I have a very clear view on what ASP.NET is and what it isn’t. I’ve never given it much thought until recently when I learned that my view was different from a lot of other ASP.NET developers’. It started at an ASP.NET session at the MVP summit where a presenter asked whether or not people in the audience used the Entity Framework or Linq2Sql. I thought to myself that data access had absolutely nothing to do with ASP.NET but found to my surprise I was the only one finding it a weird question at an ASP.NET session.

Since that session I started talking to people about this and almost everyone told me that a website without some sort of database is a thing of the past and that being an ASP.NET developer involved mastering databases, data access and business logic. I don’t disagree that mastering these disciplines is a huge part of being a .NET developer, but I still refused that it had anything to do with ASP.NET. Yes, I’m that anal.

The field trip

So, I went to Barnes & Noble to find some ASP.NET books. They had 8 different titles and I started to look at the table of contents in all of them. 7 out of the 8 ASP.NET books had minimum one chapter about databases and data access. I looked at the covers again and was reassured that I was indeed skimming ASP.NET books. Not data access books, but ASP.NET books.

What I have learned in the past few months is that databases and data access is part of ASP.NET. Or in other words, ASP.NET is a database presentation framework and NOT a web application framework. Not acceptable!

Here is my view on what ASP.NET is and what it isn’t.

My clear view of ASP.NET

ASP.NET is a framework for creating dynamic websites. It is not a framework for doing data access, business logic or any other thing besides building websites. If your business logic knows it is being used by an ASP.NET project by relying on an HttpContext for instance, then you are doing something wrong. Business logic is an API for what ever (presentation) logic that sits on top of it whether it being ASP.NET, WinForms, WCF or something completely different. This is a rule of the N-tier application architecture.

Smaller web projects often have the business- and data logic classes in the App_Code folder within the web project itself. Those classes are physically part of the web project but logically they are separate from the ASP.NET logic and as such the same 3-tier architecture applies. But it is still not ASP.NET, it is just C# classes that physically lives inside the web project in Visual Studio.

ASP.NET handles everything related to browser/server interactions and nothing more. Calling the database directly from your code-behind or controller action doesn’t make ADO.NET part of the ASP.NET framework. The presence of the BCL in both ASP.NET and the business logic makes it less transparent, but I hope you see my point.

Even though the data- and business logic aspects are both related and important to ASP.NET developers, they are still not ASP.NET.

This is my clear view on the ASP.NET database presentation framework.