What issue(s) do you see as the foremost facing VB.NET developers over, say, the next five years? (Would the release of IPv6 play into this at all?)
VB.NET developers are a diverse group and most VB developers have already been challenged with the transition to .NET. From my clients, the biggest issues I've noted are migrating from VB to VB.NET. I believe Microsoft recognizes the current challenges for VB developers, and as a result, I expect the next version of VB.NET to ease these migration issues. If you are already developing with VB.NET, I'd expect very little trouble moving to VB Whidbey (now officially VS.NET 2005). If you are using VB6, I would expect it still to be a significant migration to VB Whidbey, but less so than you face with the current version of VB.NET. A VB6 to VB Whidbey migration will likely remain a significant undertaking, so don't wait for Whidbey; get started now.
Given the above assumptions, I believe many of the issues facing VB.NET developers will be the same issues facing any .NET developer -- identity ownership and digital rights, securing information systems that must communicate with the outside world, and dealing with a rapidly increasing scale of data. Microsoft announced how it plans to attack these upcoming issues with its next waves of technology such as Indigo, Longhorn, WinFS, and Yukon. You can prepare for these issues by taking a close look at the new Longhorn Identity System and Longhorn Rights Management. Start learning how to design and implement secure systems (read Writing Secure Code by Howard and LeBlanc, ISBN 0-7356-1722-8). And start thinking in Terabytes, 100 Mbit wireless and 10 Mbit broadband connections -- will your applications be able to handle these larger scales?
IPv6 certainly plays into all this. As data and throughput requirements grow, the infrastructure is going to have to be more scalable and efficient. In fact, one of the reasons IPv6 exists is concern that we will run out of IP addresses. IPv6 allows multiplayer games and other peer-to-peer style applications to send less network traffic and work more efficiently. It also facilitates new levels of security and allows applications to work better behind firewalls and NATs. Conversion to IPv6 will be lengthy and gradual. Think of IPv6 as an upgrade to the Internet. It will require changes to infrastructure, hardware and application software, but the benefits in how it facilitates solutions for identity ownership, security and scalability will be well worth the effort.
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