Coding in the Cloud – Part 2

As part of the continuing series of posts on developing applications using cloud based IDEs, I will look at the CodeRun IDE in this post.

CodeRun

When you first open the CodeRun IDE in a browser, you’re struck by how similar it is to Microsoft’s Visual Studio.  The layout and menus of the CodeRun IDE will be familiar to any .NET developer.

The CodeRun IDE

This is not an accident.  The CodeRun IDE was designed to deliver a familiar development experience in the cloud, using the web browser.  This is to allow developers to focus on programming, rather than administrating complex configurations for development and deployment.

CodeRun-ProjectTypesThe CodeRun IDE supports ASP.NET web projects (Web Form,  MVC and Silverlight using C#), JavaScript development and PHP, but the majority of the features are designed to support .NET development (the CodeRun IDE is built using ASP.NET).

CodeRun allows you to upload existing projects, or create a new project using the predefined project templates.  The projects can be edited, and then compiled and ran in the browser.  Each project runs in a separate sandbox, but for a cost, you can deploy your project to a cloud hosting solution supplied by CodeRun.   The CodeRun IDE supports applications using both SQL Server 2005 and Amazon SimpleDB.

Other features include:

  • Syntax colouring and code completion.
  • Code compilation for .NET applications, with standard console output and error message support.
  • Debugging that allows for the use of breakpoints, to watch items and inspect the call stack.
  • Share code with others via a unique link.
  • All code is private by default and can only be accessed by the logged in user, though you may publish the code if you wish to make it public, and you can also mark the project as open source.

Costs

The CodeRun IDE is a free service.  The optional cloud based hosting provided by CodeRun starts at $10 per month, rising to a maximum of $169 per month

What is like to use?

CodeRun-CodeCompletionThe CodeRun IDE is intuitive to use, and you soon learn to treat it as a cut-down version of Microsoft’s Visual Studio.  When coding, its performance is reasonable, though you occasionally notice a time lag in the AJAX enabled code completion feature.   Another nag is the lack of a toolbar for dragging and dropping web controls onto a web form.  Whilst it is derided by some developers, it is a major productivity feature in Visual Studio for the majority of its users.

A major disadvantage to the CodeRun IDE is that it does not support the use of third party code libraries.  This applies both to projects created in the IDE itself, and to projects initially created in Visual Studio and later uploaded to CodeRun.  The only way to include additional code libraries to the default selection provided by CodeRun is to add the source code to the CodeRun project.  This obviously prevents the use of closed source code libraries.

A further hindrance to adoption by an enterprise is the lack of integration with other cloud based services.  I would have expected to see some integration with online bug tracking and source control systems, such as Microsoft’s Team Foundation Server (TFS) or Github/BitBucket.

The main selling point of CodeRun IDE is the ability to run and deploy .Net code from your browser.  But several other cloud providers allow you to deploy to cloud based hosting from desktop IDEs like Visual Studio.  Indeed, CodeRun also provide a Visual Studio extension to allow developers to deploy their own cloud hosting.  It would also be nice to see additional support for databases.  CodeRun should provide the ability for developers to create and use new hosted SQL Server instances from within the IDE – this is currently not possible.

CodeRun’s lack of integration for third party services, and the fact that third party code libraries cannot be used, means that the IDE is not a realistic development platform for the Enterprise. It is a useful tool for developers trying out code snippets, or experimenting with new technologies.  I can certainly see myself using CodeRun again, but Microsoft’s Visual Studio has nothing to fear.

About Andrew Parkhill

I'm a software developer with over 5 years experience, primarily working with the Microsoft .NET framework and SharePoint.
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