Click here to close now.


You will be redirected in 30 seconds or close now.

ColdFusion Authors: Yakov Fain, Maureen O'Gara, Nancy Y. Nee, Tad Anderson, Daniel Kaar

Related Topics: ColdFusion

ColdFusion: Article

Which Is Faster?

Which Is Faster?

Which is faster, <CFQUERY> or <CFLOOP>? Which is faster, CFML or <CFSCRIPT>? Which is faster... ? If you're a ColdFusion developer, chances are that you've asked (or have been asked) these questions and others like them.

So, Which Is Faster?
Okay, so which option is actually the faster one? Honestly? I'm not so sure. Once upon a time (pre-CF4) we were told that <CFLOOP> was very slow. Then (when CF4 shipped) we were told that <CFLOOP> had been optimized and outperformed <CFOUTPUT>. And now, well, CFMX changes everything. So, which is faster?

Of course, performance-related questions are legitimate. We all keep looking for ways to tweak just a little more oomph from our code. But the truth is that this is not just a CFML syntax concern; this affects all sorts of code, database calls, design considerations, reuse implementations, and more.

ColdFusion debugging helps us out a little here. Execution time (for a complete page or parts thereof) provides an invaluable peek under the CF covers. But for more granular performance comparisons, for detailed benchmarking, and for ascertaining definitive performance data, debug output falls a bit short.

Enter ColdFusion MX
Ever since ColdFusion MX shipped I've been trying to better understand exactly what the product is doing internally so as to be able to write better code. And like many of you, I've discovered that an interesting side effect of ColdFusion's new processing engine is that many of the tips and tricks I lived by don't really apply anymore; some have negligible effects on my code, and others are just plain wrong. So I created an application, a really simple performance comparison tool, using good old ColdFusion. This tool has proven so invaluable that I feel compelled to share it with you. Read on.

Measuring Execution Time
The key to measuring any execution time in ColdFusion is an intriguing little function named GetTickCount(). GetTickCount() takes no parameters, and returns a number that is, in and of itself, rather useless. So what makes GetTickCount() so intriguing? The number that GetTickCount() returns is a value in milliseconds, and invoking GetTickCount() exactly one second after a prior GetTickCount() invocation returns a value exactly 1000 times greater than the first returned value.

In other words, to determine exactly how long a line of code takes to execute, you could do the following:

<CFSET start=GetTickCount()>
... some CFML code ...
<CFSET end=GetTickCount()>
<CFSET executiontime=end-start>

Measuring a single execution yields no usable data - a single invocation may run faster or slower at any time based on lots of other factors (ColdFusion factors and otherwise). To really measure execution time, code must be executed repeatedly, and each iteration must be measured individually and stored. Then an average execution time can be determined by processing all of the saved values.

The simplest way to do this in ColdFusion is to loop through the iterations, saving each measurement to an array, perhaps like this:

<CFSET start=GetTickCount()>
...some CFML code...
<CFSET end=GetTickCount()>
<CFSET ArrayAppend(timings, end-start)>

Then to obtain the average execution time you could simply use:


Similarly, total execution time, slowest iteration, and fastest iteration could easily be determined using array functions like this:

Total: #ArraySum(timings)#
Slowest: #ArrayMax(timings)#
Fastest: #ArrayMin(timings)#

To compare the processing of two options you'd simply repeat this process twice (saving the data to two arrays, one for each option), and then compare the results.

Presenting Results
Detailed benchmarking data is useless unless it can be presented in a format that makes it clear and understandable. <CFCHART> (and related tags) makes it easy to plot the data in a highly usable and readable format.

<CFCHART> is usually used to chart database query results, but as this code snippet demonstrates, individual data points can be passed explicitly using the <CFCHARTDATA> tag. In this example, two arrays (named timings1 and timings2) are being charted in individual data series in a single chart. The inner loops loop from 1-100, and on each iteration, passes the appropriate array value (from both arrays) to <CFCHART>.

<!--- Graph it --->
SERIESLABEL="Option 1 Title"
<CFLOOP FROM="1" TO="100" INDEX="i">
SERIESLABEL="Option 2 Title"
<CFLOOP FROM="1" TO="100" INDEX="i">
Putting It All Together
Over the past few months I've found myself using code much like what I described above over and over. So to make testing quicker and cleaner, I created the "Which is Faster?" application. The app is actually incredibly simple; the idea is as follows:
  • The two coding options (perhaps <CFLOOP QUERY=""> and <CFOUTPUT QUERY="">) are each placed in their own .cfm files. (I named mine loop.cfm and output.cfm).
  • Some tests may require the execution of code that is not part of the actual test (for example, to test <CFLOOP> and <CFOUTPUT> you'd need a query to be executed, but you'd not want it to be executed along with the <CFLOOP> and <CFOUTPUT> tags), so that code is placed in its own .cfm file. (I named mine query.cfm.)
  • A form prompts for the names of these files, descriptions, as well as the number of iterations to use when testing.
  • The form submits to a processing page that first includes the preprocessor page (if one was specified) and then loops as instructed, including each test file and saving the execution times to arrays, which are then used by <CFCHART> tags to chart the performance.

    For my own testing (to test <CFLOOP> versus <CFOUTPUT>) I used three files. Here they are:

    <CFQUERY DATASOURCE="exampleapps"
    SELECT *
    FROM tblEmployees
    ORDER BY LastName, FirstName

    <CFOUTPUT QUERY="emps">

    <CFLOOP QUERY="emps">

    These are simple, crude, and not real-world at all. But they are perfect for this type of testing - you wouldn't want lots of other processing included, as that could skew the results.

    FORM.CFM (Listing 1) contains the code for the form, a simple HTML form as described above (see Figure 1). One checkbox worth noting is the "Exclude first iteration" option; as ColdFusion may have to compile the code on the first execution, you may not want to include that in the collected data (as it will skew the results, creating a much slower first value).

    PROCESS.CFM (Listing 2) processes the form. The code first uses <CFPARAM> and a series of <CFIF> statements to validate and prepare passed values. If a preprocessor file was specified, it is then executed. Next, if the "Exclude first iteration" option was checked, each included file is executed once (using <CFINCLUDE> tags) so as to force a compile if needed. Then comes the test itself; <CFLOOP> loops from 1 to the specified number of iterations and, within each iteration, both files are executed and the timings for each appended to one of two arrays (one for each test). Finally the results are displayed in five graphs (see Figure 2). The first shows the execution details, and the next four show total processing time, average iteration processing time, as well as fastest and slowest iteration processing time. (In case you were wondering why I used two arrays instead of a single two-dimensional array, these last four graphs are the reason; functions like ArraySum() and ArrayAvg() work on single dimensional arrays only).

    Where to Go from Here
    Of course, writing all this down has gotten me thinking. It would be nice if instead of just including files with <CFINCLUDE> the application would give you a choice and also allow:

    • <CFHTTP> calls to complete pages, local or remote
    • <CFINVOKE> calls to Web services or ColdFusion Components
    • <CFMODULE> calls to Custom Tags
    It's tempting to modify the app right now, but so as to get this column in, I'll leave this enhancement for you to work on. If you find the application useful and enhance it, please let me know.

    So, which is faster, <CFLOOP> or <CFOUTPUT>? Answer: <CFLOOP> seems slightly faster, but there is so little difference it's essentially insignificant. Which is faster, CFML or <CFSCRIPT>? Answer: almost no difference (unless I ran ridiculously large tests, as in 10,000 assignments per iteration). Which is faster? Now you can find out yourself - and not just with CFML language elements, but whole blocks of functionality, pages, SQL statements, and more. Enjoy!

  • More Stories By Ben Forta

    Ben Forta is Adobe's Senior Technical Evangelist. In that capacity he spends a considerable amount of time talking and writing about Adobe products (with an emphasis on ColdFusion and Flex), and providing feedback to help shape the future direction of the products. By the way, if you are not yet a ColdFusion user, you should be. It is an incredible product, and is truly deserving of all the praise it has been receiving. In a prior life he was a ColdFusion customer (he wrote one of the first large high visibility web sites using the product) and was so impressed he ended up working for the company that created it (Allaire). Ben is also the author of books on ColdFusion, SQL, Windows 2000, JSP, WAP, Regular Expressions, and more. Before joining Adobe (well, Allaire actually, and then Macromedia and Allaire merged, and then Adobe bought Macromedia) he helped found a company called which provides automotive services (buy a car, sell a car, etc) over the Web. (including Stoneage) is one of the largest automotive web sites out there, was written entirely in ColdFusion, and is now owned by Auto-By-Tel.

    Comments (2) View Comments

    Share your thoughts on this story.

    Add your comment
    You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

    In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

    Most Recent Comments
    ramaa rajan 12/03/03 11:09:27 AM EST

    I would like to capture the execution time of each page as it displayed in the browser. GetTickCount() function gives a slightly different result. Can you pls tell me how. Thanks a lot

    07/24/03 12:51:00 PM EDT
    @ThingsExpo Stories
    We are rapidly moving to a brave new world of interconnected smart homes, cars, offices and factories known as the Internet of Things (IoT). Sensors and monitoring devices will touch every part of our lives. Let's take a closer look at the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things is a worldwide network of objects and devices connected to the Internet. They are electronics, sensors, software and more. These objects connect to the Internet and can be controlled remotely via apps and programs. Because they can be accessed via the Internet, these devices create a tremendous opportunity to inte...
    Today air travel is a minefield of delays, hassles and customer disappointment. Airlines struggle to revitalize the experience. GE and M2Mi will demonstrate practical examples of how IoT solutions are helping airlines bring back personalization, reduce trip time and improve reliability. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Dr. Sarah Cooper, M2Mi’s VP Business Development and Engineering, explored the IoT cloud-based platform technologies driving this change including privacy controls, data transparency and integration of real time context with p...
    We all know that data growth is exploding and storage budgets are shrinking. Instead of showing you charts on about how much data there is, in his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Scott Cleland, Senior Director of Product Marketing at HGST, showed how to capture all of your data in one place. After you have your data under control, you can then analyze it in one place, saving time and resources.
    The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data shows "less than 10 percent of IoT developers are making enough to support a reasonably sized team....
    Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
    DevOps is about increasing efficiency, but nothing is more inefficient than building the same application twice. However, this is a routine occurrence with enterprise applications that need both a rich desktop web interface and strong mobile support. With recent technological advances from Isomorphic Software and others, rich desktop and tuned mobile experiences can now be created with a single codebase – without compromising functionality, performance or usability. In his session at DevOps Summit, Charles Kendrick, CTO and Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, demonstrated examples of com...
    As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningful and actionable insights. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Paul Turner, Chief Marketing Officer at...
    In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
    In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Adobe Campaign, explored the key ingredients of cross-channel marketing in a digital world. Learn how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects).
    The Internet of Everything is re-shaping technology trends–moving away from “request/response” architecture to an “always-on” Streaming Web where data is in constant motion and secure, reliable communication is an absolute necessity. As more and more THINGS go online, the challenges that developers will need to address will only increase exponentially. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Todd Greene, Founder & CEO of PubNub, exploreed the current state of IoT connectivity and review key trends and technology requirements that will drive the Internet of Things from hype to reality.
    Two weeks ago (November 3-5), I attended the Cloud Expo Silicon Valley as a speaker, where I presented on the security and privacy due diligence requirements for cloud solutions. Cloud security is a topical issue for every CIO, CISO, and technology buyer. Decision-makers are always looking for insights on how to mitigate the security risks of implementing and using cloud solutions. Based on the presentation topics covered at the conference, as well as the general discussions heard between sessions, I wanted to share some of my observations on emerging trends. As cyber security serves as a fou...
    Continuous processes around the development and deployment of applications are both impacted by -- and a benefit to -- the Internet of Things trend. To help better understand the relationship between DevOps and a plethora of new end-devices and data please welcome Gary Gruver, consultant, author and a former IT executive who has led many large-scale IT transformation projects, and John Jeremiah, Technology Evangelist at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), on Twitter at @j_jeremiah. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.
    Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
    With all the incredible momentum behind the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, it is easy to forget that not a single CEO wakes up and wonders if “my IoT is broken.” What they wonder is if they are making the right decisions to do all they can to increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve customer experience – effectively the same challenges they have always had in growing their business. The exciting thing about the IoT industry is now these decisions can be better, faster, and smarter. Now all corporate assets – people, objects, and spaces – can share information about themselves and thei...
    The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound effect on the world, and what should we expect to see over the next couple of years.
    PubNub has announced the release of BLOCKS, a set of customizable microservices that give developers a simple way to add code and deploy features for realtime apps.PubNub BLOCKS executes business logic directly on the data streaming through PubNub’s network without splitting it off to an intermediary server controlled by the customer. This revolutionary approach streamlines app development, reduces endpoint-to-endpoint latency, and allows apps to better leverage the enormous scalability of PubNub’s Data Stream Network.
    Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true change and transformation possible.
    Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Day 2 Keynote at 17th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, wil...
    Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem" in this scenario: microservice A (releases daily) depends on a couple of additions to backend B (re...
    I recently attended and was a speaker at the 4th International Internet of @ThingsExpo at the Santa Clara Convention Center. I also had the opportunity to attend this event last year and I wrote a blog from that show talking about how the “Enterprise Impact of IoT” was a key theme of last year’s show. I was curious to see if the same theme would still resonate 365 days later and what, if any, changes I would see in the content presented.