MSBuild Makes Cross-Platform Progress

Since March, Microsoft has had designs on taking the Microsoft Build Engine open source and cross-platform as it ports it to .NET Core in the coming months. Progress is in full swing now.

It's been a few months since Microsoft announced that it was open sourcing the Microsoft Build Engine and providing ways to use it on Mac and Linux platforms, and now the project is in full swing, but they've since switched gears to simplify cross-platform portability.

"Moving forward we've decided to switch gears and bet on .NET Core as our runtime," said Microsoft Program Manager Rich Lander, who posted this blog about the initial push. "At the end, we want to have a single open source code base that works cross-platform, and from which we also build the MSBuild package that ships with Visual Studio."

.NET Core is a forked version of the .NET Framework, or as Microsoft Program Manager Immo Landwerth, who heads the .NET Framework team, wrote in a thorough description of its development, it's "a modular implementation that can be used in a wide variety of verticals, scaling from the data center to touch based devices, is available as open source, and is supported by Microsoft on Windows, Linux and Mac OSX." It's easy to see why rather than continue to work on versions for Mac and Linux using the Mono platform, the team would immediately pour its efforts into .NET Core.

Comments to the post bring up some concerns about Msbuild in general and the branching strategy that appears to have the branches diverging even further. "The xplat and master are diverging with every PR merged, which is a bad strategy," said James, a commenter, who links to a number of similar comments in a branching strategy discussion on GitHub.

"Our ultimate longer-term goal will be to have a single branch that contains Linux and Windows, but right now the quality bar for master is much higher because of potential regressions," explained Andy Gerlicher, a Microsoft senior software engineer. "We have a very large customer base and tight integration with Visual Studio so this is the main priority when considering changes. We would definitely approve targeted and well tested merges between branches though."

"At the end, we want to have a single open source code base that works cross-platform, and from which we also build the MSBuild package that ships with Visual Studio," said Nikolai Tillmann, a principal software engineer manager with Microsoft Research, who recently joined Microsoft's Tools for Software Engineers Group.

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