Careers: Interviews
Dot Net Leader

This week, Stephen had the opportunity to speak with YONG TAO CHEN. Amongst his many accomplishments, YT was the first in Canada to achieve the SQL MCDBA designation, CNA, MCSE+I, MCSD, CSP and NSP titles. YT earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and his Masters of Business Administration from the University of Xiamen. His global top-ranking knowledge was utilized by two of the largest financial web sites where he was responsible for key architectural solutions involving advanced indexing, fault tolerant replication, storage procedures with cluster SQL Server 7.0 Databases, and query design. YT recently had an advanced article on SQL Server published in the elite British industry-leading technical journal Xephon. YT is currently leading a dot net web services design and implementation project, continuing his work on the leading edge of business internet technology


Q. Please detail your responsibilities and background?
A. My IT experience began with hardware sales and solution deliveries in China before I started my applications development career. I have successfully developed several types of Microsoft applications including an e-commerce B-to-B web site as well as web-based or Windows-based applications. My experience also includes project design, planning and management. I am currently developing a Dot Net application using Microsoft’s latest technology. The application also involves Windows CE programming, a Crystal Enterprise web-based reporting system, and Digital Dashboard programming.


Q. You have been working on a Dot Net project since the day Dot Frame Work Beta 1 was released. Could you describe your application and tell readers what made you choose Dot Net as your infrastructure even as a Beta version?
A. The application is a web–based application for the ergonomic industry. The project deploys client/server architecture and centralizes databases. Data is synchronized between the client’s CE forms and web portal using XML format and SOAP protocol. Due to the scope and nature of the project, we had done a lot of research work and couldn’t find a cost-effective solution. This is why we decided to adopt Dot Net technology immediately after it beta release. The Dot Net solution makes it possible to accomplish this enterprise-level project with a minimum of developers.


Q. Based on your experience, do you have any advice for those entering this area?
A. Basically there are two worlds in IT, Microsoft and Non-Microsoft. Most of my experience comes from the Microsoft world and I have gained huge benefits from it; however, I always keep my eyes open on the Non-Microsoft world. The Non-Microsoft world is compounded by Sun Java, Oracle Database and other Unix based solutions. I think there are different philosophies and thinking between these two basic worlds. Microsoft definitely leans a lot on the easier user experience, while the Non-Microsoft world is more focused on delivering solutions to professional technicians. The two philosophies bring different results: Microsoft products have less of a learning curve even though they might lose a certain level of stability and performance. Microsoft has proved that it can switch it’s focus back to stability and performance as a result of recent products like Windows 2000 server and SQL 2000 server.

The rule to survive in this area is: “changing”, you have to catch up the speed of “change”. Because of the rapid changes, newcomers can easily find unique positions compared to those with greater experience. The fast wave, so to speak, will cast aside those who can’t maintain the speed of change and it will leave opportunities for those who accept its challenge.


Q. What makes Dot net solution unique?
A. I found Dot Net was very easy to master. Due to my previous programming experience on ASP, VB and Java, I didn’t experience any learning curve when I began work with this brand new technology. Though it sometime seemed like Java, sometimes Access, sometimes ASP, I could use all of it due to the knowledge I had already acquired. Very seldom did I find myself stuck on a new concept. Even our first tools allow us to do web front-end, object-oriented programming. What exciting news for our programmers! When I program on Dot Net, it is more like programming in a Windows environment. The rich user and event-driven background makes things easier than any other web-based programming. It is also very easy to deploy and use, making it very cost-effective compared to Java equivalent EJB.

I found Dot NET to be MUCH more memory efficient than anything I’ve seen so far in Java. All web forms share same CLR that uses significantly less memory. This will have advantages for ISP's who group multiple companies on a single host by assigning different domains to different IP addresses.


Q. What is the benefit of Dot Net to support multiple languages?
A. No language has the advantage in all situations. Some languages are just more effective than others in certain circumstances. For instance, JScript and LISP allow you to literally write the program as it's running. VB.Net is easy to read, has better control structures than Java and provides most of the functionality of C# which, by the way, allows pointers, unchecked calculations, and other unsafe things considered too unacceptable for VB. On one hand a developer must always be up-to-date in his field (everybody is more or less specialized) and have an open mind for new trends. On the other hand, it's also not wise to try to “catch every train” which passes by. It's not about making Microsoft applications "web capable". It's about providing superior tools for developing Web-enabled applications on the Windows platform.

Q. Describe your programming experience on Dot Net platform?
A. Dot Net has greater advantages than other web based languages. Current programming languages for data driven web application are limited by their nature: Perl’s development lifecycles are too long; ASP is not an event-driven or object-orient language, same as JSP. Dot Net is a server side event- driven platform which means that it can handle an event from the server side. This largely increases the capability of web-based applications. While I am working with Dot Net, I find that user defined web controls are very easy to use and reduces the programmer’s development time by reuse user controls. However, the event handling in user controls still needs to be greatly improved. Overall, Dot Net definitely represents the design principle of web-based application and is the most advance platform for web-based application even though it still has a long way to maturity.


Q. Could you explain what is Dot Net?
A. Dot Net is a web-based application solution. It is more an infrastructure than a language. It contains two main languages: VB.net and C# and 15 other supporting languages. It deploys the Windows 2000 and SQL 2000 servers. It includes multi-tiered architecture. It provides a Windows application programming experience to web-based application.


Q. How do you see XML as an important component fitting into this picture?
A. Lots of people have heard about XML for quite sometime but there are some misunderstandings about XML. For example, XML would replace HTML and work on the presentation layer. Another one would be that XML would dominate and replace everything. After working with XML for about one year, I found that instead of being a replacement for HTML, XML is more like another option for data storage rather than a Database server. XML is designed for “EXCHANGE” data, not “DISPLAY” data. XML can represent more than two dimensions data structure like other database servers. It is easier to transfer data but more difficult to do frequent transactional operations. On my recent project, I used XML to store web site structure and layout. I also use XML for passing data between client and server. It is more like a translator between different applications.


Q. Will C# replace Java?
A. At the moment, C# is still platform dependent and in beta version. It is difficult to see any great benefit in upgrading old, large Java apps to C#. However, C# is a Java/C++ look-alike and has all the advantages of both worlds minus its weaknesses. C# namespace is much more elegant than the Java namespace base on directories. You’ve probably heard about all the problems related to directory-based namespace when deploying your apps. When Dot Net becomes platform independent or Windows becomes an enterprise level operations system, I can see C# will surpass Java like Microsoft did to Novell, WPS and Borland. I believe it will win out in the long run.


Q. What do you think needs to be done to improve Dot Net’s current version?
A. I found Dot Net framework Beta 1 to be very stable compared to Virtual [Visual] Studio. Net. We stopped using Virtual Studio.Net Beta after our first try. Another aspect that I found while programming was handling the dropdown list to represent one-too-many relationships in web forms is still limited. A great benefit of using Access or VB programming is that these Windows application can handle controls like a dropdown list for representing multiple relationships easily. While in Dot Net, you can see the improvement but there are still limitations. The overall concepts of Dot Net are great: things like web user controls, multi dimension record set - Data set. Web user controls save programming lifecycle a lot while but there is still room for a lot of improvement. It didn’t handle that event very well and it will lose data set every time you refresh.


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