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We are developing a software product in .Net targeting large corporations. The product has both server and desktop client components. We anticipate that our product will be used by a small subset of workers in the corporation - probably those in the finance function. We currently require .Net 3.5 but are considering moving to .Net 4.0.

Could anyone with experience of managing IT in such an environment tell us whether requiring .Net 4.0 at this stage would be a bar to adopting our software? What attitudes prevail regarding the use of frameworks like .Net?

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6 Answers 6

Think of it as a benefit vs. cost function, same as any other business decision.

If there's a cost to installing all the components required to support your software, can you minimise the cost? (e.g. do you just require a server with .net4 on it vs. all the workstations on a network needing it?). This principle also works against requiring the latest version of .net "just because you can", for example.

Can you demonstrate to the decision makers in a company that the benefit of the software will make up for the cost of installing it? It's really that simple.

I'm not going to say anything about .net 4 itself because I don't see that as relevant. Same question, same answer whether you're talking about an app that requires .net 4.0 on a Windows network, Safari 5 on an Apple network or Java on a Linux network.

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Installing any extra software is always a concern for IT departments and network administrators. If your product is useful to a company they will buy and install it, but things like this are barriers you have to overcome by making your software that much better.

If you can, target the lowest version of the .NET framework you can get away with and point out the drawbacks with going to 4. The question becomes do the technical benefits you get from .NET 4 outweigh these drawbacks?

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If it were deployed to all machines, that would certainly be a disincentive. We currently target the 2.0 runtime for applications that have large installations, and press the envelope on adopting new runtime features (3.x/4.0) for projects that are not widely deployed.

If the server component is not dedicated, and IT would prefer it to run on an existing shared server, that may cause some anxiety.

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In our organization the software we develop has been using the 2.0 framework. I suppose it would depend on the size of the organization. If they're a company of 30 than they may not have a problem with the upgrade. If they're a company of 500 then I would think there would be more resistance. If you need the 4.0 framework than you should write out your reasons. Perhaps you could present it in a way that makes it look very advantageous for them to upgrade (security, performance, features you're taking advantage of, etc).

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Another consideration is the fact that the resistance may not necessarily be due to cost of installation and deployment of the framework but rather managing risk of braking existing mission critical enterprise applications. I am currently in that war at work with infrastructure team and are demanding for me to prove that deploying .net 4.0 framework will not break any existing apps. if anyone knows of such a majical tool that will do that I would be much in debt to you :).

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2  
The magical tool is called a "dev", "test", "qa", or "preprod" environment. Put a copy of the existing app(s) there, put in 4.0 and the new app, and confirm that they all still work. No magic at all. –  mfinni Jun 21 '11 at 17:22

From an IT perspective, I don't find it to be that big of a deal on the client side. Microsoft patches, updates, and components have been decently stable for a few years now and I would think most don't have a problem pushing out .net 4.0.

Also,

What type of customers are they? Customers that computers are a valued and important part of the business that they treat that way, with upgrades, etc? If everyone is running Windows 7+ there doesn't seem to be a lot of disadvantages to going to .net 4.0.

I would be more hesitant on the server side, and it depends how your software installs. Is it pretty large and usually has a dedicated VM, not that big a deal. Or does it install in a small office where it shares the server with everything else? Then it's a lot bigger deal because then they are calling you asking why your software broke their website.

To sum up... Look at it from the customers perspective. Look at the use cases for your software. And above all, don't be afraid to ask your current customers?

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