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Microsoft award winner: .NET proves its value

Eric B. Parizo, Executive Editor

Microsoft Corp. may have been coyly lauding its own products when it recently announced the winners of its .NET Best Awards, a new competition to recognize XML Web services developers, but one winning company has discovered that development advantages offered by .NET are their own rewards.

Storage Point Corp., a San Diego-based provider of online backup and storage services for businesses, won the award for best .NET tool or utility. It was one of seven organizations recognized by Microsoft.

Storage Point's .NET Web service allows third-party software developers to add Storage Point storage services to their applications.

Scott Zimmerman, chief executive officer of Storage Point, said that to be considered for an award, an organization had to demonstrate that it had built a Web service based on .NET, registered it with Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI), supported full Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and Web Services Description Language (WSDL) specifications and offered a high value proposition for end users.

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Other winners of Microsoft's .NET Best Awards included At Global Inc., OakLeaf Systems, Sandvik Coromant, Rila Solutions, InterKnowlogy LLC, Ateneo de Manila University. The contest was skills-based and open to XML application developers and architects who have developed an XML web service, but not necessarily with Microsoft technology.
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"Say you're building an enterprise application for a Fortune 500 company and you want, but don't necessarily want to worry about developing scalable back-end storage," Zimmerman said. "You can have your application talk to our application, and it takes a big load off your shoulders."

In order to build the Web service, Zimmerman said his company had to "start from scratch" by redeveloping the C++ Storage Point application in C#, the programming language at the heart of the .NET platform.

Though it was an expansive undertaking that kept about 10 developers busy for more than a year, Zimmerman said that the redevelopment effort allowed his company to build its Web service and quickly build in additional functionality when it was necessary.

For example, Zimmerman said moving to .NET allowed his company to incorporate support for WebDAV, a standard for collaborative editing and file management on the Internet, to its application.

"This protocol is built into a number of new applications by Xerox, Adobe and IBM," Zimmerman said. "It allows users of our service to open up Windows Explorer and drag and drop their files into their Storage Point account, or open a document in Storage Point in Word or Excel."

C# allowed Zimmerman's developers to take advantage of managed code, which simplifies memory management. He said that Web services server applications usually need to be available 24x7, and managed code increases the likelihood that memory allocation will be performed correctly, without server-crashing memory leaks.

"If you've got 10,000 users of your Web service, and over time [a server] is slowly leaking memory, your server could run out of memory and go down on the second day or the second week, whenever you're not expecting it," Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said that moving to .NET is not necessarily cheap or easy because of the learning curve required for his C++ and Java developers to learn C#. However, the company estimates that it will save 50% on its research and development budget over the next 14 months as a result of moving to .NET.

"Our customers are finding our Web service is beneficial to them because it's more affordable than them going out and worrying about their own storage mechanism," Zimmerman said. "The value proposition is significant for them and we in turn are making a profit from that."

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