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WebMatrix, Razor and DNN

This article is cross-posted from my personal blog.

Earlier today Scott Guthrie announced a new “Web Stack” called WebMatrix.  WebMatrix is both the name of the complete stack (Web Server, Database and View Engine) as well as the name of the new lightweight development tool that you can use to create, edit and publish websites.

In this quick review, I propose to briefly describe the components that make up the WebMatrix stack and to highlight where these pieces relate to DotNetNuke (DNN).

What is WebMatrix?

There are four major components to the new WebMatrix “Web Stack”

  1. IIS Developer Express – a new free lightweight web-server, based on IIS 7, that runs on all versions of Windows and does not require Administrator level permissions
  2. SQL Server Compact Edition – a lightweight file based database that is simple to set up and free to download.
  3. ASP.NET “Razor” – a new  view-engine option for ASP.NET that can be used to easily embed C# or VB code within an HTML page. This is “bin” deployable and free.
  4. WebMatrix Tool – a free lightweight developer IDE that integrates all the components.

Did you notice that all the pieces were free?

What is the purpose of these new technologies?

One of the main challenges with the current Windows based “Web Stack” (WINS – for Windows, IIS, .NET, SQL Server) is that it requires significant investment of dollars and is aimed at the more sophisticated developers.  In comparison the equivalent Linux “Web Stack” (LAMP – for Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) is much cheaper in dollar terms – all components are available free, and therefore more approachable for beginner developers.  In addition there is a large suite of open source php applications which are ready to run. 

Enter WebMatrix - all components are free and are installable on any Windows Computer.  In addition they are also compatible with the more sophisticated (and expensive) components which make up the current Windows “Web Stack”.  Developers can learn on this platform and transfer their skills onto the more complex platform later.

WebMatrix also helps a second category of developers – people who want to download Open Source Applications (like DNN), make some minor changes and publish their site.  The WebMatrix developer IDE can open an application directly from the Windows Web Application Gallery.  In Scott Guthrie’s post today he shows this – and in the second screenshot you can see DotNetNuke as one of the applications that can be opened/downloaded.

Where does DNN fit in?

I will leave it to others more qualified than me to discus how WebMatrix and DNN fit “strategically”.  But what about from a technology perspective.

  • The ability of the WebMatrix tool to open an Application directly from the Web Application Gallery is really kinda cool, and if you combine this with its ability to publish to a remote server, I can see this being used by a lot of people to download DNN, make some changes whatever they might be and publish their modified site to a hosting environment.  Currently we don’t have an easy story for this scenario.
  • The Razor View Engine is kinda cool and is a new approach to combining markup (HTML) and code (C# or VB).  Can we make DNN modules using CSHTML or VBHTML pages?

In future blogs I will delve deeper into these technologies.  In the meantime you can read Scott Guthrie’s blogs which I linked to above. 

On a personal note, if you want more detail on the new Razor parser, check my son Andrew’s blogs.  As many of you know Andrew was a past DotNetNuke Core Team member, and for the last 9 months has been working at Microsoft on the new Razor parser.


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