Welcome!

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

A Better <CFMAIL>

A Better <CFMAIL>

One of the most used tags in CFML is <CFMAIL>. It is definitely the most used of all the Internet protocol tags, and as one of the original CFML tags (it was actually one of the DBML tags and originally named <DBMAIL>), it has also been slowly enhanced and updated with each new release of ColdFusion. Slowly. Maybe a little too slowly.

ColdFusion MX 6.1 introduces a whole new <CFMAIL>, a much better and much more powerful <CFMAIL>, and this month I'd like to walk you through these important changes.

Improved Performance
Let's start with performance. <CFMAIL> was never designed to be a high-performance mass mailer, and yet many developers have tried using it as just that. <CFMAIL> has always been very capable of delivering hundreds, even thousands, of messages, but that's about as far as the tag could be pushed.

ColdFusion MX 6.1 introduces important changes to the <CFMAIL> engine that facilitate dramatically increased mail-delivery performance. In fact, in testing, we clocked <CFMAIL> on a fairly typical box delivering mail at over 1,000,000 messages an hour (so fast that the bottleneck became the network and mail server rather than ColdFusion).

So what changed? Two things:

  • The ColdFusion mail delivery engine now supports the use of multiple mail delivery threads. What this means is simply that ColdFusion can create multiple processes, and each can deliver mail at the same time. So, instead of just one thread processing all queued mail, multiple threads can do the job, and that translates into greater mail throughout. The number of threads defaults to 10, but you can change this number in the ColdFusion Administrator. Each thread requires system resources (some memory and a bit of CPU power), but the overhead is actually minimal and only present during mail delivery itself. As such, if you need to deliver large amounts of e-mail quickly you can raise this number as needed; the greater the number of threads ColdFusion can allocate, the more mail it can deliver concurrently. (The number specified is a maximum value; ColdFusion may actually allocate fewer threads if there's not enough queued mail to warrant all threads being allocated.)
  • When ColdFusion delivers mail, it connects to an SMTP server and disconnects when done. It does this for each and every message. And the process of locating the server, opening the connection, and then closing it when done, often takes longer than the actual mail delivery. Or rather, ColdFusion used to do this. In ColdFusion MX 6.1 there is a new option (in the ColdFusion Administrator) named "Maintain connection to SMTP server", and when checked, ColdFusion keeps connections open so as to be able to reuse them for subsequent message delivery. Not having to keep making and breaking connections improves the delivery time for each and every message, so unless you have a very compelling reason not to, you should keep this checkbox checked.

    <CFMAIL> performance has been improved in all versions of ColdFusion, but if you need high-volume mail delivery, then you should be using ColdFusion MX Enterprise. The two changes just described apply to ColdFusion MX Enterprise only.

    Server Redundancy
    One frequently requested <CFMAIL> enhancement is support for backup SMTP servers so that if a mail server is down, a backup SMTP server would be used. Support for redundant (backup) SMTP servers has been added to ColdFusion MX 6.1 Enterprise (this too is an Enterprise-only feature).

    ColdFusion Administrator contains a new field (in the Mail page) named "Backup mail servers". You may specify as many servers as you like here (DNS names or IP addresses) in a comma-delimited format (you may also list backup servers right in the <CFMAIL> tag SERVER attribute). The specified servers are the backup servers, and will be used automatically if the primary SMTP server is unavailable.

    It is important to note that <CFMAIL> does not support multiple mail server delivery. These additional servers are backup servers and are used only if the primary server is unavailable. If a server (any server) is unavailable, then ColdFusion will attempt to use the next server in the list. Once a server has been flagged as unavailable, ColdFusion will not attempt to use it again for 60 seconds. If all servers are unavailable, then an error is logged.

    Like the high-performance features discussed above, the ability to specify backup SMTP servers is an Enterprise-only feature. (From this point on, however, everything discussed applies to all versions of ColdFusion, including ColdFusion MX Standard).

    SMTP Security
    SMTP was never designed to a be a secure protocol. As we are all painfully aware, you can never really be sure who mail comes from and whether or not a FROM field contains the actual sender address. It's all too easy to submit fake SMTP e-mail to mail servers for processing.

    In recent years, mail administrators have started taking steps to prevent their servers from being used to deliver unauthorized mail (commonly known as relaying). One technique that has gained popularity is to require an SMTP login. Unlike POP, which always requires a login, SMTP usually does not, but many SMTP servers now do require that login credentials be passed in in order to deliver outbound mail. If enabled, this security prevented the use of <CFMAIL>, as <CFMAIL> provided no way to specify login information.

    ColdFusion MX 6.1 supports SMTP logins in two ways:

  • The <CFMAIL> tag has two new attributes named USERNAME and PASSWORD. You may pass SMTP login information to these attributes, and <CFMAIL> will use this information to log in to the SMTP server.
  • You may also specify login information at the server definition itself (so as not to have to pass it to every <CFMAIL> tag). Login information can be specified in the ColdFusion Administrator as part of the server name. The syntax for this is modeled on the syntax used by many Web sites: user:password@hostname. If you specify backup SMTP servers, you'll probably want to provide the login information for each and every server (assuming that they all require SMTP logins).

    The ability to use SMTP logins is an important enhancement, and one that will make many server administrators very happy.

    Multiple MIME Types
    One of the most eagerly anticipated <CFMAIL> enhancements is the ability to include multiple bodies of different MIME types all in a single message. What does this mean? Consider the following:

    You deliver reports via <CFMAIL>. Your reports are detailed, have columns, colors and fonts, use images, and more, and so you tell <CFMAIL> to deliver the e-mail in HTML, as most mail clients, including Outlook and Outlook Express, support HTML e-mail. The problem, however, is that not all users have mail clients capable of displaying HTML e-mail, so you also need to generate a plain-text version of your report for those users. Of course, this then requires that you maintain a record of which version to send to which user (probably a flag in your database). You'd need a way for users to specify the message type they'd like, and then mail generation code that might look a bit like this:

    <!--- Check HTML mail flag --->
    <CFIF user.htmlmail>
    <!--- Send HTML version --->
    <CFMAIL TO="..."
    FROM="..."
    SUBJECT="..."
    TYPE="html">
    <B>HTML body</B>
    </CFMAIL>
    <CFELSE>
    <!--- Send text version --->
    <CFMAIL TO="..."
    FROM="..."
    SUBJECT="..."
    TYPE="text">
    Text body
    </CFMAIL>
    </CFIF>

    You'd need to repeat everything, not to mention maintaining the user mail preferences. You'd also not be able to use the <CFMAIL> query attribute easily, or you'd need two queries - one for text message recipients and one for HTML message recipients - and then you'd need two <CFMAIL> tags (one for each query).

    There's a better way to do this. E-mail messages can actually contain multiple bodies, each of a different MIME type. The problem is that <CFMAIL> did not support the use of this feature. Until now, that is. Here's the ColdFusion MX 6.1 version of the previous example:

    <!--- Generate mail message --->
    <CFMAIL TO="..."
    FROM="..."
    SUBJECT="...">
    <!--- Generate text body --->
    <CFMAILPART TYPE="text">
    Text body goes here
    </CFMAILPART>
    <!--- Generate HTML body --->
    <CFMAILPART TYPE="html">
    <B>HTML body goes here</B>
    </CFMAILPART>
    </CFMAIL>

    As you can see, a single <CFMAIL> tag is being used along with two instances of a new tag named <CFMAILPART>. This new tag allows you to embed multiple bodies in a single message, as long as each has a different MIME type. This way it is the mail client that decides which body to display, and this makes your life a bit simpler. (It also means that your mail messages will be bigger; you'll need to decide whether or not this is acceptable.)

    Any and all MIME types are supported, although in practice you'll probably use only TEXT and HTML.

    Note: Although we're just covering <CFMAIL> in this column, it's worth noting that <CFPOP> has been similarly enhanced and now supports the retrieval of multiple bodies as well.

    Other Enhancements
    In addition to all the changes listed thus far, <CFMAIL> also features lots of little enhancements. Some worth noting are:

  • A new REPLYTO attribute, which can be used to specify the e-mail address to which replies should be sent (previously replies would have been sent to the FROM address).
  • A new FAILTO attribute, which can be used to specify the address to which SMTP delivery failure notifications should be sent. This is an important attribute for mailing list-type applications.
  • A new CHARSET attribute, which can be used to specify the character encoding to be used for the mail message (overriding the default encoding specified in the ColdFusion Administrator). This attribute is present in both <CFMAIL> and <CFMAILPART>.
  • A new WRAPTEXT attribute, which can be used to force a wrap (a line break) at a specified location within text messages. This attribute is present in both <CFMAIL> and <CFMAILPART>.
  • A new TYPE attribute in <CFMAILPARAM>, which can be used to specify the MIME type of file attachments.

    Conclusion
    <CFMAIL> is an important ColdFusion tag and ranks as one of the most used tags in the CFML language. For high performance and high-availability mail delivery you should definitely consider using ColdFusion MX Enterprise. For all users, the enhancements to this tag in ColdFusion MX 6.1 provide yet another compelling reason to upgrade.

    * * *

    On a totally separate note, this is my 50th CFDJ <BF> on <CF> column - that's 50 back-to-back columns (with only one exception, and I'll try not to let that happen again). While writing this column, I glanced at the topics covered since way back when, and was reminded of just how far ColdFusion has come in such a short time. It's been a great ride thus far, here's to another 50!

  • 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 Car.com which provides automotive services (buy a car, sell a car, etc) over the Web. Car.com (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 (4) 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
    ant 10/09/03 12:10:35 PM EDT

    While much of the new cfmail functionality is great, it comes at a price - The inability to write a text file into email directly from a database or other source. All I had to do was create a boundary and header and add that text in between my cfmail call like so:

    --#boundary#
    Content-Type: text/plain; name=file.txt
    Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
    Content-Disposition: attachment; filename=file.txt

    #file_content#

    --#boundary#--

    After the "upgrade" only cfmailparam worked - back to cfdirectory/cffile calls - more overhead and unnecesary code. The new cfmailpart doesn't allow for attachements like this - ONLY inline content. Oh well, 2 steps forward, one step back...

    Craig Overpeck 09/24/03 12:51:24 PM EDT

    It cut our hardware scaling solution in half. BF is right - a long awaited but noteworthy accomplishment by Alliare...I mean Macromedia. Congrats on number 50 BF!
    Cheers

    prethi 09/24/03 08:33:59 AM EDT

    can i have a sample of cfmail. I have hosted with cfmresources but am not able to send mails.
    Regds

    Fran Garland 09/24/03 08:31:25 AM EDT

    Yes CFMail has come a long way.
    I have used this tag often since 5.0 and found this article quite good.

    I intend to use some of this new functionalily on my companies web site.

    In addition it give me more fodder to upgrade the one server not on the CFMX 6.0 En since the setting staying connected in only available in this version. Enjoyed the article

    @ThingsExpo Stories
    "At our booth we are showing how to provide trust in the Internet of Things. Trust is where everything starts to become secure and trustworthy. Now with the scaling of the Internet of Things it becomes an interesting question – I've heard numbers from 200 billion devices next year up to a trillion in the next 10 to 15 years," explained Johannes Lintzen, Vice President of Sales at Utimaco, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
    The Internet of Things is a misnomer. That implies that everything is on the Internet, and that simply should not be - especially for things that are blurring the line between medical devices that stimulate like a pacemaker and quantified self-sensors like a pedometer or pulse tracker. The mesh of things that we manage must be segmented into zones of trust for sensing data, transmitting data, receiving command and control administrative changes, and peer-to-peer mesh messaging. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Bagnulo, Solution Architect / Software Engineer at SOA Software, focused on desi...
    SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built to optimize Microsoft workloads, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Gridstore™ is the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built for Microsoft workloads and designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Gridstore’s hyper-converged infrastructure is the industry’s first all flash version of HyperConverged Appliances that include both compute and storag...
    "People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
    "For over 25 years we have been working with a lot of enterprise customers and we have seen how companies create applications. And now that we have moved to cloud computing, mobile, social and the Internet of Things, we see that the market needs a new way of creating applications," stated Jesse Shiah, CEO, President and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
    Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...
    We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core of our infrastructures. At the same time, we have old approaches made new again like micro-services...
    Code Halos - aka "digital fingerprints" - are the key organizing principle to understand a) how dumb things become smart and b) how to monetize this dynamic. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robert Brown, AVP, Center for the Future of Work at Cognizant Technology Solutions, outlined research, analysis and recommendations from his recently published book on this phenomena on the way leading edge organizations like GE and Disney are unlocking the Internet of Things opportunity and what steps your organization should be taking to position itself for the next platform of digital competition.
    The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
    As the Internet of Things unfolds, mobile and wearable devices are blurring the line between physical and digital, integrating ever more closely with our interests, our routines, our daily lives. Contextual computing and smart, sensor-equipped spaces bring the potential to walk through a world that recognizes us and responds accordingly. We become continuous transmitters and receivers of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Bolwell, Director of Innovation for HP's Printing and Personal Systems Group, discussed how key attributes of mobile technology – touch input, sensors, social, and ...
    In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect at GE, and Ibrahim Gokcen, who leads GE's advanced IoT analytics, focused on the Internet of Things / Industrial Internet and how to make it operational for business end-users. Learn about the challenges posed by machine and sensor data and how to marry it with enterprise data. They also discussed the tips and tricks to provide the Industrial Internet as an end-user consumable service using Big Data Analytics and Industrial Cloud.
    Building low-cost wearable devices can enhance the quality of our lives. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Sai Yamanoor, Embedded Software Engineer at Altschool, provided an example of putting together a small keychain within a $50 budget that educates the user about the air quality in their surroundings. He also provided examples such as building a wearable device that provides transit or recreational information. He then reviewed the resources available to build wearable devices at home including open source hardware, the raw materials required and the options available to power s...
    Things are being built upon cloud foundations to transform organizations. This CEO Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Roger Strukhoff, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo conference chair, addressed the big issues involving these technologies and, more important, the results they will achieve. Rodney Rogers, chairman and CEO of Virtustream; Brendan O'Brien, co-founder of Aria Systems, Bart Copeland, president and CEO of ActiveState Software; Jim Cowie, chief scientist at Dyn; Dave Wagstaff, VP and chief architect at BSQUARE Corporation; Seth Proctor, CTO of NuoDB, Inc.; and Andris Gailitis, C...
    There's Big Data, then there's really Big Data from the Internet of Things. IoT is evolving to include many data possibilities like new types of event, log and network data. The volumes are enormous, generating tens of billions of logs per day, which raise data challenges. Early IoT deployments are relying heavily on both the cloud and managed service providers to navigate these challenges. In her session at Big Data Expo®, Hannah Smalltree, Director at Treasure Data, discussed how IoT, Big Data and deployments are processing massive data volumes from wearables, utilities and other machines...
    "There is a natural synchronization between the business models, the IoT is there to support ,” explained Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect of Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 15th International Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
    SYS-CON Media announced that Splunk, a provider of the leading software platform for real-time Operational Intelligence, has launched an ad campaign on Big Data Journal. Splunk software and cloud services enable organizations to search, monitor, analyze and visualize machine-generated big data coming from websites, applications, servers, networks, sensors and mobile devices. The ads focus on delivering ROI - how improved uptime delivered $6M in annual ROI, improving customer operations by mining large volumes of unstructured data, and how data tracking delivers uptime when it matters most.
    In this Women in Technology Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Anne Plese, Senior Consultant, Cloud Product Marketing at Verizon Enterprise, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO at MetraTech; Evelyn de Souza, Data Privacy and Compliance Strategy Leader at Cisco Systems; Seema Jethani, Director of Product Management at Basho Technologies; Victoria Livschitz, CEO of Qubell Inc.; Anne Hungate, Senior Director of Software Quality at DIRECTV, discussed what path they took to find their spot within the technology industry and how do they see opportunities for other women in their area of expertise.
    While great strides have been made relative to the video aspects of remote collaboration, audio technology has basically stagnated. Typically all audio is mixed to a single monaural stream and emanates from a single point, such as a speakerphone or a speaker associated with a video monitor. This leads to confusion and lack of understanding among participants especially regarding who is actually speaking. Spatial teleconferencing introduces the concept of acoustic spatial separation between conference participants in three dimensional space. This has been shown to significantly improve comprehe...
    The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, data security and privacy.
    Performance is the intersection of power, agility, control, and choice. If you value performance, and more specifically consistent performance, you need to look beyond simple virtualized compute. Many factors need to be considered to create a truly performant environment. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, discussed how to take advantage of a multitude of compute options and platform features to make cloud the cornerstone of your online presence.