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Cloud Native Ecosystem / Kubernetes / Software Development

Microsoft’s New .NET Dev Tool Draws Community Support

Microsoft’s new .NET Aspire tool has generated a swell of community interest, particularly in a tool called Aspir8.
Nov 30th, 2023 8:54am by
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Microsoft’s new .NET Aspire cloud native development platform has begun to sprout a vibrant ecosystem just weeks after its release.

.NET Aspire is an opinionated stack for building resilient, observable and configurable cloud native applications with the .NET developer framework. It includes a curated set of components enhanced for cloud native by including telemetry, resilience, configuration and health checks by default, Guarav Seth, partner director of product, developer platforms at Microsoft, told The New Stack in an email interview.

“We heard from several developers that building cloud native applications is hard, getting started is hard, everyone needs to build expertise across a vast set of areas, and as they pull together the various Lego blocks, they are not sure if they are picking the right pieces or putting them together correctly,” he wrote TNS.

.NET Aspire helps with all of that. But as with any tool or platform, .NET Aspire could use a little help of its own from the community.

For instance, David Fowler, a Microsoft distinguished engineer on .NET, tweeted: “We would love some help designing the Kubernetes deployment experience for Aspire here.”

Not long after that, he tweeted that the community had come through. A developer by the handle @Prom3theu5 had developed a tool called Aspirate (Aspir8) to automate deployment of a .NET Aspire AppHost to a Kubernetes Cluster.

“From the moment I first saw Aspire, I was extremely excited,” David Sekula, CTO at SimCube Ltd. also known as @Prom3theu5, told The New Stack in an email interview. “Not only does it loosen the coupling of the technology stack from your code base, but I immediately saw that it could be leveraged also outside of microservice development to give us back many hours in terms of repetition we’d usually have to perform on a project-by-project basis.”

Saving Time, Making Lives Easier

Knowing that developers do the same things every time they start a new project — and then when it comes to deployment — they’d have to manually replicate things again for each project, Sekula went into action to create something to help with that process.

“It’s all about saving time — and making our lives as developers easier,” he wrote to TNS. “If any task has to be performed more than once — why not automate it?”

According to Sekula, he saw a demonstration of how AZD (the Azure Developer CLI) had incorporated interrogation of the Aspire manifest, and that it could publish to Azure Container Instances — and he immediately saw the potential to be able to leverage that manifest file and automate all these tasks developers had previously been having to do manually.

“We suddenly had this awesome single file — in a universal format (JSON) that described the construction and orchestration of the entire solution,” Sekula wrote. “That’s how Aspir8 was born. Aspir8 leverages this file — it can even produce it for you from the AppHost.”

So, over the next five days after Aspire’s release, Sekula worked to get Aspir8 done in an MVP (minimum viable product) state with feedback each step of the way from some of the folks from Microsoft on GitHub.

“Having seen all the awesome things the Microsoft team delivered us with Aspire, I felt it was important to try to help drive the adoption of a product I believe in — and ultimately that was my reasoning for creating Aspir8,” he told TNS. “I help others with the hurdles of deployment, to help drive adoption of Aspire, and to give a little back in terms of contribution, etc. to the people at Microsoft who make our lives easier year on year.”

Ultimately, Aspir8 takes an Aspire solution, scripts it up and publishes it to a Kubernetes cluster.

Under the Hood

Under the hood of Aspire8, you can build and push all your containers in your solution, now including the new Dockerfile type coming in Aspire Preview 2, generate Kustomize manifest files for each project, which can then be published to a Kubernetes cluster, and even publish them to your cluster — all from the same CLI.

Moreover, the tool will prompt the developer every step of the way — unless they pass in --non-interactive mode, which then allows it to be used in CI/CD pipelines, or any environment where the terminal doesn’t support interaction.

“One of the great things is the menu of all items in your solution, where it’s just one tap to select items and rebuild and push your containers,” Sekula said. “During the development life cycle, we usually have to manually repeat the same task over and over again. Now it’s a simple command and tap of a menu.”

Community Support

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Seth told TNS there has been an outpouring of community excitement and activity around .NET Aspire. In just a couple of weeks, the team has seen Kubernetes deployment support, multiple new components, and various bug fixes, refactoring, and other pull requests.

“Our next preview release is already tracking a few key features that are being PR’d by community members,” Seth wrote. “Extensibility (creating new resource types for example) and modularity (using just the parts that are most valuable to you) are core tenets of .NET Aspire and we expect that to empower the ecosystem, and have it flourish as we progress.”

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