Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Moving from Silverlight to MVC3

In this post I’d like to explain why we felt the need to abandon our Silverlight development in favor of MVC3.

As some of you may very well know, I’ve been pushing Silverlight within our company from as early as Silverlight 2 Beta 1, back in 2008. Still, this last summer I felt I had to raise the question: Is this still the right technology for our company?

Technology choices are about requirements

When we first chose Silverlight as our UI technology, we came up with a set of requirements. Our application should have a (near) zero footprint on client systems. It should be accessible through the web. Deployment on clients should be effortless or none existent. It should look great without a whole lot of effort. Silverlight checks all these boxes (it still does).

We write summer of 2010. The iPad has been around for several months now and it has been a great success. Smartphones are widely adopted to the point that we predict our customers will get interested in support for platforms like these when using our software.

Another thing we see is people working on more different platforms than before. Was it ok to ask for a certain browser in 2009, in 2010 our customers began to ask for a browser independent UI, not only on Windows, but also on a lot of other platforms.

To see what exactly would be the response of our customers we decided to build a native iPhone application with a limited set of functionality. We started the project early 2011 and published the first Dutch HRM app for any smartphone platform in may. It was a hit, not only because of responses by our clients, but also because of responses by our competitors.

Requirements shift, the world changes

This lead us to conclude that we needed to do something to support a new requirement. Our application, at least in part, should be available on mobile devices and tablets. And we should make sure we could drop the browser requirement we had active, even with our Silverlight 4 UI*.

That is why, during one of our meetings about what to build next, I felt the need to ask “Shouldn’t we move away from Silverlight and adopt ASP.NET MVC3 with HTML5?” It sure was painful, after investing over two and a half years in Silverlight to even suggest dropping it. However I felt then, and I still do, that a change had to be made. After some more debate on the consequences and some research, we are now putting in the effort to build the first parts of an MVC3 UI with the first steps into HTML 5 and CSS 3.

Luckily not all our efforts with Silverlight where in vain. We did deliver a good working product and we are committed to using, expanding and improving the middleware we developed for it. (Do you see the power of a Service Oriented Architecture?).

So is Silverlight really dead now?

Some of you may remember this post. In that post I state that Silverlight is actually the better technology for writing Line Of Business Applications. Even after researching ASP.NET MVC3 and HTML 5 further, I do still believe that, however because of the changes in how people use computers it simply fails to check one box for our customers.

Silverlight is no where near dead. It will still be used in many ways, including new platforms like Windows 8 and, for example Microsoft CRM 2011. Microsoft is integrating Silverlight in more and more of their own platforms. Also with the introduction of Silverlight 5 there will be many cool new features coming to the browser. Therefor I doubt Microsoft will drop Silverlight any time soon.

Consequences for Developers 42

Unfortunately our move away from Silverlight does have some consequences for this blog. First of all, my long running series of posts “Adventures while building a Silverlight Enterprise application has ended with part 41 (which is slightly painful for an obvious reason).

It also means I will no longer be writing posts for SilverlightShow.net. I’d like to use this opportunity to thank Svetla for supporting me for the past years.

And finally, it will also mean a lot less content on Silverlight, but hopefully a lot more content on MVC3, HTML 5, CSS 3, jQuery, etc..

It’s the end of another interesting period in my professional live and the start of a new one. I hope you have enjoyed my articles on Silverlight and I hope to see you around.



* The IE dependency was not actually caused by Silverlight, but by the integration with the Microsoft Report Viewer we used.


  1. Hi, My company have also being building a business application in sliverlight 4 since april 2010, we are launching into the healthcare market and with the IPad explosion we are a bit left out in the cold with technology that neither works on ipads or android tablets. How is your transition to MVC currenlty going, i am assessing technology to replace the current UI and keep the backend in place


  2. In fact, due to all kinds of set backs and delays we have only just started this project up again. This also led to a new look at what we actually want and we may very well end up not going ahead with MVC after all.