MS Access vs. Visual Studio LightSwitch

by Kev Ritchie 14. November 2010 11:59

On 3rd August at VSLive! 2010 in Redmond; Corporate Vice President of Visual Studio, Jason Zander, unveiled Visual Studio LightSwitch.

Yes, it’s taken this long for me to get around to writing about it.

What is LightSwitch?  LightSwitch is a member of the Visual Studio family targeted at developers who need to rapidly build LOB (Line of Business) Applications.

What relevance does this have to Access?

Well, recently a colleague of mine was asked to look into LightSwitch as an alternative to building database applications using Access.  Yes, there are still applications in use today that use Access!  So, I thought I’d take this opportunity to find out if LightSwitch really is; what has been seen by some developers, as a replacement for Access.

It seems that even though Access was developed as a package to help business end users store, report on and share business data with other business end users, the Access package has been leveraged by developers to create what you could class as LOB applications.

This brings to light a common issue with this type of development. Whilst this method of application development fits personal or small business usage, scalability of the application is limited.  As a business grows the reliance on the application grows and with it the data.  It wouldn’t be long before you had to compress and archive off the data, to allow for further storage.

Oh, and let’s not forget, have you ever seen a nice looking Access application UI? J  If you have or have created one, then I apologise.

To overcome the issues of using Access as a platform for developing business applications, I believe, is where LightSwitch comes in.

I fully understand that at first glance, LightSwitch seems to be a glorified version of Access with a Visual Studio IDE.  But look closer!  You are getting so much more.  Here are a few that I thought were worth mentioning:

Out-of-the-box you get a classic three tier architecture built on top of .NET (WCF, RIA Services and Entities), ASP.NET and Silverlight. Nice!

Microsoft are also working with Partners, like Infragistics, to develop Shell and Theme components that developers can install to dramatically change the look and feel of their application at the click of a button.  If you’re rubbish at UI design like me, this is a brilliant addition.

You also have the ability to connect to data sources such as SQL Server and SharePoint.  But Access 2010 can do that as well, so why was it worth mentioning?  Well, really to highlight the point that the major difference between the two packages is that LightSwitch is capable of connecting to the Cloud (Windows Azure and SQL Azure Platform) albeit Post beta.  Ah, scalability!

So, is LightSwitch a replacement for Access?

In my honest opinion, LightSwitch is not a replacement for Access.

LightSwitch is a product that gives developers the tools to provide feature-rich and scalable business applications that can be deployed to multiple platforms.

Access is a product that; as I mentioned before, is for allowing business end users to store, report on and share business data.  It was never intended to be a platform to build business applications.

Now that LightSwitch is here, the weight of being a business application can be taken off of Access’s shoulders!

The lines are clearly defined between these two products and both are here to stay.

For more information on LightSwitch and the Keynote from VSLive! head over to http://www.microsoft.com/visualstudio/en-us/lightswitch. You won’t be disappointed.

Comments (1) -

17/11/2010 09:22:51 #

SteveW

Nice article, Kev.

I'm not sure I agree with your conclusions entirely, though.  I think that, as a professional developer's tool, LightSwitch will certainly spell the death-knell of Access - and about time too!  This will leave Access in its rightful place; as a simple tool for commonplace users.

That won;t stop some people using Access, but hopefully it will give us developers the leverage to state that real applications require a more solid framework and use LightSwitch instead - moving on to full .NET development as appropriate.

Now all we need is an Access to LightSwitch converter. ;)

SteveW United Kingdom

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