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ColdFusion: Article

The Future of ColdFusion – Major Flex 2 Deployments Are On Their Way, Says CFDJ Editor-in-Chief

Simon Horwith:"This acquisition is the best thing that could have ever happened to ColdFusion"

I'm shocked...shocked, I say, at just how much the ColdFusion landscape is changing. I'm specifically impressed with the impact that recent trends and events have had on the community. This editorial is a look at some recent events within the community and how they will impact things to come.

I've been speaking with folks at Adobe and it appears that most of the transition period stuff is out of the way - and the developers there have been able to keep in full swing all the while! Now that the unification process is near completion, one can only imagine that it's full steam ahead. Adobe has announced several ColdFusion-related job openings: new positions and old, which is a strong indicator that they're beefing-up in-house CF expertise. After several talks with folks at Adobe and some personal observations, I can say with confidence that this acquisition is the best thing that could have ever happened to ColdFusion. One thing that many of you may have already noticed are the changes to www.macromedia.com. Adobe has begun integrating the adobe.com and macromedia.com sites and some of the Adobe product information is now prominently displayed on the Macromedia homepage. Many of the links from the Macromedia site now lead in to the appropriate sections of the Adobe domain. When the sites are completely integrated, we should have one excellent developer resource to go to. What's blown me away more than anything though is what's been happening on the labs site (http://labs.adobe.com/).

First, Adobe's put a bunch of new products up there in a very short amount of time, including Lightroom (a cool-looking tool for digital photographers) and the new XMP Toolkit (for working with metadata inside of image, document, and video files). They've wasted no time making good use of the labs site, a site dedicated to reaching out to the developer community by introducing new products very early. This is a good sign. Second, and most notable to myself and to CF developers in general, is the Flex 2 content on the labs site.

You can now download public betas (beta 2 at the time of this writing) of several Flex 2 products. These include Flex Builder 2, the Flex Framework and SDK, charting components, Flex Data Services, Flash Player 8.5, several cool ActionScript 3 libraries, "Mystic" - the Flex/ColdFusion connectivity module, and the Flex-AJAX bridge. I've been spending the majority of my time playing with all the new Flex offerings, and they are sweet...especially if you're a ColdFusion developer. In addition to being able to easily communicate with your CF server from Flex, there are now a bunch of cool wizards and RDS support inside of Eclipse, which allow ColdFusion developers to do great things. I'll save the details for an upcoming Flex super issue. At this time, if nothing else, I strongly recommend installing Flex Builder 2 and then taking a look at the Flex AJAX Bridge and Mystic - in the near future these products are likely to be commonplace in most ColdFusion shops. It's also worth mentioning that good documentation is beginning to be made available, as are many terrific sample applications. Adobe is currently holding a Flex Developer Derby - a contest to see what kind of cool applications people are building with the Flex 2 beta products. You can read the contest details on the CFDJ site and in this issue.

Why do I find all this Flex 2 stuff shocking? What I'm amazed at are the number of developers and companies I've already encountered that are planning major Flex 2 deployments - often times as the new presentation tier for existing ColdFusion applications. Remember, the product is still in beta; I've never seen such a quick adoption rate and so much excitement over any beta product before. It's going to be very exciting to see what kinds of applications the CF Community produces when Flex 2 is officially released.

The popularity of Flex will not only impact our application UIs - it will have an impact on how we develop our CF apps. As I mentioned in a recent editorial, in the context of Flex 2 and Web 2.0 applications in general, ColdFusion fills the role of providing a services tier. This means more focus on CFC development and how those CFCs are written. Something that developers should already be doing, but wanting to use Flex 2 might be the nudge that the community needs.

The other nudge toward more developers making better use of ColdFusion Components comes in the form of many of the frameworks, APIs, and other open source projects that have been released and are taking the community by storm. Many of these frameworks make heavy use of CFCs and encourage developers to make use of ColdFusion Components in their applications. Speaking of frameworks, the feedback from the January issue of CFDJ and from the CFPetMarket site has been terrific - I'm glad so many of you have found that to be a useful resource. To those of you who have e-mailed me about the documentation for SAM, I know you're all eager and I apologize for the delay, but it is coming. In the meantime, if you haven't downloaded the CFPetmarket sample I wrote, or the sample from last year's MAX, definitely visit my blog (www.horwith.com), follow links to those, and check out the code.

Last, I'd like to mention a couple of noteworthy changes to the community member roster that will also have an impact on things to come. Tim Buntel, the long-time product manager for ColdFusion, resigned from his post in order to pursue other interests. What actually happened is that Tim was given the opportunity to get back to his roots (education), which I'm sure will be great for him. Tim was a great voice for the company, a terrific entertainer (especially on stage at MAX), and did a fantastic job as product manager. I wish Tim success in all his endeavors...he will definitely be missed.

Another position vacated very recently was that of CTO at New Atlanta. Charlie Arehart announced that after three years with the company he has resigned in order to pursue his CF community interests as well as other personal and professional interests. Charlie was extremely active in the ColdFusion community in its early days (and was very active at CFDJ)...all the way up to his assuming the CTO role at New Atlanta. Now, it appears that Charlie is back. His return to being an active member and participant in the ColdFusion community is very good news. Charlie's a smart guy with a lot (a lot) to say. You can keep up with Charlie's activities at www.carehart.org/.

What the availability of new ColdFusion and Flex 2 product offerings boils down to is the equivalent of an adrenaline shot straight to the heart of the ColdFusion community. We have more tools, more options, and a more robust environment for meeting the growing demands placed on Web applications in the twenty-first century. Coupled with a strong and growing community of developers, this means a more open exchange of ideas and information. Like it or not, the landscape is changing...and there has never been a more exciting time to be a ColdFusion developer.

More Stories By Simon Horwith

Simon Horwith is the CIO at AboutWeb, LLC, a Washington, DC based company specializing in staff augmentation, consulting, and training. Simon is a Macromedia Certified Master Instructor and is a member of Team Macromedia. He has been using ColdFusion since version 1.5 and specializes in ColdFusion application architecture, including architecting applications that integrate with Java, Flash, Flex, and a myriad of other technologies. In addition to presenting at CFUGs and conferences around the world, he has also been a contributing author of several books and technical papers.

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