, Azure cloud services, mobile application development frameworks, desktop, and IoT tools.

The powerful AI capability allows you to add Azure Cognitive Search to your ecommerce solution and use Azure Machine Learning Studio to build predictive models for sales, margins, discounts, and other ecommerce metrics.

The Visual Studio development environment provides powerful development tools integrated with cloud services to create any modern application.

All these tools give developers advanced environments, cloud infrastructures, APIs, and tools for building a rich user experience over diverse content in web, mobile, and enterprise ecommerce applications.

FAQs

What is the difference between .NET, .NET Core, and .NET Framework?

These are different versions of the same development platform. The .NET Framework is a very old platform that runs only on Windows. The .NET Core is a newer platform that can run on both Windows and Linux. Starting with version 5, .NET Core has been renamed to just .NET with a version number. And only the ASP.NET Core framework for creating web applications has the “Core” prefix. Admittedly, Microsoft has a rather complicated history of naming the same product from version to version, so it is not surprising that many people find this confusing.

Why did Microsoft invent ASP?

About 1997, there was a big change from desktop-centric computing to web-centric computing with Java. So, Microsoft invented active server pages for web-based applications. At that time, only Microsoft Internet Explorer could display active content of web pages. In 2002, Microsoft provided ASP.NET framework to compete with Sun’s Java Platform. ASP.NET is very similar to Java as a language that could be written on one platform and executed on any platform. This is the evolution of ASP.NET replacing ASP technology.

Is .NET a programming language?

In fact, .NET is not a language, but a development solution. The .NET consists of a run-time engine and libraries for executing programs in a compliant language. For example, C# is one language used in the platform.

What are the .NET programming languages?

You can write .NET apps in C#, F#, or Visual Basic, which are all ready-to-use in Microsoft Development Studio. These are three so-called .NET languages, but you can also use another programming language in .NET if you have a favorite.

How many languages are supported in .NET?

C# is one language and by far the most popular language among .NET developers. Generally speaking. .NET is language-neutral framework that supports more than 20 platforms, including C#, C++, VB, F#, Java/J++, Ruby, Python, etc.

What is a dynamic ASP.NET page?

An ASP.NET page is a web page containing a mix of HTML markup and dynamic ASP markup called Razor. An ASP.NET runs on the server, updating the dynamic ASP elements to display a final HTML page. Every time you click on an item on a web page, you get a custom version just for you. It is hooking up to a database and showing information in a dynamic mode so that this is an end-to-end solution.
 
What is ASP.NET Web Forms?
Web Forms is an outdated version of ASP.NET (2002). But for the time being, it is a giant layer of abstraction designed to provide a classic event-driven graphical user interface through a web environment. The idea was to make web development look like development using Windows Forms for desktop applications. Developers no longer had to deal with sequences of independent HTTP requests and responses. They could think in terms of a user interface that supported the state. Meanwhile, Microsoft had the opportunity to migrate the army of Windows desktop application developers into the new world of web applications.
 

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Oleg Zhuk
Technical Product Owner