The choice between .NET Core and .NET Framework for application development is significant in the ever-evolving software development landscape. Microsoft develops both frameworks, which has its own features, advantages, and use cases.
This blog aims to dissect the differences between .NET Framework vs .NET Core and help SMBs and large businesses make an informed choice based on their needs.
What is .NET Framework?
.NET Framework, launched in the early 2000s, is a software development framework designed for Windows. It includes an extensive class library known as Framework Class Library (FCL) and provides language interoperability across several programming languages.
Windows-Based: Primarily supports Windows applications, including Windows Forms, WPF, and ASP.NET.
Mature Framework: With years of development, it offers stability and a vast array of features and libraries.
Language Support: Supports multiple languages, predominantly used with C# and VB.NET.
Developing Business Application Development Using .Net:
The .NET Framework, with its robust Windows-based platform, plays a pivotal role in business application development by offering a stable and mature environment that has evolved over the years. Its comprehensive Framework Class Library (FCL) simplifies the development process by providing a vast array of pre-built functionalities, accelerating the development of robust and scalable Windows applications, including desktop applications with Windows Forms or WPF and web applications with ASP.NET.
This framework's multi-language support, predominantly for C# and VB.NET, allows businesses to leverage existing codebases and developer skills, thus reducing the learning curve and development time. As a result, businesses can efficiently develop, deploy, and maintain applications integral to their operations, ranging from internal systems to customer-facing applications, enhancing productivity and offering competitive advantages in the digital marketplace.
What is .NET Core?
.NET Core, introduced in 2016, is a free, cross-platform, open-source framework. It's a modular framework that can be used to develop Windows, macOS, and Linux applications.
Cross-Platform: Runs on Windows, Linux, and macOS.
Modular: Designed as a set of NuGet packages, allowing developers to optimize their apps with just the necessary components.
High Performance and Scalability: Optimized for modern workloads and cloud-based applications.
Developing Business Application Using .Net Core:
Thanks to its cross-platform capabilities and modular architecture, .NET Core emerges as a highly versatile choice for businesses looking to develop modern applications. This framework allows companies to target a broader range of platforms, including Windows, Linux, and macOS, expanding their reach to a broader user base. Its design, focused on NuGet packages, enables developers to tailor applications with only the necessary components, ensuring leaner, more efficient software.
Furthermore, .NET Core excels in performance and scalability, making it ideal for high-demand, cloud-based business applications. This adaptability ensures that businesses can build applications that are not only responsive and scalable but also future-proof, aligning seamlessly with the evolving cloud-centric landscape of the business world. This leads to cost-effective development, simplified maintenance, and the agility to adapt to changing market needs, which are crucial for businesses striving to maintain a competitive edge in the digital era.
Comparing .NET Core vs .NET Framework:
Key differences between .NET Framework vs. .NET Core can be elaborated in detail across various aspects:
Limited to Windows, constraining applications to run only on Windows platforms.
Supports Windows, Linux, and macOS, making it versatile for developing cross-platform applications.
Optimized for Windows and stable but may not perform as well in specific scenarios compared to .NET Core.
Designed for high performance and scalability, suitable for demanding applications like microservices.
Not ideally suited for microservices due to its monolithic nature and heavier footprint.
Its modular nature makes it an excellent choice for microservices architecture.
Open Source and Community
Not open source, limiting community contributions and innovation pace.
Open source with a rapidly growing community contributing to its development and evolution.
Deployments are typically as a single unit, which can be less flexible.
Supports flexible deployment options, including self-contained deployments, reducing host dependencies.
Updates and Support
Receives updates at a slower pace, which can be a drawback for quickly leveraging new features.
Rapidly evolving with frequent updates, providing developers access to the latest tools and functionalities.
Types of Applications with .Net Core vs. .Net Framework:
Both .NET Core and .NET Framework are part of the .NET platform, which is used for building and running Windows, Linux, and macOS applications. However, they target different types of applications due to their design and capabilities. Here's an overview of application types suitable for each:
Windows Forms and WPF Applications: These are primarily used for building desktop applications for Windows. Windows Forms provides a set of easy-to-use UI components, while WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) allows for more complex and dynamic applications with rich UI.
ASP.NET Web Forms and MVC: ASP.NET Web Forms are used for building dynamic web applications using a drag-and-drop, event-driven model. ASP.NET MVC offers a more modern, pattern-based way to build dynamic websites, enabling a clean separation of concerns.
Web Services: Creation of SOAP-based services that can be consumed by clients over the network.
Windows Services: Background services running on a Windows server or workstation.
Console Applications: Suitable for background processes or utilities that do not require a UI.
ASP.NET Core Applications: A cross-platform framework for building modern, cloud-based, internet-connected applications, such as web apps, IoT apps, and mobile backends. ASP.NET Core applications can run on Windows, Linux, and macOS.
Console Applications: Like .NET Framework, but with the added benefit of running on multiple platforms.
Microservices: Ideal for building scalable, high-performance microservices architectures.
Worker Services: Background services that can run on any .NET Core supported platform.
Cross-Platform Desktop Applications: With frameworks like Avalonia or Uno Platform, you can build desktop applications that run on Windows, Linux, and macOS.
Shared Application Types
Class Libraries: Both platforms support the development of reusable class libraries that encapsulate functionality for various applications.
Entity Framework: Entity Framework Core is a cross-platform version of Entity Framework, a popular ORM for .NET, which can be used with both .NET Core and .NET Framework for data access.
Converting To .Net 5/6 In .Net Core And .Net Framework:
Converting applications from .NET Core or .NET Framework to .NET 5/6 involves several steps, considerations, and preparations, as .NET 5 and .NET 6 represent a unification of the .NET platforms into a single framework that supports more types of applications and offers cross-platform capabilities. Here’s a general guide on how to approach the migration:
For .NET Core Applications:
Migrating from .NET Core (especially versions 3.1 or later) to .NET 5/6 is relatively straightforward because .NET Core and .NET 5/6 share a similar foundation.
Update the Project File:
Change the <TargetFramework> element in your project file (.csproj) to net5.0 or net6.0 depending on which version you are targeting.
Review and update package references to their latest versions compatible with .NET 5/6.
Update Your Code:
Use the .NET Upgrade Assistant tool or analyze your project for obsolete APIs and update them as recommended.
Test your application thoroughly to identify any runtime behavior changes.
Ensure all dependencies (NuGet packages, libraries) are compatible with .NET 5/6. You may need to update some packages or replace those that are not supported.
For .NET Framework Applications:
Migrating from the .NET Framework to .NET 5/6 is more complex due to significant differences.
Assess Your Application:
Use tools like the .NET Portability Analyzer to assess how much of your code is compatible with .NET 5/6.
Identify third-party dependencies and check their compatibility with .NET 5/6.
Plan Your Migration:
For complex applications, consider breaking down the migration into smaller, manageable parts. This might involve migrating individual libraries or components before the entire application.
Decide between a direct migration to .NET 5/6 or an incremental approach through .NET Core 3.1 as an intermediary step, which might be easier for some applications.
Update Project Files and Code:
Convert project files (.csproj) to the new SDK-style format used by .NET Core and .NET 5/6.
Update the <TargetFramework> to net5.0 or net6.0.
Address API changes and compatibility issues. This may involve replacing Windows-specific technologies (like Web Forms, WCF, and Workflow Foundation) with modern alternatives (like ASP.NET Core and gRPC).
Testing is crucial to ensure the application behaves as expected on the new platform. Pay special attention to performance, functionality, and integration points.
Leverage New Features:
Once your application runs on .NET 5/6, explore new features and improvements that could benefit your application, such as performance enhancements, new APIs, and cross-platform capabilities.
.NET Upgrade Assistant: Microsoft provides a .NET Upgrade Assistant tool that can help automate some aspects of the migration for both .NET Core and .NET Framework applications.
Documentation and Resources: Refer to Microsoft’s official documentation and resources for detailed guides and best practices specific to your application type.
Community and Support: Leverage community forums, Stack Overflow, and official support channels for advice and solutions to specific challenges you might encounter.
Migration can be a significant effort, especially for large or complex applications, but moving to .NET 5/6 opens up many benefits in terms of performance, scalability, and future-proofing your applications.
The Future: .NET 7 and .NET 8:
The evolution of the .NET ecosystem continues with the introduction of .NET 7 and .NET 8. These versions reflect Microsoft's commitment to regularly updating their framework to keep pace with modern software development needs.
.NET 8.0 - Long Term Support (LTS)
Release Date: November 10, 2026
LTS Approach: Ideal for applications where stability and minimal changes over a more extended period are crucial. LTS versions of .NET are supported for three years after their release or one year after the next LTS release, whichever is longer.
.NET 7.0 - Standard Term Support (STS)
Release Date: May 14, 2024
STS Approach: Best for those who want to leverage the latest features and are comfortable with a shorter support cycle. STS versions are typically supported for 18 months.
Use Case Scenarios: What You Should Pick and When
When to Use .NET Framework:
Legacy Applications: For maintaining and extending existing applications built on .NET Framework.
Windows-specific Applications: If the app is intended to run only on Windows, leveraging Windows-specific APIs.
When to Use .NET Core:
Cross-Platform Needs: If the application needs to run on multiple operating systems.
Microservices: For building scalable, cloud-based applications and microservices.
High-Performance and Scalable Systems: For applications where performance and scalability are critical.
Modern Web Applications: The integration of ASP.NET Core is ideal for modern web applications.
Web development framework
Cross-platform, open-source framework
Building web applications, services, and APIs
Wide range of applications (web, mobile, desktop)
Windows applications (Forms, WPF, ASP.NET web)
Part of .NET Framework and .NET Core
Windows, Linux, macOS
Limited to Windows
Focus on dynamic web pages, supports multiple languages
High performance, scalability, modular design
Mature, stable, vast library, multi-language support
Learn more about building in our latest blog.
Coding Differences in .Net Core vs .Net Framework:
.NET Framework: It offers a more extensive set of APIs, but they are Windows-specific, which can be limiting for developing applications for other platforms.
.NET Core: While it has a smaller set of APIs than the .NET Framework, it is rapidly growing and more modular, allowing developers to use only what they need for their application.
Language Support: Both frameworks support languages like C#, F#, and VB.NET, but there may be variations in the versions of these supported languages.
.NET Framework: Contains many Windows-specific functions and libraries, making it less suitable for cross-platform development.
.NET Core: Encourages platform-agnostic coding practices, essential for maintaining compatibility across different operating systems.
.NET Core: Uses a simplified project file structure (csproj), which is more readable and easier to manage.
.NET Framework: Traditionally, it uses a more complex csproj file structure, which can be more challenging to maintain. Know more about top .net framework trends in 2024.
Project File Structure:
.NETCore: Heavily relies on NuGet packages for its modular framework components, providing a more streamlined approach to managing dependencies.
.NET Framework: Can use NuGet packages but also includes many components by default, which can lead to larger application sizes.
Migrate From .NET Framework To .NET Core:
The decision to migrate an application from .NET Framework to .NET Core should be based on factors like the need for cross-platform functionality, performance improvements, and modern architecture practices. The migration process involves:
Assessing Compatibility: Analyzing the compatibility of existing code with .NET Core.
Updating Libraries: Migrating to .NET Standard libraries where possible.
Incremental Migration: Adopting a step-by-step approach to migration, module by module.
The choice between .NET Core and .NET Framework depends on factors such as the application’s target platform, performance requirements, and future maintenance considerations. While .NET Framework is suitable for existing Windows-based applications, .NET Core is the future, especially for new applications requiring cross-platform capabilities and high performance. With the advent of .NET 7, hire .net developers who know how to work on a unified and more streamlined platform encompassing the best features of both worlds.
In summary, selecting the appropriate framework is simple but rather a decision that should be aligned with specific project requirements and future scalability considerations. Unlock your business potential with our expert .net development services – Contact us today!
Sunil Dhakne, a seasoned Project Manager with 17+ years in the IT industry, combines extensive expertise in Practice Management with a solid background in Project Management spanning over 7 years. With a focus on developing and maintaining Client/Server and Web-based Applications over years, Sunil is a proficient leader in the .NET domain.