ASP.NET and Dynamic Languages

04 Jul 2008

In the last year, my team @ Microsoft hasn't really done much with ASP.NET. Unfortunately so, since our focus has been on the languages themselves. Though, we have an integration with Silverlight, so why is ASP.NET left out?

That's definitely changing, 'cause now ASP.NET and Dynamic Languages are like this:

Best friends

... but, that's not to say that we did nothing in the last year:

ASP.NET Futures

In July 2007 the ASP.NET Futures Release contained Dynamic Language Support in ASP.NET, giving you IronPython and Managed JScript as programming languages in ASP.NET. It also had a ton of other good stuff in there, like AJAX futures, Silverlight controls, and Dynamic Data Controls. If you're interested in learning more about this, take a look at the Dynamic Languages in ASP.NET Quickstarts.

The problem with this release is it's a one-off; as in "who the hell knows when this stuff is going to be updated." Also, IronPython releases every month, so the IronPython bits in this release were old fast. And sitting here a year later, a lot has changed! The release is really intended on being a "look at what we *might* do in the future", and a year without anything substantial is way to long in our world.

More so, there is no support for IronRuby. Even today we're not as far along as people would hope. I have a couple "Hello, World" aspx pages using IronRuby running on my machine, but that's really the extent of it. Sucks.

Shout out: Being able to use DLR languages in ASP.NET and Dynamic Data Controls are both the blood and sweat of David Ebbo, an Architect on the ASP.NET team, and the cool guy I got to give a talk with two years ago as an intern.


Tangential to the whole "holy crap why can't I use Iron* in ASP.NET" issue is giving the "when is my IronRuby going to be in ASP.NET MVC" drones something to chew on. And at TechEd 2008, John Lam gave them some slivers of meat:

IronRuby and ASP.NET MVC. Also, Phil Haack followed up with a IronRuby and ASP.NET BFFs Forever post. Yes, very cute. =)

Anyway, no real bits are out there yet for this, but we do have proof for ourselves that ASP.NET MVC aren't doing things that alienate DLR languages. Woohoo! Now it's just a matter of doing it right and getting it out the door.

Next stop: the Web Server

Today we run on the client, which can be represented by cmd.exe/WPF/WinForms, as well in Firefox/Internet Explorer/Safari with Silverlight. However, the web server has been fairly uncharted by us. This is what we're changing.

Really, this whole post is about DLR Languages and the web server. The DLR in ASP.NET and ASP.NET MVC (yes, they are different. yes, it's confusing).

But it extends past Microsoft web frameworks. At RailsConf 2008 John Lam showed IronRuby running Rails, and I showed integrating Ruby on Rails with Silverlight to nicely have Ruby on the server and the client (more information on the plugin soon).

It's all about making the Microsoft platform, being Windows or Silverlight, valuable to developers.

Next steps

All this kind of leaves you, the dude/dudette trying to get something done, at a loss, since any bits we have are a year old, and with all these pretty words, I've given you nothing but some continued hope. Wow, I'm cynical.

Not really sure about what's next, other than a ton of coffee with David and other folks on the ASP.NET team, trying to figure out how to get this stuff into your hands. We're pretty addicted to Codeplex, so I'm pretty sure it'll find it's way there. However, we need to finish building it, so that's got to happen first. Again, that will be more coffee. Or expensive juice, I've been hooked on that stuff.

So, with that, all I've got to say is "Stay Tuned" =)

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