What is .NET Framework?

.NET Framework is a software framework developed by Microsoft, which significantly simplifies software development. It includes a large class library known as Framework Class Library (FCL) and provides language interoperability across several programming languages, which means each one of them can use code written in any of other languages. Programs written for .NET Framework execute in a software environment, known as Common Language Runtime (CLR), an application virtual machine. This unified framework offers a number of benefits to developers including code reuse, simplified debugging, and improved security. FCL and CLR together constitute .NET Framework.

Design principles of .NET Framework

.NET Framework was designed with certain principles in mind, which took into account knowledge and experience of past decades of software development.

  • Interoperability. Computer systems often require interaction between new and old applications and .NET Framework provides means to use functionality implemented in newer and older programs that execute outside .NET environment.

  • Language independence. .NET Framework introduced a Common Type System (CTS) that defines all possible data types and programming constructs supported by CLR and how they interact with each. Because of this feature, .NET Framework supports the exchange of types and object instances between dynamic libraries written using different .NET compatible languages.

  • Portability. While Microsoft didn't develop .NET Framework itself to be cross-platform, open specification of Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) made it possible to implement it on different platforms.

  • Security. Security was one of the main concerns in previous generation of software development platforms and .NET Framework has introduced its own security mechanism.

  • Memory management. CLR frees the developer from the burden of memory management; it handles memory with such tool as Garbage Collector by detecting when memory can be safely freed.

  • Performance. While smart memory management introduced some performance overhead, Microsoft made significant effort to bring performance of its framework close to performance of applications written with "native" programming code.

.NET Framework component stack

.NET Framework component stack

Image source: Wikipedia.org

Latest major version by the end of 2015 is .NET Framework 4.6.

Short answer

  • .NET Framework is a large software framework, which significantly simplifies software development.
  • It has advanced and sophisticated architecture, which took into account knowledge and experience of past of software development.
  • It has a lot of benefits and components for modern software development.