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N-tier (multi-tier)  applications have become the norm for building enterprise software today. To most people, an N-tier application is anything that is divided into discrete logical parts. The most common choice is a three-part breakdown—presentation, business logic, and data—although other possibilities exist. N-tier applications first emerged as a way of solving some of the problems associated with traditional client/server applications, but with the arrival of the Web, this architecture has come to dominate new development.

The Microsoft Windows® DNA technology has been a very successful foundation for N-tier applications. The Microsoft .NET Framework also provides a solid platform for building N-tier applications. Yet the changes .NET brings should make architects re-think some of the lessons they've learned in the Windows DNA world about designing N-tier applications. Even more important, the fundamental support for XML Web services built into the .NET Framework allows building new kinds of applications that go beyond the traditional N-tier approach. Understanding how best to architect applications for .NET requires knowing what changes in this new world and how to exploit these changes. 

This article takes a look at these issues, beginning with a review of key architectural lessons learned in building N-tier applications using Windows DNA. It next examines these same findings, in the same order, as they apply to building applications using the .NET Framework. The final section provides some advice on architecture for applications that use XML Web services.



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