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Exploring the .NET Execution Engine (DNX)

Posted by Sandeep Chanda on Aug 31, 2015

The Microsoft .NET team has lately been putting forth a great deal of effort to increase the footprint of the .NET Framework in the world of building cross platform and open sourced applications. The .NET Execution Engine (DNX) is the result of such effort. It is a cross-platform open source software development kit that hosts the .NET Core and the runtime to effortlessly run .NET applications in Windows, Mac, and Linux based systems. The behaviour is not altered nor is the functionality reduced if you migrate your applications from one platform to another, making your applications universal and platform agnostic. The SDK was built primarily targeting ASP.NET 5 applications, however it can run any .NET based application like a console app.

The engine completely takes care of the bootstrapping aspects of running a .NET application making it extremely easy for you to develop one application that can run with equal ease on all the three main operating systems. In addition, the engine also leverages the package management benefits of NuGet, thereby allowing you to build and distribute modules easily and efficiently. It can not only automatically cross compile the packages for each environment, but can also output NuGet packages for distribution. It also allows runtime edit of the source and in-memory compilation to let you switch dependencies without having to re-compile the entire application.

Unlike the older versions of .NET applications, that use XML based project and solution files, the DNX projects are simply a folder with a project.json file. The folder contains the necessary artefacts and the JSON file has the project metadata, dependencies and target framework information. It is all you need to run the application (other than the application configuration files and binaries, of course).



This also makes versioning of dependencies pretty easy. The dependencies are referenced in projects using a global.json file that remains at the solution level. The project JSON configuration file also supports commands that you can use to execute a .NET entry point with arguments. For example, Hosting command to host the application in web is a configuration entry in your project.json file. You can also distribute commands using NuGet and then using the engine to universally load them in a machine.

TAGS:

JSON, modules, open source software, ASP.NET APPLICATION, SDKs, cross platform development, .NET Core 5


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