The first beta release of the Mono project is out and, like most open source endeavors, its developers are anxiously gathering feedback and furiously incorporating bug fixes in anticipation of the final release due June 30.
Mono, developed by luminary Miguel de Icaza, was cut loose on the world outside of its contributing developers last week with a full array of components, including a C# compiler, an ECMA Common Language Infrastructure and separate application programming interfaces for Microsoft and Mono.
"Various mono components have been stable for quite some time, some of them for more than a year, and the 1.0 release basically has chosen those components that we are comfortable supporting and shipping them as a supported product," de Icaza said.
De Icaza said Mono 1.0 will not support EnterpriseServices or Windows.Forms. The .NET stack will include ASP.NET Web forms, ASP.NET Web services, ADO.NET for connectivity to SQL Server and other databases and binary and SOAP remoting. The Mono stack includes Gtk# for graphical user interface development, Mozilla Web browser, Simias framework, XML libraries, networking, archive libraries, database connectors and strong cryptography.
"There is a lot of value for developers even without those two features," de Icaza said.
Mono is an open source implementation of Microsoft's .NET framework for Linux, Unix and Windows. Mono gives enterprises a means of writing Linux, rich client and Web services applications that can deployed on multiple platforms.
"We give [enterprises] choice," de Icaza said. "Some people want to run ASP.NET, but need the flexibility of using it on different machines than just Windows. Companies want to run it on 390 or Solaris, for example, for a wide array of reasons."
The Mono beta comes in pre-compiled binary packages for SuSE Linux 9 and 9.1, Red Hat 9, SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8 and Fedora Core 1, in addition to Windows, Solaris, HP-UX and MacOS.
"They hit this beta milestone, and it's an important one," said Burton Group senior analyst Peter O'Kelly. "The development team is world class, but we'll have to see the scope and depth of what they deliver."
O'Kelly added that Microsoft's tacit approval of Mono gives credence to the work de Icaza and his team are doing. He also pointed out that the C# compiler and CLI included in Mono were donated by Microsoft to ECMA.
".NET is a strong architecture, but it's constrained by only being available on the Windows platform," O'Kelly said. "Other developers can now take advantage of working with .NET and copy its assemblies to a non-Microsoft platform."
De Icaza, now with Novell Inc. since the acquisition of Ximian, said Mono was not just an exercise in delivering an open source version of .NET; it was a means to an end.
"We needed a better platform for building desktop applications," de Icaza said.
Novell is building the recently open sourced iFolder file system and the Simias Collection store, an object data store that associates searchable meta data with file system entries on Mono.
Novell has embraced Linux and open source since acquiring Ximian and SuSE Linux, making significant contributions to the community of late, including iFolder and YaST (Yet another Setup Tool). In-house, in addition to the use of Mono as a development tool, Novell is moving internally in stages to Linux on the desktop.
"Novell's management and employees have rapidly learned what open source is, how to interoperate with it and, most importantly, how we can deliver value to customers using Linux," de Icaza said. "The company is doing a migration from Windows to Linux and from Office to OpenOffice. These are company-wide initiatives that will help us understand what are the bits that require improvements, and assist our customers to migrate to Linux and OpenOffice. This experience is unique, as we share a background with most of the industry today as Windows/Office users."