.NET Core vs .NET Framework
Microsoft .NET is a software development language used to develop applications and exists in two main forms: .NET core and .NET framework. Both frameworks are very similar but they have key differences and advantages. This resource will give you an overview of each and provide a list of key differentiators between .NET core vs .NET framework.
What is .NET framework?
.NET framework is the original .NET software used for the development of server-side applications. Since it’s original release in 2002 it has been updated regularly to keep up with the pace of change in software development. .NET framework is supported mainly by Windows in the UWP, WPF, and ASP.NET MVC forms.
What is .NET Heart?
.NET Core was released in June 2016. It’s main purpose was to make .NET framework functional across different operating systems such as Mac and Linux. This cross-platform capability is the key difference between .NET core vs .NET framework, however, there are some other subtle differences that are outlined below.
Unlike .NET Framework, .NET Core is both open source and cross-platform. It further comes with several new features to simplify the development and testing of desktop, web, cloud, and mobile applications. Also, it allows developers to deploy applications in a number of ways. But .NET Core does not support all features and functionalities of .NET Framework. Hence, it becomes essential for developers to understand the major differences between .NET Framework and .NET Core before switching to the most recent version of the popular software framework.
Understanding Major Differences between .NET Core and .NET Framework
- Open Source: .NET Framework was released as a licensed and proprietary software framework. Microsoft subsequently made certain components of the .NET Framework open-source. But the company has released .NET Core as an open-source software framework. Hence, both enterprise and individual developers can build apps with .NET Core without paying any licensing fees.
- Cross-Platform: .NET Framework enables developers to build applications for a single platform — Windows. But .NET Core is cross-platform and supports three distinct operating systems — Windows, OS X, and Linux. The compatibility makes it easier for developers to build cross-platform applications, and port their existing applications from one platform to another.
- Installation: The .NET Framework needs to be installed as a single package and runtime environment for Windows. But .NET Core is cross-platform and needs to be packaged and installed independently of the underlying operating system. The developers are required to compile Nuget packages included in .NET Core. Also, they can compile the Nuget packages directly into the application or place them in a folder inside the application.
- Modular Collection of Libraries: Both .NET Framework and .NET Core allows developers to take advantage of robust class libraries. But .NET Core uses a redesigned common language runtime called CoreCLR and features a modular collection of libraries called CoreFX. Hence, the developers have the option to pick and use only the libraries required by each application and enhance the application’s performance by removing unnecessary libraries.
- Application Models: .NET Framework and .NET Core differs from each other in the category of application models. The application model of the .NET Framework includes Windows Forms, ASP.NET, and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). On the other hand, the application model of .NET Core includes ASP.NET Core and Windows Universal Apps.
- Standard Library: As a formal specification of .NET APIs, the .NET Standard Library meets the requirements of varying runtimes and maintains uniformity in the .NET ecosystem. Each version of .NET Framework uses a specific version of .NET Standard Library. For instance, .NET Framework 4.6 implemented the .NET Standard Library 1.3, whereas .NET Framework 4.6 2 implemented the .NET Standard Library 1.5.But .NET Core implements version 1.6 of the .NET Standard Library.
- ASP.NET: While using web applications with .NET Framework, the developers have the option to use a robust web application framework like ASP.NET. But .NET Core comes with a redesigned version of ASP.NET. The developers can now use ASP.NET Core to build both web and cloud applications. In addition to being open-source, ASP.NET Core is also available on three distinct platforms — Windows, OS X, and Linux.
- Deployment Options: While using the .NET Framework, developers have to deploy web applications only on Internet Information Server. But the web applications developed with ASP.NET Core can be hosted in a number of ways. The developers can deploy the ASP.NET Core applications directly in the cloud or self-host the application by creating their own hosting process.
- Cloud-Ready Configuration: Unlike .NET Framework, .NET Core is designed with features to simplify the development and deployment of cloud-based applications. The developers can use ASP.NET to build a variety of cloud-based applications rapidly. Also, they can publish the applications directly to the cloud by availing the cloud-ready configuration included in ASP.NET Core.
- Mobile App Development: .NET Framework does not include any robust framework or tools to simplify mobile app development. But .NET Core compatible with Xamarin through the .NET Standard Library. Hence, developers can take advantage of Xamarin to write cross-platform mobile apps in C# with a shared code base and the same set of APIs. They can further use the tools provided by Xamarin to customize the mobile app for individual mobile platforms like iOS, Android and Windows Phone.
- Microservices: Unlike the .NET Framework, .NET Core makes it easier for developers to build microservice oriented systems rapidly. As such systems include a number of independent and dynamic microservices, the developers have to focus on individual microservices. .NET Core enables programmers to develop custom microservices by using varying programming languages, technologies, and frameworks. Also, the developers can build a robust system by combining multiple microservices seamlessly.
- Performance and Scalability: .NET Core is more effective than .NET Framework to enhance the performance and scalability of applications. It enables developers to enhance the performance of applications drastically without deploying additional hardware or infrastructure. Also, it allows developers to build, test and deploy applications directly in the cloud. Hence, the developers can switch to .NET Core to enhance the performance and scalability of their applications without putting extra time and effort.
- Compatibility: .NET Core does not support all the features and functionalities provided by the latest version of .NET Framework. But it can be used as a subset of the .NET Framework. Also, .NET Core is still compatible with .NET Framework through the .NET Standard Library. Hence, the developers can still run the applications developed with .NET Framework after upgrading to .NET Core.
While the choice between .NET Core vs .NET Framework essentially depends upon the type of application to be built and the platform on which it is to be built, there are many factors that must be considered before choosing a framework for your next web development project. A few of these factors are discussed in the blog.
When to choose .NET Core?
Now that we have a clear idea about the core advantages of .NET Framework and .NET Core, we need to understand for which development tasks they are ideal. Here are the key scenarios where .NET Core is as an ideal technology.
- Cross-platform needs: If you are building a new application that needs to run across several leading OS platforms including Windows, Linux, and macOS, .NET Core is the appropriate technology.
- Flexibility to use tools: .NET Core is a cross-platform technology and has the support of Visual Basic, which runs on macOS, Linux, and Windows and offers editing tools like IntelliSense and debugging. Apart from this, you have an array of third-party editors like Sublime, Emacs, and VI that will work with .NET Core. You can skip any of these code editors and use the .NET Core CLI tools directly on all OS platforms.
- Microservices architecture: If your application needs support for a microservices architecture, .NET Core is the way to go. .NET Core allows you to work with all microservices built with various languages such as Java, Ruby, .NET Framework and others.
- Performance and scalability are the priorities: When you need to build a highly scalable application with minimal performance glitches, .NET Core is the ideal technology. .NET Core offers extremely fast-paced and high-performance server runtime for both Windows Server and Linux.
- Building apps with .NET dependencies: Apart from all the above instances when you need to build an app with dependencies on various .NET versions, the .NET core comes as the right technology choice. It addresses the performance issues while lowering risks and saving money for app upgrades as well as IT operations.
When to choose .NET Framework?
In spite of the long list of benefits that .NET Core offers for application developers, .NET Framework is the natural choice for various development scenarios. Still, most developers are reluctant to replace the .NET Framework with .NET Core for all the server-side application development projects.
Let us explain some scenarios and contexts where .NET Framework is the ideal choice.
- Using Third-Party Libraries: When your app needs to use third-party .NET libraries or the NuGet packages that are not yet available for .NET Core, .NET Framework is an ideal choice.
- Larger API surface: .NET Framework compatibility mode can utilize .NET Standard/.NET Core projects as reference .NET Framework libraries. This helps the .NET Framework application take advantage of a larger API surface.
- Use of .NET technologies not available with .NET Core: There are several .NET technologies that are still not available for .NET Core, and your project may find them essential. Some of these technologies include ASP.NET Web Forms applications, ASP.NET Web Pages applications, Workflow-related services, WCF services implementation, etc. These technologies are available with the .NET Framework applications.
When it comes to .NET Core, it is definitive that for the next decade or so, the latest and greatest features will appear on this platform. However, the .NET Framework will give you a stable platform to build a robust application, which may be behind the .NET Core in terms of cutting edge features and innovations.
So, basically, it’s not so easy to pick one amongst the two formidable frameworks. It all depends upon your project requirements, whether to go ahead with .NET Core or .NET Framework.