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12/5/2007
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Microsoft's Volta Brings .NET To The Web

The technology lets developers design apps in common Microsoft languages and repurpose them for the Web with a few clicks late in the development process.

Microsoft wants it to be easier for developers to write Web apps. On Wednesday, the company released a preview of a technology called Volta through Microsoft Live Labs that extends the skills of .NET developers to the Web and makes it easier to partition client-server code.

Instead of having to write separate code to tell different parts of an application to run as part of the Web app in the browser or to run on a server on the back-end, Volta -- an add-on to Visual Studio 2008 -- allows developers to click on menu items that pre-populate boilerplate communication code for them.

Volta uses Microsoft Intermediate Language (MSIL). That means developers can use common Microsoft languages like C# and Visual Basic, as well as Microsoft's implementations of Ruby, for example, so developers can code as if they were designing a .NET client application and adjust it for the Web with a few clicks late in the development process. That could bring multi-tier programming to more people, including making it easier for corporate IT developers versed in .NET to create Web apps.

"The idea is that you start out building your application, focusing on the functionality, the look and feel, until you're satisfied with it and then you repurpose it into an AJAX application or whatever," Erik Meijer, Volta's principal architect and a member of Microsoft's SQL Server team, said in an interview. "You incrementally morph a standard client-only application into a Web application. The programmer specifies the intent and then we're going to insert all the necessary code to do the 'how.'"

Apps written with Volta can be debugged from within Visual Studio, something that's not always easy for multi-tier apps that run across client and server. "One of the unique opportunities provided for us is to debug across different forms of code, whether client or server," Alex Daley, Microsoft's group product manager for Live Labs, said in an interview. Volta, meanwhile, can also instrument code so developers can collect information on performance from Microsoft Service Trace Viewer.

As with other Live Labs products, there are no public plans to productize Volta, according to the company. Meijer is also the developer of LINQ, a technology to simplify programming against a database, support for which is now being built into Visual Studio and Silverlight.

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