Entity Framework developed by Microsoft is an Open-Source Data Access Framework that eyes performance boost, JSON Columns as well as SQL Server Temporal Table Support with the Entity Framework 6.0. & its newer versions.
Entity Framework (EF)
Microsoft developed an entity framework for .NET applications for automating all database-related activities for your applications. Before the arrival of .NET 3.5, the developers used to write Enterprise Data Access Block or ADO .NET code for saving/retrieving application data from an underlying database. A connection to the database used to be opened by developers to create a DataSet for fetching or submitting the required data to a database, convert data from a DataSet to .NET objects & vice-versa for applying business rules. However, the whole process was cumbersome & error-prone until Microsoft came up with a framework named, "Entity Framework".
EF, the Open-Source ORM Framework for .NET applications, helps developers with data using objects of domain-specific classes. It doesn't focus on the underlying database where the data/information gets stored. EF allows developers to work at a higher level of abstraction. Developers get to create & maintain data-oriented applications using less code as compared with various traditional applications.
ORM framework = Object-Relational Mapper (O/RM) framework
The ORM framework enables .NET developers for working with databases using .NET objects by eliminating data-access codes, which developers used to write earlier for the same purpose.
An Entity Framework diligently fits between all business entities/domain classes and the databases. The framework saves data stored in the properties of business entities. It works by retrieving data from databases & converting it to business entities & objects automatically.
Herein, we are discussing the Entity Framework developed by Microsoft to help out the .NET developers. This brief introduction gets followed by the features of Entity Framework, which adds-on the significance of this discussion. Read on to find out more about Entity Framework, its features, versions, and past releases. So, what are you waiting for?
Entity Framework Features
Various features adorn the Entity Framework developed by Microsoft for .NET developers. The core of Entity Framework is a cross-platform that runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac. It creates an EDM (Entity Data Model) based on POCO (Plain Old CLR Object) entities that comes with various get/set properties of different data types. An EF uses this model while querying/saving entity data to the underlying database.
For querying, EF allows the developers to use LINQ queries such as C # or VB.NET for retrieving data from an underlying database. A database provider translates these LINQ queries to the database-specific query language such as SQL (relational database).
EF keeps track of the changes, which occurred to all entities as well as property values submitted to a database. This feature is referred to as "change tracking". For the saving feature, EF executes INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE commands to a database based on the changes that occurred to your entities.
Entity Framework uses Optimistic Concurrency as it helps protect any overwriting changes made by a user while data is fetched from the database.
An Entity Framework performs automatic transaction management while querying/saving data. One other interesting feature of EF includes the first level of caching out-of-the-box. Thus, repeated querying returns data from the cache instead of looking at the database.
Entity Framework follows certain built-in-conventions over the configuration programming pattern. It includes a set of default rules that automatically configure the EF model.
EF allows configuring the Entity-Framework-model by using data annotation attributes or fluent API for over-riding default conventions.
Entity Framework provides a set of migration commands, which gets executed on the NuGet Package Manager Console or the Command Line Interface for creating or managing an underlying database schema.
All these form the major features of an Entity Framework developed by Microsoft to simplify the processes/procedures done by .NET developers for a simple task. These features make it easy to work with EF & it's hassle-free. Now, let's look into the latest versions of EF.
Latest Versions of Entity Framework
Entity Framework got introduced by Microsoft in 2008 with .NET framework 3.5. Many versions of Entity Framework have been released since then. The two latest versions of Entity Framework include EF 6.0 and EF Core.
Comparison between EF 6.0 and EF Core
While EF 6.0 is stable & feature-rich, working only in Windows & .NET framework 3.5+ and open-source, EF Core is new & evolving, works with Windows, Linux, OSX & .NET framework 4.5+ and .NET core along with being open-source.
New in Entity Framework 6: EF 6.3.0 & EF 6.4.0
EF 6.4.0: It got launched to NuGet in December 2019 with the primary goal of polishing the features & scenarios delivered in EF 6.3.0.
EF 6.3.0: Released to NuGet in September 2019, the main goal is to facilitate the migration of existing applications, which use EF 6.0 to .NET Core 3.0. It comes with various bug fixes & enhancements as well. Benefits brought about EF 6.3.0 are as follows:
Support for .NET Core 3.0: The EF package targets .NET Standard 2.1 and .NET framework 4.x. The cross-platform Entity Framework 6.3.0 works with Windows, Linux & macOS. In this version, the migration commands are rewritten for executing work with SDK-Style projects. Proper support for SQL Server HierarchyId. Improved compatibility with Rosalyn & NuGet Package Reference. The version comes with an added ef6.exe utility that enables adding, scripting, and applying migrations from assemblies, which replace the migrate.exe. EF 6.3.0 comes with EF designer support as well.
Past Releases of Entity Framework
The first version of Entity Framework got released in 2008, which was a part of .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 & Visual Studio 2008 SP1. From EF 4.1, EF has been shipped as the Entity Framework NuGet Package. Between EF 4.1 and EF 5.0, Entity Framework NuGet Package extended the EF libraries, which got shipped as part of the .NET Framework. Starting with EF 6.0, EF became an Open-Source project; moved completely out from the .NET Framework. This accelerated the developmental-pace & delivery of new features.
EF Core 1.0 got released in June 2016 based on a new codebase, which is designed as a lightweight & extensible version of Entity Framework. So, let's get on with the past releases of EF with the very first version on top:
EF 3.5: The initial version, which got included in .NET 3.5 Service Pack 1 & Visual Studio 2008 SP1 - released in August 2008. It provided basic O/RM support using the Database First Workflow. Other past releases include: EF 4.0, EF 4.1, EF 4.1.1, EF 4.2, EF 4.3, and EF 4.3.1.
The newest versions include EF 5.0, 6.0, 6.0.1, 6.0.2, 6.1, 6.1.1, 6.1.2, 6.1.3, and 6.2. The latest version includes all features to streamline & iron-out any issues with EF 6.2, thereby improving the runtime. The EF tools got updated in Visual Studio 2017 15.7 as well, in May 2018. It fixed several user interface accessibility bugs with a workaround for SQL Server Performance regression while generating models from existing databases.
Entity Framework Core 6 Plans Take Shape
Herein, we did a brief discussion about the past & present of Entity Framework developed by Microsoft. Now, let's look into the future! A planned upgrade of EF 6.0 is slated to arrive in November. With the planned upgrade of an open-source-data-access technology by Microsoft, the developers aim to achieve higher performances with the additional support for SQL Server Temporal Tables as well as JSON Columns.
The next version of Entity Framework Core 6.0 aligns with a planned launch of the .NET 6.0 release based on a Microsoft bulletin published earlier in January. There is a renewed hope of attaining leverage over compiled models of EF Core 6.0 for improving a start-up performance, among the project developers. Major planning, speculations, and forecasting are going on behind-the-scenes that aid the infrastructure of the project and performance tests along with newer tests.
This project continues to investigate ideas for linking Entity Framework Core with linkers for better quality & performance as well as an ahead-of-time (AOT) compilation. However, there is a minimal expectation for the gap to be closed in the EF Core version 6.0 timeframe.
EF Core 6.0: Lightweight, Extensible, Open-Source
With Entity Framework Core 6.0 slated to be the cross-platform version of the Entity Framework Data Access Technology, the future plans for EF Core 6.0 look bright.
Let's have a sneak-peek into some of these plans proposed by Microsoft:
EF Core 6.0 gets the ability for creating SQL Server Temporal Tables that support Temporal Queries via Migrations; historical data gets accessed via the LINQ queries.
Common patterns get introduced for JSON support. These patterns get implemented via any kind of database provider. JSON Column support implemented for SQLite & SQL Server.
Improved support that helps in managing migrations & deploying databases.
Closing Query Gaps between EF 6.0 while making EF Core queries a superset of supported EF 6.0 queries.
All model building conventions are exposed to applications.
Having a discussion on the Entity Framework 6.0 developed by Microsoft throws light on the future of EF Core 6.0; a version every developer is anxiously waiting for. Focus on the benefits & keep working with Entity Framework with the future on its way to you.