Rapid development of business apps with Microsoft Blazor

Posted by: Brent Jenkins Comments: 0

We’re always on the look-out for new technologies that can help our customers get high-quality bespoke software delivered quicker and at a lower cost while providing value to their businesses.

One such technology (that we’ve been watching for some time) is the new Blazor framework from Microsoft. Blazor builds upon the well-established Microsoft .NET framework and makes developing complex business applications a more straightforward process using C# instead of JavaScript. We’ve been delivering our first production back-office apps built with Blazor and thought we would share some of the benefits that we’ve discovered.

Single-Page (Web) Apps

Most business applications are made up from different layers. Right at the heart of your software, you’ll more than likely have a database. Built upon that, there will probably be an API, other server-side software, authentication servers, and so on. Right at the outer level – the level your users see – is the web application. This is usually built using HTML and JavaScript (often with Angular or React JavaScript frameworks).

Angular and React are great frameworks, but they bring additional development overheads to any project. Developers will be working with multiple languages and frameworks which means more tech to keep updated and upgraded in order to keep pace with changes in those frameworks (and the tools needed to develop with them).

Adding new features, fixing issues, applying security patches and even removing functionality takes more time, increasing timescales and ultimately – adding extra costs.

How Blazor helps

This is where Blazor shines. Instead of creating separate front-end apps for your users, developers can create the front-end and server-side applications at the same time, using the same programming languages and techniques. Your front-end code (now written in C#) can take full advantage of the Microsoft .NET framework. No more TypeScript → JavaScript → API → .NET processing, you can just do everything in C# and .NET.

Why does this matter to businesses?

Why should businesses by interested in all of this? In a word: costs.

Every time a business adds a new application to it’s catalogue, there are costs involved in developing, building, testing, deploying, securing and maintaining that app. Traditional single-page apps have the front-end and server-side code written using different languages and different frameworks.

Unifying more of your business’s code into a single framework brings down all of those costs. Right away, your front-end app is built in the same language and framework as your server-side software. Automated testing developed for your server-side code can now be easily adapted to include your front-end app. Libraries already developed in .NET can be used by the front-end too!

Less code to support means faster delivery, more robust testing, easier long-term maintenance and lower lifetime costs.

Image from Visual Studio Magazine

Are there any other savings?

Having everything developed using a single framework means that your development team can be streamlined too. There will still be a need for JavaScript developers for a few years yet, but the web is moving rapidly to WebAssembly (WASM). Blazor already supports WASM with the code being written in C# using the .NET framework.

Rather than having developers who focus on different parts of the system (because of the technologies used), your team could be unified around .NET meaning that you have more resources (with the same size team) to pick up work in every part of the system. With Blazor, your front-end developer will have the skills to complete server-side development tasks.

Microsoft is working on developing mobile bindings for Blazor too. When this is finally released, it will allow Blazor developers to build mobile apps using the same technology, again re-using existing code already written in .NET.

Our Blazor experience

We’ve been creating prototype Blazor apps in-house for most of 2020 to help us understand the advantages and disadvantages of the framework, as well as how we can use this exciting new technology to benefit our customers.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve started delivering our first production-quality Blazor Server apps to customers. Overall, the process has been fantastic. Development of Blazor apps has been quicker than using Angular or React and the deployment process using Azure DevOps has been seamless.

While we continue to support Angular and React web app development, we would now recommend using Blazor for developing new greenfield back-office software for businesses.

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