Three key (and interrelated) entities that make it all possible: the CLR, CTS, and CLS. From a programmer’s point of view, .NET can be understood as a runtime environment and a comprehensive base class library. The runtime layer is properly referred to as the common language runtime, or CLR. The primary role of the CLR is to locate, load, and manage .NET types on your behalf. The CLR also takes care of a number of low-level details such as memory management; creating application domains, threads, and object context boundaries; and performing various security checks.

Another building block of the .NET platform is the Common Type System, or CTS. The CTS specification fully describes all possible data types and programming constructs supported by the runtime, specifies how these entities can interact with each other, and details how they are represented in the .NET metadata.

Understand that a given .NET-aware language might not support each and every feature defined by the CTS. The Common Language Specification (CLS) is a related specification that defines a subset of common types and programming constructs that all .NET programming languages can agree on. Thus, if you build .NET types that only expose CLS-compliant features, you can rest assured that all .NET-aware languages can consume them. Conversely, if you make use of a data type or programming construct that is outside of the bounds of the CLS, you cannot guarantee that every .NET programming language can interact with your .NET code library.

The Role of the Base Class Libraries
In addition to the CLR and CTS/CLS specifications, the .NET platform provides a base class library that is available to all .NET programming languages. Not only does this base class library encapsulate various primitives such as threads, file input/output (I/O), graphical rendering, and interaction with various external hardware devices, but it also provides support for a number of services required by most real-world applications. For example, the base class libraries define types that facilitate database access, manipulation of XML documents, programmatic security, and the construction of web-enabled (as well as traditional desktop and console-based) front ends. From a high level, you can visualize the relationship between the CLR, CTS, CLS, and the base class library.

Source of Information : Pro C# 2008 and the NET 3.5 Platform Fourth Edition


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