Novell plugs Linux developers into Visual Studio

With a product introduction on Tuesday, Novell will enable developers to use Microsoft’s Visual Studio software development platform to both build and debug .Net-based applications for deployment on Linux and other non-Windows platforms.

Novell’s Mono Tools for Visual Studio, available now, lets .Net developers utilize Visual Studio to build cross-platform applications. Also usable for putting .Net applications on Unix and Mac OS, the product serves as an add-in module for Visual Studio and leverages the separately available Novell Mono runtime for running .Net applications on non-Microsoft platforms. Mono Tools for Visual Studio had been offered in a preview release to a limited number of developers earlier this year.

While Novell is working on bringing Visual Studio to non-Windows platforms, Novell is trying to bridge the gap between .Net and Java.

“What we have here is a plug-in for Visual Studio,” that simplifies the process of supporting Linux, Mac OS, and Unix from Microsoft’s IDE, said Miguel de Icaza, vice president of the developer platform at Novell. He is in charge of the Mono project.

With Mono Tools, developers trained in Visual Studio can stay within their preferred IDE to develop applications for Linux, Unix, Mac, and other platforms. In addition to developing new .Net applications, existing .Net applications can be ported to non-Windows platforms.

Prior to Mono Tools, developers could build but not debug Mono applications in Visual Studio. With Mono Tools, developers can use Visual Studio as well as plug-ins.

“Novell is carrying the torch for .Net [on] other platforms right now,” said Al Hilwa, analyst at IDC.

Mono Tools offers the .Net developer the option to get a commercial and supported tool that is fully integrated and ready for developing a Linux .Net solution, Hilwa said. “Previously, you had to cobble together various things from open source code and generate the tooling you want, which can be prohibitive for enterprise developers and all but the most skilled and determined ISVs.”

The plug-in streamlines three common use patterns for developers: Evaluating whether APIs used in Win32 exist on the other platforms; running and debugging applications in Visual Studio, and building software appliances featuring an OS, an optional database, Web server capabilities and an application all bundled into a single image.

Automated packaging of applications is provided for Novell’s Suse Linux Enterprise and OpenSuse Linux distributions.

“[Prior to Mono Tools], the learning curve for Linux was kind of getting in the way,” of .Net developers, de Icaza said.

Developers using Mono Tools also can build turnkey virtual and software appliances for .Net via the Novell Suse Studio product.

Mono is available in Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate editions, with prices beginning at $99 for a one-year subscription for the Professional Edition for one developer. The $249-per-developer-per-year Enterprise edition has a transferrable license. The $2,499-per-year Ultimate Edition features a limited commercial license to redistribute Mono on Windows, Linux and Mac OS. A five-developer license is included.

Novell in September launched MonoTouch, providing an SDK for building .Net applications for Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch devices. It, too, leverages Mono.

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