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

ColdFusion + Model-View-Controller = CFMVC

Developing a new framework for a membership organization by tying together CF & MVC

In any membership organization with many in-house applications, the ability to share members' data among applications is vital. Previously, applications would duplicate functionality or make members leave one application to update their new address. This didn't work well for members, nor was it easy to maintain by developers.

Using a new framework, CFMVC, allowed us to make improvements. Our new membership system will allow our paper submission application to let members change their institution with the same front and back end code the membership application uses.

In developing a new framework we needed it to handle the integration of over twenty different databases and applications, work with multiple developers, have low processing and be straightforward. We achieved it by utilizing the benefits of ColdFusion and the Model-View-Controller (MVC) architecture.

ColdFusion

Though it's arguable whether or not ColdFusion is an object-oriented development environment, it does support many object-oriented features and has many constructs that allow developers to reuse code and functionality. ColdFusion Components (CFCs) are ideal for all data interactions and business logic while normal ColdFusion pages, User Defined Functions (UDFs) and Custom Tags are ideal for handling display portions.

All applications, regardless of size, contain the following pieces:

  • There will be some way of displaying information to a user - most likely, for ColdFusion developers, via a Web browser.
  • Another piece will process any changes the user makes generally by writing to a database.
  • A third piece will direct the user to a new item to be displayed.
Sound like the pieces of your applications? Now it's not just web applications that have these tiers, pretty much all applications contain them - even going back to the days when computers were the size of rooms and disco was cool for the first time.

Model-View-Controller

The Model-View-Controller (MVC) architecture was designed over 25 years ago by Trygve Reenskaug. Originally designed for Smalltalk programmers, it has been used in many languages from Visual Basic to Java, and is especially common among Object Oriented programmers. Companies embracing it include Apple and IBM.

MVC separates an application into the three pieces or tiers mentioned earlier. What exactly does MVC consist of?

  • The model layer handles all core data interaction whether with a database, XML files or any other data store along with other business interactions.
  • The view layer displays data to the user.
  • Any action the user takes goes through the controller layer, which calls the needed parts of the model layer before calling the next view layer to display.
Make sense? If not, bear with me and it soon will!

By combining ColdFusion's best practices and the proven architecture of MVC, a framework emerges that modulizes code and allows for it to be used in multiple applications. (Benoit Hediard also has a similar idea for merging together MVC and CF, see www.benorama.com.)

Tying Together CF and MVC

Where does ColdFusion code live and where does it use components, pages and custom tags?

Model
Most applications use at least one database. The model tier retrieves data from the database, stores this data, and provides functionality for interacting with the database. If your application uses text files or some other data storage mechanism, then your model tier will interact with that entity. My MVC implementation involved creating an entity CFC for each table in the database (for example, PeopleEntity.cfc) that handles select (get), update and insert statements (set) and delete if required. A utility CFC is used when returning multiple records, joining other tables and processing functions that require more than one entity, like adding a new member - which requires inserts into a members and an addresses table. All code in the model layer must be written so it can be reused in other applications and should not use session, application or request variables; rather, values should be passed in via attributes. Other CFCs, to be shared, are also added in the model layer for e-mail, SOAP calls, LDAP, and so on.

Each CFC should be a object and contain only functions (methods) that relate to it. Functions should either perform one action only or be a wrapper function and call other functions.

View
The view tier is where all display files reside. Custom tags are used extensively for presentation code and can be called from any application if needed. Like the model layer, they must not include session, application or request variables. For some presentation purposes UDFs may also be needed.

We did two things that are not part of MVC but were needed for ColdFusion implementation. First, all forms use the post method and custom tags that contain a form accept two attributes: formAction and formMethod, which are placed in the form to pass data to the correct controller. This allows for calls from anywhere and the capability to post to anywhere. Second, all applications have at least one applicationSkin file (see membershipSkin.cfm) in the view layer to allow for an application appearance to be set. Multiple skins can then be used if, say, an admin version is intended to look different to a normal version.

Controller
The controller tier is on the web root and has no pretense of being reused. Indeed they should only be used by the application. There are two types of controller files: view-controller and model-controller. View-controller files call code in the view tier and sometimes add customization themselves. Model-controller, as the name suggests, handle all interaction with the model layer but it's important to remember that code here is not intended for reuse and extra features for this application can be added for example an e-mail or calling a web service.

As part of the ColdFusion implementation, view-controller files are standard cfm files that call custom tags. Model-controller files are CFCs, are accessed remotely but as are below an Application.cfm (or Application.cfc) file fit into whatever security system an application deploys. Once a model-controller file has finished processing, it uses cflocation to call the next view-controller file to ensure that data is processed only once if a user reloads.

If you have trouble separating your files into their appropriate areas of the MVC framework, the code in that file is probably doing too much. Try breaking it down into smaller parts.

Folder Structure

Where does all this code sit? As controller files are used only by the application they all belong in the application web root, i.e. webroot/membership/. View-controller files, one for each area of the application, sit in this folder (see Figure 1). This allows for freedom in naming and short URL's. Features that apply to that area only, such as navigation, can also be added easily. Model-controller files are all placed in a controller folder i.e. webroot/membership/controller/.

The rest of our code, in the model and view tiers, is intended to be shared. Below the webroot we set up a folder called cfshare and within that a CFC, tag, and UDF folder (see Figure 2). A merging of ColdFusion, MVC and our desire to share code amongst applications led to such a folder set up. All model files are CFCs leading to a natural home for them, so beneath the CFC folder an additional folder is created for each application to store Entity, Utility and other components.

A similar set-up occurs for view files, all of which are custom tags. Likewise within the tag folder is an additional folder for each application. For the times when UDFs are used they follow the exact same structure under the UDF folder.

To make accessing easier in our code, a ColdFusion mapping is set up to the cfshare folder. Once achieved to access the peopleEntity in the model tier simply call the component:


<cfinvoke component="cfshare.cfc.membership.peopleEntity" method="init"></cfinvoke>

And to access the applicationSkin (using CFMX 6.1):


<cfimport prefix="/cfshare/tag/membership/ " taglib="view">
<view:membershipSkin>
</view:membershipSkin>

Or for 6 and backwards:


<cf_membershipSkin>
</cf_membershipSkin>

Code

Let's look at two code examples, which can be downloaded from www.sys-con.com/coldfusion/sourcec.cfm; first the display page for a member to join and second the processing of the collected data.

Code Example One: index.cfm
The first example uses a view-controller called index.cfm.

We start by importing a taglib and giving the prefix of view to enable the calling of custom tags (such a method shows future developers exactly where the custom tag is). Then we param the URL display to a default value of "join". Next we open up the membershipSkin call inside of which is a cfswitch statement which will call the desired display. The default value of join is picked and the "people" custom tag is called with some variables passed in. The cfswitch statement and membershipSkin custom tags are then closed.

Let's step back and look at the people custom tag. First it performs a check to see if it has already been called and if so exits, to prevent duplicate output. Then it calls the peopleEntity cfc and outputs a simple form to allow for the collecting or editing of data. The three attributes it accepts are important: nextAction and nextMethod work in tandem - nextAction contains the path to the processing controller ("controller/membershipController.cfc" in this case) and nextMethod is the name of the function that will be called in the controller file. Passing in a value of -1 for peopleID allows for blank values to be created, but if a value of a real member had been passed in then those values would have been displayed.

Code Example Two: process-controller
How does this get processed? This is an example of a process-controller with the membershipController.cfc being called.

The nextMethod attribute in the people custom tag was set to a hidden field called method which when passed to a cfc remotely will trigger that a function of the provided name. For this example it is join. The access attribute in join function is set to remote to allow for it to be called over the web. The function creates an object to the peopleEntity in the model layer and then calls the set function with the passed in values. The peopleEntity then either runs an update if a valid peopleID is passed or an insert. Just like that, we have a new member! The join function then uses cflocation to relocate the user to the next page.

Summary

The CFMVC framework discussed above is based on a proven, successful architecture in MVC and has a low processing overhead for ColdFusion. The effect of splitting an application into tiers - model, view and controller - allows us to write applications that can share both data and functionality easily. But the benefits will also extend to completely standalone applications.

More Stories By Sam Farmer

Sam Farmer has been working with ColdFusion since version 3.1 and is currently a senior developer and architect for the American Society for Engineering Education in Washington, DC.

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
David Hardwick 05/12/05 12:00:44 PM EDT

Hello,

Have you investigated the other MVC frameworks before coming up with your own? Mach-II and Tartan for example? I'm using Mach-II on a project right now, and it is very solid. I've worked with Java-based MVC frameworks prior to this project, and I am very impressed with the thought that went into this architecture.

While it is admirable that you put together your own MVC framework, I would rather the CF community do a better job than say the PHP community in putting our efforts behind one or two horses instead of fragmenting our time across multiple 're-inventing the wheel' efforts.

Sridhar Loka 05/12/05 11:53:07 AM EDT

I have implemented MVC architecture for ColdFusion application using different approach.
For controller I have used a CF file which reads an XML config file based on the user submission from View layer. Every form must call this controller file in action=controller.cfm?action=login&subaction=admin. In XML config file controller reads like login.cfm. So login.cfm will be included in controller file.
Only CFCs are used to perform database transactions. File naming conventions are used from fusebox methodology.

Jim Davis 05/12/05 07:20:35 AM EDT

I like this approach and its clear division between layers. Will definitely keep it in mind when picking a methodology for a new project.

Brian Kotek 05/11/05 07:04:17 PM EDT

While it is always great to spread the word about best practices and patterns like MVC, I have to point out that using MVC with ColdFusion has been around for years. There are several widely-used frameworks with established communities that support MVC development. Fusebox 4, Mach-II, and Model-Glue are among the most popular. These have the added benefit of a built-in system to handle content elements and layouts without having to resort to custom tags. I would urge anyone interested in this topic to investigate these popular frameworks.

Regards,

Brian

@ThingsExpo Stories
One of the biggest impacts of the Internet of Things is and will continue to be on data; specifically data volume, management and usage. Companies are scrambling to adapt to this new and unpredictable data reality with legacy infrastructure that cannot handle the speed and volume of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and president of Infobright, will discuss how companies need to rethink their data infrastructure to participate in the IoT, including: Data storage: Understanding the kinds of data: structured, unstructured, big/small? Analytics: What kinds and how responsiv...
The Workspace-as-a-Service (WaaS) market will grow to $6.4B by 2018. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Seth Bostock, CEO of IndependenceIT, will begin by walking the audience through the evolution of Workspace as-a-Service, where it is now vs. where it going. To look beyond the desktop we must understand exactly what WaaS is, who the users are, and where it is going in the future. IT departments, ISVs and service providers must look to workflow and automation capabilities to adapt to growing demand and the rapidly changing workspace model.
Sensor-enabled things are becoming more commonplace, precursors to a larger and more complex framework that most consider the ultimate promise of the IoT: things connecting, interacting, sharing, storing, and over time perhaps learning and predicting based on habits, behaviors, location, preferences, purchases and more. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tom Wesselman, Director of Communications Ecosystem Architecture at Plantronics, will examine the still nascent IoT as it is coalescing, including what it is today, what it might ultimately be, the role of wearable tech, and technology gaps stil...
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to evolve the way the world does business; however, understanding how to apply it to your company can be a mystery. Most people struggle with understanding the potential business uses or tend to get caught up in the technology, resulting in solutions that fail to meet even minimum business goals. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO / President / Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., showed what is needed to leverage the IoT to transform your business. He discussed opportunities and challenges ahead for the IoT from a market and technical point of vie...
Hadoop as a Service (as offered by handful of niche vendors now) is a cloud computing solution that makes medium and large-scale data processing accessible, easy, fast and inexpensive. In his session at Big Data Expo, Kumar Ramamurthy, Vice President and Chief Technologist, EIM & Big Data, at Virtusa, will discuss how this is achieved by eliminating the operational challenges of running Hadoop, so one can focus on business growth. The fragmented Hadoop distribution world and various PaaS solutions that provide a Hadoop flavor either make choices for customers very flexible in the name of opti...
The true value of the Internet of Things (IoT) lies not just in the data, but through the services that protect the data, perform the analysis and present findings in a usable way. With many IoT elements rooted in traditional IT components, Big Data and IoT isn’t just a play for enterprise. In fact, the IoT presents SMBs with the prospect of launching entirely new activities and exploring innovative areas. CompTIA research identifies several areas where IoT is expected to have the greatest impact.
Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) are increasing at an unprecedented rate. The threat landscape of today is drastically different than just a few years ago. Attacks are much more organized and sophisticated. They are harder to detect and even harder to anticipate. In the foreseeable future it's going to get a whole lot harder. Everything you know today will change. Keeping up with this changing landscape is already a daunting task. Your organization needs to use the latest tools, methods and expertise to guard against those threats. But will that be enough? In the foreseeable future attacks w...
Disruptive macro trends in technology are impacting and dramatically changing the "art of the possible" relative to supply chain management practices through the innovative use of IoT, cloud, machine learning and Big Data to enable connected ecosystems of engagement. Enterprise informatics can now move beyond point solutions that merely monitor the past and implement integrated enterprise fabrics that enable end-to-end supply chain visibility to improve customer service delivery and optimize supplier management. Learn about enterprise architecture strategies for designing connected systems tha...
Wearable devices have come of age. The primary applications of wearables so far have been "the Quantified Self" or the tracking of one's fitness and health status. We propose the evolution of wearables into social and emotional communication devices. Our BE(tm) sensor uses light to visualize the skin conductance response. Our sensors are very inexpensive and can be massively distributed to audiences or groups of any size, in order to gauge reactions to performances, video, or any kind of presentation. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Jocelyn Scheirer, CEO & Founder of Bionolux, will discuss ho...
Even as cloud and managed services grow increasingly central to business strategy and performance, challenges remain. The biggest sticking point for companies seeking to capitalize on the cloud is data security. Keeping data safe is an issue in any computing environment, and it has been a focus since the earliest days of the cloud revolution. Understandably so: a lot can go wrong when you allow valuable information to live outside the firewall. Recent revelations about government snooping, along with a steady stream of well-publicized data breaches, only add to the uncertainty
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dyn, the worldwide leader in Internet Performance, 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. Dyn is a cloud-based Internet Performance company. Dyn helps companies monitor, control, and optimize online infrastructure for an exceptional end-user experience. Through a world-class network and unrivaled, objective intelligence into Internet conditions, Dyn ensures traffic gets delivered faster, safer, and more reliably than ever.
As organizations shift toward IT-as-a-service models, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and now cloud environments grows with it. CommVault can ensure protection &E-Discovery of your data – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud, or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enterprise. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Randy De Meno, Chief Technologist - Windows Products and Microsoft Partnerships, will discuss how to cut costs, scale easily, and unleash insight with CommVault Simpana software, the only si...
Cloud data governance was previously an avoided function when cloud deployments were relatively small. With the rapid adoption in public cloud – both rogue and sanctioned, it’s not uncommon to find regulated data dumped into public cloud and unprotected. This is why enterprises and cloud providers alike need to embrace a cloud data governance function and map policies, processes and technology controls accordingly. In her session at 15th Cloud Expo, Evelyn de Souza, Data Privacy and Compliance Strategy Leader at Cisco Systems, will focus on how to set up a cloud data governance program and s...
Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, had reached 30,000 page views on his home page - http://RobertoMedrano.SYS-CON.com/ - on the SYS-CON family of online magazines, which includes Cloud Computing Journal, Internet of Things Journal, Big Data Journal, and SOA World Magazine. He is a recognized executive in the information technology fields of SOA, internet security, governance, and compliance. He has extensive experience with both start-ups and large companies, having been involved at the beginning of four IT industries: EDA, Open Systems, Computer Security and now SOA.
The industrial software market has treated data with the mentality of “collect everything now, worry about how to use it later.” We now find ourselves buried in data, with the pervasive connectivity of the (Industrial) Internet of Things only piling on more numbers. There’s too much data and not enough information. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Bob Gates, Global Marketing Director, GE’s Intelligent Platforms business, to discuss how realizing the power of IoT, software developers are now focused on understanding how industrial data can create intelligence for industrial operations. Imagine ...
Operational Hadoop and the Lambda Architecture for Streaming Data Apache Hadoop is emerging as a distributed platform for handling large and fast incoming streams of data. Predictive maintenance, supply chain optimization, and Internet-of-Things analysis are examples where Hadoop provides the scalable storage, processing, and analytics platform to gain meaningful insights from granular data that is typically only valuable from a large-scale, aggregate view. One architecture useful for capturing and analyzing streaming data is the Lambda Architecture, representing a model of how to analyze rea...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Vitria Technology, Inc. will exhibit at SYS-CON’s @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Vitria will showcase the company’s new IoT Analytics Platform through live demonstrations at booth #330. Vitria’s IoT Analytics Platform, fully integrated and powered by an operational intelligence engine, enables customers to rapidly build and operationalize advanced analytics to deliver timely business outcomes for use cases across the industrial, enterprise, and consumer segments.
HP and Aruba Networks on Monday announced a definitive agreement for HP to acquire Aruba, a provider of next-generation network access solutions for the mobile enterprise, for $24.67 per share in cash. The equity value of the transaction is approximately $3.0 billion, and net of cash and debt approximately $2.7 billion. Both companies' boards of directors have approved the deal. "Enterprises are facing a mobile-first world and are looking for solutions that help them transition legacy investments to the new style of IT," said Meg Whitman, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of HP...
Containers and microservices have become topics of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities. Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 16th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York June 9-11 will find fresh new content in a new track called PaaS | Containers & Microservices Containers are not being considered for the first time by the cloud community, but a current era of re-consideration has pushed them to the top of the cloud agenda. With the launch of Docker's initial release in March of 2013, interest was revved up several notches. Then late last...
The explosion of connected devices / sensors is creating an ever-expanding set of new and valuable data. In parallel the emerging capability of Big Data technologies to store, access, analyze, and react to this data is producing changes in business models under the umbrella of the Internet of Things (IoT). In particular within the Insurance industry, IoT appears positioned to enable deep changes by altering relationships between insurers, distributors, and the insured. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Sick, a Senior Manager and Big Data Architect within Ernst and Young's Financial Servi...