Welcome!

You will be redirected in 30 seconds or close now.

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

Related Topics: ColdFusion

ColdFusion: Article

Fusebox 4

Fusebox 4

The latest version of Fusebox - version 4 - has been taken out of beta and placed into general availability. Over the last seven years, Fusebox has grown from a collection of best practices and snippets of code into a full-featured, robust framework on which developers can build true Web applications.

Over these seven years, Fusebox has become the overwhelming favorite of ColdFusion developers, and it has been ported to JSP, PHP, and Lasso. Organizations as large as UPS, Casio, Dell Computers, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army, and Rooms to Go employ Fusebox on their Web sites, intranets, and extranets.

Fusebox is built around the idea of a central controller (the Fusebox) that handles requests (fuseactions) and delegates them to smaller, focused controllers (circuits). These components, in turn, delegate work to individual code files (fuses). Fusebox comes with a set of core files (downloadable from fusebox.org) that implement the framework.

Language-Independent XML
This latest version of Fusebox was almost a year in the making, and comes with added features, bug fixes, and improved performance. The most obvious change is in the controller elements. Previously, an fbx_switch.cfm file found in each circuit contained ColdFusion code to determine which actions were to be taken for each request. For example, this code might be used for a login circuit that was meant to respond to the fuseactions, login, and validateLogin (see Listing 1).

In Fusebox 4, the fbx_switch file is replaced with a circuit.xml file. This file has no ColdFusion code; the file consists of nothing but XML (see Listing 2).

Why the move to XML? XML offers Fusebox architects the ability to state their intention without resorting to code. But what's wrong with code? Nothing, of course, but a code-independent XML grammar allows the underlying Fusebox core code to change without affecting the code written for an application. It provides an interface between the architect's intention and the code's implementation.

This means that the core code for, say, a future Fusebox 5 could be substantially different from Fusebox 4, but not break any Fusebox 4 application code. The issue of backwards compatibility must concern providers of any technology. The use of a stable interface that is later translated into implementing code is one of the best ways of dealing with this problem.

XML Grammar
The purpose of the circuit.xml file, where this grammar will be used, is to define the meaning - not the implementation - of a fuseaction. For that reason, the XML grammar set used in these files is quite small; implementation details should be handled by fuses. Even with a constrained grammar set urging them against it, Fusebox architects must be careful to avoid writing implementation code in circuit files. Table 1 lays out the XML elements that can be used in the circuit.xml file.

 

As with all XML, the circuit.xml file must be well-formed - that is, it must conform to the rules for proper XML usage, such as the use of a closing slash in elements that have no closing tag.

While the XML file initially looks very different from Fusebox 3's fbx_switch file, experience among the beta group has shown that adapting to the new format is fast and easy for existing Fuseboxers.

Performance Through Parsing
One of the largest changes to Fusebox is largely invisible to Fusebox programmers. In previous versions of Fusebox, the core files were read on each request and all processing was handled dynamically - that is, at runtime. This created an overhead common to all dynamic processing models.

Fusebox 4 handles things very differently. Much of what had been dynamically determined is now handled in a separate parsing cycle that executes prior to runtime. The Fusebox 4 XML files are parsed and a single file is produced for each fuseaction, using the syntax: parsed.circuitname.fuseactionname.cfm. All such files are automatically placed in a parsed directory.

At runtime, index.cfm (or whatever the default file is) calls the Fusebox 4 runtime file, fusebox40.runtime file. The first job of the runtime file is to ensure that the parsing cycle has been run - and that no changes to XML files have been introduced since the time last parsed. If the runtime file code determines that the parsed files are not up to date (or are missing altogether), it calls fusebox40.loader, fusebox40.parser, and fusebox40.transformer, all of which work together to produce the parsed files located in the parsed directory.

By preparsing the code, the runtime logic needs only to include the appropriate parsed file. That is, if a request is made of the application to execute the fuseaction, home.main, for example, the runtime code (once it has assured itself that the existing state of parsed files is current) includes the file, parsed/parsed.home.main.cfm. By resolving as many dynamic issues as possible before runtime, performance is greatly improved.

Extending Fusebox with Plug-ins
Fusebox 4 also introduces the idea of plug-ins. Plug-ins provide developers a way of extending Fusebox's core functionality without having to tinker with the core Fusebox code. If the Fusebox core file is written to accommodate virtually any developer working on any project, and the application code is written to deal with individual fuseaction requests, plug-ins inhabit the middle ground - code that should run across multiple fuseactions within an application.

What can plug-ins do? Virtually anything - from logging requests to implementing security to... well, anything. Plug-ins allow the programmer to add application-wide functionality that the Fusebox core designers did not or could not anticipate.

Once the plug-in code is written, it is placed in the plug-ins directory. The plug-in designer determines at which of six plug-in points he or she wishes the plug-in code to run. This decision is registered in another XML file, fusebox.xml, located in the root directory.

The plug-in points reflect different stages of a fuseaction life cycle, such as preprocess (before anything else happens), prefuseaction (immediately prior to a fuseaction call), postfuseaction, and postprocess. The other two plug-in points are not temporally based, but occur when exceptions occur.

Plug-ins provide great extensibility to Fusebox without compromising the integrity of the Fusebox core files. During the beta cycle, several members wrote plug-ins to deal with common issues (such as security) and we expect to see plug-ins used as commonly as custom tags.

Exceptions, Layouts, Accessibility, and Content Components
As good as Fusebox 3 was, it suffered from one unfortunate liability: its exception handling was poor, and Fuseboxers have suffered with obscure exception messages since its release. Built into Fusebox 4 is the ability for the programmer to specify a module to call when an exception is thrown. The particulars of handling exceptions can then be handled by a plug-in. This provides enormous flexibility for a wide variety of needs.

Layouts in Fusebox 3 were exceptionally helpful. In Fusebox 4, they just get better. While Fusebox 3 tied layouts to the physical directory structure, this restriction is gone in Fusebox 4. Layout files lose their special status and simply become a fuseaction, making them easier to build and to employ.

While Fusebox 3 existed uneasily with ColdFusion's tag, this is no longer the case; developers needing to use can do so with impunity. The changes made to layouts also make Fusebox 4 more accessible to users with visual impairments by supporting Section 508 accessibility standards. Especially for government agencies - often charged with "508" issues - this represents a breakthrough.

Fusebox 4 also introduces the idea of granularizing content by providing content component variables that can be combined to form a larger Web page. Content component variables (CCVs) allow fuseactions to concentrate on building pieces of content while deferring the placement and usage of these components to another fuseaction. One obvious use for this technology is the building of portal-style pages, but it can be used whenever developers want to make display code more reusable. CCVs allow for far greater reusability of these components than was available previously.

Is Fusebox 4 for You?
So, with all this "new stuff," how disruptive is the move from Fusebox 3 to Fusebox 4? Surprisingly, not very. In a typical Fusebox application, well over 90% of code written is in fuses. None of this code changes at all. Members of the Fusebox 4 beta group were pleased by how simple porting Fusebox 3 applications to Fusebox 4 was. One member related that an application that had taken over a month to build was upgraded to Fusebox 4 in less than two hours.

Is Fusebox 4 for everyone? Certainly not. Some developers have created their own frameworks that work well for them and their team. Some chafe at the idea of working within any framework. Still others want to use a true object-oriented framework, while Fusebox 4 is solidly procedural. (For more information on an object-oriented framework see the article in the August issue of CFDJ, "Mach-II: Breaking the Procedural Barrier, Vol. 5, issue 8.")

Is Fusebox for you? Of course, you're the only one who can make that judgment, but if you're looking for a powerful, robust, mature framework on which to build solid ColdFusion applications, Fusebox 4 definitely deserves your attention. For more information, including sample applications and core code, visit fusebox.org. If you're interested in attending the Fusebox conference in Las Vegas, visit www.cfconf.org/fusebox2003.

Note: Thanks to John Quarto, Brian Kotek, Sandy Clark, Perry Woodin, and Brian LeRoux for making available to me a pre-release copy of their upcoming book, Discovering Fusebox 4, available at techspedition.com.

More Stories By Hal Helms

Hal Helms is a well-known speaker/writer/strategist on software development issues. He holds training sessions on Java, ColdFusion, and software development processes. He authors a popular monthly newsletter series. For more information, contact him at hal (at) halhelms.com or see his website, www.halhelms.com.

Comments (0)

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.


@ThingsExpo Stories
Technology vendors and analysts are eager to paint a rosy picture of how wonderful IoT is and why your deployment will be great with the use of their products and services. While it is easy to showcase successful IoT solutions, identifying IoT systems that missed the mark or failed can often provide more in the way of key lessons learned. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Peter Vanderminden, Principal Industry Analyst for IoT & Digital Supply Chain to Flatiron Strategies, will focus on how IoT depl...
Big Data, cloud, analytics, contextual information, wearable tech, sensors, mobility, and WebRTC: together, these advances have created a perfect storm of technologies that are disrupting and transforming classic communications models and ecosystems. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Erik Perotti, Senior Manager of New Ventures on Plantronics’ Innovation team, provided an overview of this technological shift, including associated business and consumer communications impacts, and opportunities it m...
Manufacturers are embracing the Industrial Internet the same way consumers are leveraging Fitbits – to improve overall health and wellness. Both can provide consistent measurement, visibility, and suggest performance improvements customized to help reach goals. Fitbit users can view real-time data and make adjustments to increase their activity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mark Bernardo Professional Services Leader, Americas, at GE Digital, discussed how leveraging the Industrial Internet and...
"Tintri was started in 2008 with the express purpose of building a storage appliance that is ideal for virtualized environments. We support a lot of different hypervisor platforms from VMware to OpenStack to Hyper-V," explained Dan Florea, Director of Product Management at Tintri, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
There will be new vendors providing applications, middleware, and connected devices to support the thriving IoT ecosystem. This essentially means that electronic device manufacturers will also be in the software business. Many will be new to building embedded software or robust software. This creates an increased importance on software quality, particularly within the Industrial Internet of Things where business-critical applications are becoming dependent on products controlled by software. Qua...
Fact is, enterprises have significant legacy voice infrastructure that’s costly to replace with pure IP solutions. How can we bring this analog infrastructure into our shiny new cloud applications? There are proven methods to bind both legacy voice applications and traditional PSTN audio into cloud-based applications and services at a carrier scale. Some of the most successful implementations leverage WebRTC, WebSockets, SIP and other open source technologies. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Da...
A critical component of any IoT project is what to do with all the data being generated. This data needs to be captured, processed, structured, and stored in a way to facilitate different kinds of queries. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle certain kinds of queries, but they are not always well suited to many problems, particularly when there is a need for real-time insights.
In his General Session at 16th Cloud Expo, David Shacochis, host of The Hybrid IT Files podcast and Vice President at CenturyLink, investigated three key trends of the “gigabit economy" though the story of a Fortune 500 communications company in transformation. Narrating how multi-modal hybrid IT, service automation, and agile delivery all intersect, he will cover the role of storytelling and empathy in achieving strategic alignment between the enterprise and its information technology.
IoT is at the core or many Digital Transformation initiatives with the goal of re-inventing a company's business model. We all agree that collecting relevant IoT data will result in massive amounts of data needing to be stored. However, with the rapid development of IoT devices and ongoing business model transformation, we are not able to predict the volume and growth of IoT data. And with the lack of IoT history, traditional methods of IT and infrastructure planning based on the past do not app...
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, discussed the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to focus o...
The Internet of Things can drive efficiency for airlines and airports. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Sudip Majumder, senior director of development at Oracle, discussed the technical details of the connected airline baggage and related social media solutions. These IoT applications will enhance travelers' journey experience and drive efficiency for the airlines and the airports.
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
"LinearHub provides smart video conferencing, which is the Roundee service, and we archive all the video conferences and we also provide the transcript," stated Sunghyuk Kim, CEO of LinearHub, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Things are changing so quickly in IoT that it would take a wizard to predict which ecosystem will gain the most traction. In order for IoT to reach its potential, smart devices must be able to work together. Today, there are a slew of interoperability standards being promoted by big names to make this happen: HomeKit, Brillo and Alljoyn. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Adam Justice, vice president and general manager of Grid Connect, will review what happens when smart devices don’t work togethe...
"There's a growing demand from users for things to be faster. When you think about all the transactions or interactions users will have with your product and everything that is between those transactions and interactions - what drives us at Catchpoint Systems is the idea to measure that and to analyze it," explained Leo Vasiliou, Director of Web Performance Engineering at Catchpoint Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York Ci...
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web communications world. The 6th WebRTC Summit continues our tradition of delivering the latest and greatest presentations within the world of WebRTC. Topics include voice calling, video chat, P2P file sharing, and use cases that have already leveraged the power and convenience of WebRTC.
Discover top technologies and tools all under one roof at April 24–28, 2017, at the Westin San Diego in San Diego, CA. Explore the Mobile Dev + Test and IoT Dev + Test Expo and enjoy all of these unique opportunities: The latest solutions, technologies, and tools in mobile or IoT software development and testing. Meet one-on-one with representatives from some of today's most innovative organizations
SYS-CON Events announced today that Super Micro Computer, Inc., a global leader in Embedded and IoT solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Supermicro (NASDAQ: SMCI), the leading innovator in high-performance, high-efficiency server technology, is a premier provider of advanced server Building Block Solutions® for Data Center, Cloud Computing, Enterprise IT, Hadoop/Big Data, HPC and E...