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SQLAndy

I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.

Thoughts on .Net Reflector Being Acquired by Red Gate

This is an unpaid/unsolicited comment about a product now owned by Red Gate Software. Purely my opinions, and I'll try to make clear my biases as I go.

It's been a while since the announcement, but it was interesting to hear about the acquisition of Reflector by Red Gate. For those of you (like me) that are mostly SQL, essentially Reflector is a decompiler. Point it a .Net assembly and it will generate C# or VB code as you prefer. Useful if you're missing the source code, or just need to dig deep into the .Net framework to see what is really going on. I can't think of a tool in the SQL world that is as well known or as useful as Reflector is in the .Net world, and Reflector has always been free.

From a marketing perspective my first thought was that it was a very nice move. It's a hugely well known product, just putting their corporate logo up in the corner (ala SQLServerCentral) would do a lot to increase brand recognition into a larger market (one that in my view they are not as big a player as they are in the SQL market.) As far as long term investment I would guess (don't know) that ongoing maintenance would be straight forward as the .Net languages evolve.

From a community perspective, I'm less sure it's a good idea, say compared to making it open source and finding a few hard core .Net guys to own the project. I'm not a huge open source fan because I think software writers need (ultimately) to get paid for their efforts directly (not via support agreements that seem to support Linux), but this just feels like it should be open source.  As long as Red Gate can maintain the tool at it's current price (free) and not try to monetize by creating a 'pro' version or other approach, I don't see that it makes much difference of course. A bigger worry is that I can see this becoming the trend of the month, bigger companies snapping up all of the credible tiny players and then arguing the merits of free advertising vs charging for what was once free. It's not a dumb idea, I'm mildly inclined to go see what we might buy too! I like having a lot of smaller vendors to even things out with the big guys. I know it's a natural evolution for companies to grow and acquire/be acquired, but I have to wonder if that's not short term thinking (and could easily be applied to the sale of SSC to Red Gate).

Will be interesting to see how it turns out.

 

Comments

Posted by Phil Factor on 31 October 2008

NET Reflector is a superb product that I've used for a long time as a way of browsing assemblies. As it allows you to browse .NET CLR routines in SQL Server 2005 (if you use Denis Bauer's SQL2005Browser), it should be of interest to DBAs as well. It should allow you to convert your VB.NET/SMO routines to PowerShell, and even save them to file. (with one or two add-ins)

I don't really buy the idea that it should be an open-source product. It never has been open-source, and there is no evidence that going this route, rather than having an experienced development team work on it, would improve the product. As the ANTS team already have the highly specialised knowledge for this type of tool, surely this provides the best hope for maintaining the superb quality of Reflector.

Posted by Andy Warren on 31 October 2008

Phil, I'm not sure there is any evidence that your team could do it any better than the open source community could either:-) Dont know them and not throwing rocks at them, just saying I suspect there are a few talented individuals out there that would donate time towards such an effort, and that would be enough, given it's been primarily one really smart guy up to now.

Posted by Phil Factor on 3 November 2008

The ANTS team aren't my team, but they are good friends, as I've been getting my oar in over the way the ANTS product has been evolving. I'm not a gambling man, but Andrew Hunter and Bart Read know so much about assemblies, IL and reflection now that I can wager you confidently that they can make a really good contribution to NET Reflector, and put in many fresh ideas. I suggest that, if you think there is no evidence that they can do better than an open-source team, then you ought to give ANTS 4 Performance Profiler (the new version) a spin. We know that there are some very knowledgeable NET Reflector experts out there, and we've been talking to a lot of them, but I haven't met one who would have the time to do development work on .NET Reflector due to the sheer pressure of other commitments.

Remember that the 'One Smart Guy', Lutz, has put a incredible effort and man-hours into NET Reflector in the past. .NET Reflector represents a lot of committment

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