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Adobe ColdFusion 8

Adobe released ColdFusion 8 on July 30. This release is a major milestone for the product

Exciting news for organizations and developers using ColdFusion: Adobe released ColdFusion 8 on July 30. This release is a major milestone for the product: it is the first full-version ColdFusion release by Adobe since the acquisition of Macromedia. With the release of CF 8, Adobe has shown their commitment to the product and their commitment to enabling ColdFusion developers to build better Web-enabled applications faster than with any other technology.

I reviewed the new features in an editorial a few months ago when CF 8 went to public beta (that editorial is online at http://coldfusion.sys-con.com/read/383559.htm). One thing that's safe to say about this release is that it includes a ton of great new features and has something(s) for everyone. Whether your primary concern is developing better interfaces with Flex or AJAX; generating rich reports or online presentations; manipulating files such as image, pdf, and zip files; integrating with other technologies including .NET and Exchange; or leveraging better techniques to architect your software; there are new features to help in CF 8. As someone who often has to troubleshoot, improve, and analyze client applications and server performance, I've found the new debugging and server monitoring tools to be invaluable and can't imagine going back to not having them available on a daily basis.

ColdFusion 8 has not only given developers many significant new tools for building Web applications - it has also given us a glimpse of things to come. Though difficult to nail down entirely, it's safe to say that two primary areas of focus for this version are integration with other technologies and developer/administrator efficiency. I'll discuss what these areas of focus and their associated features might mean for the future in reverse order.

Since its inception, ColdFusion has always been relatively easy to learn and use and has always allowed developers to get results fast. The new features in CF 8, in typical ColdFusion fashion, keep with this approach as most are easy to implement by allowing a lot of the new features to be implemented with a single tag call. What was never easy before CF 8 is the ability to accurately and effectively monitor what's happening on the server at any given moment. With ColdFusion 8 this problem is a thing of the past. The server monitoring tools built into the CF Administrator in CF 8 allow monitoring of pretty-much all server activity. This includes use of persistent memory scopes (application and session), queries (which queries are being run and how long they took), and request-level information (which pages are taking longest to execute, which pages are being requested, etc.). All-in-all it's an invaluable tool for CF developers who care about application performance...even those who aren't running CF 8 in production yet (I strongly recommend testing/analyzing CF apps for performance on CF 8 even if they're running on prior versions of CF in production).

ColdFusion Studio, the ColdFusion IDE owned by Allaire, had decent interactive debugging capabilities - as I mentioned earlier, the ColdFusion 8 server team has also added server functionality and developed a new plug-in for (CF)Eclipse so that finally, after four or five years without one, CF applications can be debugged in an interactive manner.

What do these two things say about the future of ColdFusion? Well, nothing per se, but it shows an acknowledgment by the server team (and Adobe) of the validity and complexity of many of the applications that are out there in production. In other words, these features show a serious commitment to supporting and improving the use of ColdFusion for the development and deployment of advanced, enterprise applications. The introduction of CFC and application framework enhancements (including support for interfaces and CFC Serialization) also strongly reflect this commitment. I hazard to guess that in years and versions to come, the server team will continue to explore new features and tools that they feel will allow ColdFusion developers and organizations to more easily deploy mission-critical and enterprise applications.

The product integration and support for other technologies in ColdFusion 8 is another clear sign of things to come. Most significantly are the following:

  • The new ColdFusion support for AJAX shows a commitment by Adobe to help CF developers stay current with industry trends and best practices by allowing them to quickly and easily build intelligent client interfaces.
  • The support for leveraging .NET tells me that nothing is off the table - if the server team thinks developers will benefit from it, and it's a feasible implementation, they'll leverage third-party tools and technologies.
  • The new Flash Communication Server Event Gateway, presentation generation, and new PDF functionality shows a strong commitment to integrate CF with other Adobe products and technologies.
In other words, Adobe and the CF Server team are showing strong support for integrating with and allowing CF apps to easy leverage popular technologies and tools that come from both the open source community as well as third-party companies. Keep in mind that many new features are implementations of or based on implementations of open source Java projects as well. Meanwhile, they are also positioning CF as a middle-tier platform for integration with several Adobe products and technologies. Adobe just announced that JRun will no longer be enhanced and that the CF Server Team now "owns" it - so they will also be able to make any changes deemed appropriate to JRun in the future in order to benefit those customers running CF standalone (or running CF as a J2EE App on JRun).
What will the future hold for ColdFusion? Nobody can know for sure, but this release has made two facts crystal clear:
  1. Adobe is committed to keeping ColdFusion around for a long, long time.
  2. ColdFusion, as a platform, will continue to keep-up with the rest of the industry in its support of new trends and technologies, and ColdFusion developers will be able to leverage these new technologies quicker and easier than anyone else in the market.

More Stories By Simon Horwith

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

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