The .NET Framework has scored many points with developers over its eight years of existence, but it also has created confusion and angst in the community as Microsoft’s sovereign decisions have come into question.

.NET gave Microsoft a good foundational technology for targeting enterprise applications that it previously did not have, and Gartner Research saw an “explosion” of systematic application projects targeting the Microsoft platform because of it, said Mark Driver, a vice president and research director at Gartner.

At the same time, there was a perfect storm of Windows-ready hardware and software technologies for people to use to build larger systems, along with increased scalability in the Windows operating system and an increase in the price/performance ratio on Intel servers, Driver added.

“I think that Microsoft was caught off-guard by that [demand]” and has had to expand the scope of .NET to provide developers with the full complement of tools that they needed to build high-end systems, Driver said.

Microsoft added features and functionality, and the framework evolved into “fantastic plumbing” designed to ease and facilitate all kinds of development, from client to mobile to Web, said Brandon Watson, director of product management for Microsoft’s development platforms.

“Anytime you have a new platform, you will see significant growth and evolution. We saw the same thing in Java,” Driver said. Further, .NET abated the exodus of Windows developers that were moving to Java and other platforms, lessening the need for Microsoft-centric people to look beyond Microsoft, he added.

Even still, there is lively debate among .NET developers whenever Microsoft makes strategic decisions about the platform, while others are concerned with how rapidly Microsoft is adding new technology.

“I am a bit of a fan of large portions of .NET,” said Novell vice president and Mono project lead Miguel de Icaza. But, he added, .NET is created largely without any external feedback, and that has led to various debates in the .NET world “as to alternatives to various pieces of technologies that Microsoft releases into the world without engaging with the community.”