The Great ‘Race to Linux’

LOS ANGELES — How long does it take a .NET developer to write a Linux application? The Race to Linux project aims to find out.

Race to Linux was announced Wednesday at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference. The challenge for developers is to port an existing ASP.NET application to Linux using any cross-platform tool of choice, including Mono, Grasshopper and PHP. The winner of each of three races will win an xBox 360.

Chris Maunder, co-founder of The Code Project, a community site for .NET developers and one of the organizers of Race to Linux, said that one in five Code Project community members also works with Linux, while 16 percent use Java.

Yaacov Cohen, CEO of Mainsoft, said the challenge is a way to show off the capabilities of Grasshopper. Mainsoft offers tools that let Visual Studio users build applications that run natively in the Unix, J2EE and Linux environments.

Grasshopper, a free Visual Studio .NET plug-in released in May, lets developers write .NET server applications that can run on Linux or any Java-enabled platform.

Cohen said that enterprises want to choose development tools based on their merits rather than on the environments they target.

“We started focusing on the developer, rather than on IT or software vendors,” Cohen said. “People want choice. Sun has been telling Visual Studio developers that their culture is ugly, you should learn everything from scratch. Visual Studio tools are great, but Linux is too big and ubiquitous to ignore.”

Cohen said that, while Mainsoft tools let developers write to Unix and Java, Linux is the sweet spot for his products. “At the developer level, now a lot of Visual Studio developers are very interested in Linux.”

Moreover, large enterprises that acquire smaller operations frequently find themselves with mixed environments.

“The larger tends to be a J2EE-type company that uses WebSphere, mainframes, IBM ,” he said. “The smaller company tends to be more of a Microsoft shop. What does the CIO do? He has .NET applications and knowledge he wants to deploy and go into production on the corporate infrastructure. We give him business flexibility.”

The first Race to Linux begins on September 21 at 8:00 a.m. PDT. Maunder said he had no idea how quickly there might be a winner.

“We estimate the project will take five to 15 hours of work. But who knows? We might have a winner the first morning.”

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