Click here to close now.




















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
    SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
    For IoT to grow as quickly as analyst firms’ project, a lot is going to fall on developers to quickly bring applications to market. But the lack of a standard development platform threatens to slow growth and make application development more time consuming and costly, much like we’ve seen in the mobile space. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Weiner, Product Manager of the Omega DevCloud with KORE Telematics Inc., discussed the evolving requirements for developers as IoT matures and conducted a live demonstration of how quickly application development can happen when the need to comply wit...
    The Internet of Everything (IoE) brings together people, process, data and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before – transforming information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom. IoE creates new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented opportunities to improve business and government operations, decision making and mission support capabilities.
    Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems, described how to revolutionize your archit...
    MuleSoft has announced the findings of its 2015 Connectivity Benchmark Report on the adoption and business impact of APIs. The findings suggest traditional businesses are quickly evolving into "composable enterprises" built out of hundreds of connected software services, applications and devices. Most are embracing the Internet of Things (IoT) and microservices technologies like Docker. A majority are integrating wearables, like smart watches, and more than half plan to generate revenue with APIs within the next year.
    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 Opening Keynote at 16th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, d...
    In his keynote at 16th Cloud Expo, Rodney Rogers, CEO of Virtustream, discussed the evolution of the company from inception to its recent acquisition by EMC – including personal insights, lessons learned (and some WTF moments) along the way. Learn how Virtustream’s unique approach of combining the economics and elasticity of the consumer cloud model with proper performance, application automation and security into a platform became a breakout success with enterprise customers and a natural fit for the EMC Federation.
    The Internet of Things is not only adding billions of sensors and billions of terabytes to the Internet. It is also forcing a fundamental change in the way we envision Information Technology. For the first time, more data is being created by devices at the edge of the Internet rather than from centralized systems. What does this mean for today's IT professional? In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed this very serious issue of profound change in the industry.
    Discussions about cloud computing are evolving into discussions about enterprise IT in general. As enterprises increasingly migrate toward their own unique clouds, new issues such as the use of containers and microservices emerge to keep things interesting. In this Power Panel at 16th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the state of cloud computing today, and what enterprise IT professionals need to know about how the latest topics and trends affect their organization.
    It is one thing to build single industrial IoT applications, but what will it take to build the Smart Cities and truly society-changing applications of the future? The technology won’t be the problem, it will be the number of parties that need to work together and be aligned in their motivation to succeed. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jason Mondanaro, Director, Product Management at Metanga, discussed how you can plan to cooperate, partner, and form lasting all-star teams to change the world and it starts with business models and monetization strategies.
    Converging digital disruptions is creating a major sea change - Cisco calls this the Internet of Everything (IoE). IoE is the network connection of People, Process, Data and Things, fueled by Cloud, Mobile, Social, Analytics and Security, and it represents a $19Trillion value-at-stake over the next 10 years. In her keynote at @ThingsExpo, Manjula Talreja, VP of Cisco Consulting Services, discussed IoE and the enormous opportunities it provides to public and private firms alike. She will share what businesses must do to thrive in the IoE economy, citing examples from several industry sectors.
    There will be 150 billion connected devices by 2020. New digital businesses have already disrupted value chains across every industry. APIs are at the center of the digital business. You need to understand what assets you have that can be exposed digitally, what their digital value chain is, and how to create an effective business model around that value chain to compete in this economy. No enterprise can be complacent and not engage in the digital economy. Learn how to be the disruptor and not the disruptee.
    Akana has released Envision, an enhanced API analytics platform that helps enterprises mine critical insights across their digital eco-systems, understand their customers and partners and offer value-added personalized services. “In today’s digital economy, data-driven insights are proving to be a key differentiator for businesses. Understanding the data that is being tunneled through their APIs and how it can be used to optimize their business and operations is of paramount importance,” said Alistair Farquharson, CTO of Akana.
    Business as usual for IT is evolving into a "Make or Buy" decision on a service-by-service conversation with input from the LOBs. How does your organization move forward with cloud? In his general session at 16th Cloud Expo, Paul Maravei, Regional Sales Manager, Hybrid Cloud and Managed Services at Cisco, discusses how Cisco and its partners offer a market-leading portfolio and ecosystem of cloud infrastructure and application services that allow you to uniquely and securely combine cloud business applications and services across multiple cloud delivery models.
    The enterprise market will drive IoT device adoption over the next five years. In his session at @ThingsExpo, John Greenough, an analyst at BI Intelligence, division of Business Insider, analyzed how companies will adopt IoT products and the associated cost of adopting those products. John Greenough is the lead analyst covering the Internet of Things for BI Intelligence- Business Insider’s paid research service. Numerous IoT companies have cited his analysis of the IoT. Prior to joining BI Intelligence, he worked analyzing bank technology for Corporate Insight and The Clearing House Payment...
    "Optimal Design is a technology integration and product development firm that specializes in connecting devices to the cloud," stated Joe Wascow, Co-Founder & CMO of Optimal Design, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
    SYS-CON Events announced today that CommVault has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. A singular vision – a belief in a better way to address current and future data management needs – guides CommVault in the development of Singular Information Management® solutions for high-performance data protection, universal availability and simplified management of data on complex storage networks. CommVault's exclusive single-platform architecture gives companies unp...
    Electric Cloud and Arynga have announced a product integration partnership that will bring Continuous Delivery solutions to the automotive Internet-of-Things (IoT) market. The joint solution will help automotive manufacturers, OEMs and system integrators adopt DevOps automation and Continuous Delivery practices that reduce software build and release cycle times within the complex and specific parameters of embedded and IoT software systems.
    "ciqada is a combined platform of hardware modules and server products that lets people take their existing devices or new devices and lets them be accessible over the Internet for their users," noted Geoff Engelstein of ciqada, a division of Mars International, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
    Internet of Things is moving from being a hype to a reality. Experts estimate that internet connected cars will grow to 152 million, while over 100 million internet connected wireless light bulbs and lamps will be operational by 2020. These and many other intriguing statistics highlight the importance of Internet powered devices and how market penetration is going to multiply many times over in the next few years.