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

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
Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more business becomes digital the more stakeholders are interested in this data including how it relates to business. Some of these people have never used a monitoring tool before. They have a question on their mind like “How is my application doing” but no id...
Personalization has long been the holy grail of marketing. Simply stated, communicate the most relevant offer to the right person and you will increase sales. To achieve this, you must understand the individual. Consequently, digital marketers developed many ways to gather and leverage customer information to deliver targeted experiences. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lou Casal, Founder and Principal Consultant at Practicala, discussed how the Internet of Things (IoT) has accelerated our abil...
With so much going on in this space you could be forgiven for thinking you were always working with yesterday’s technologies. So much change, so quickly. What do you do if you have to build a solution from the ground up that is expected to live in the field for at least 5-10 years? This is the challenge we faced when we looked to refresh our existing 10-year-old custom hardware stack to measure the fullness of trash cans and compactors.
The emerging Internet of Everything creates tremendous new opportunities for customer engagement and business model innovation. However, enterprises must overcome a number of critical challenges to bring these new solutions to market. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Martin, CTO/CIO at nfrastructure, outlined these key challenges and recommended approaches for overcoming them to achieve speed and agility in the design, development and implementation of Internet of Everything solutions wi...
Cloud computing is being adopted in one form or another by 94% of enterprises today. Tens of billions of new devices are being connected to The Internet of Things. And Big Data is driving this bus. An exponential increase is expected in the amount of information being processed, managed, analyzed, and acted upon by enterprise IT. This amazing is not part of some distant future - it is happening today. One report shows a 650% increase in enterprise data by 2020. Other estimates are even higher....
SYS-CON Events announced today that 910Telecom will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Housed in the classic Denver Gas & Electric Building, 910 15th St., 910Telecom is a carrier-neutral telecom hotel located in the heart of Denver. Adjacent to CenturyLink, AT&T, and Denver Main, 910Telecom offers connectivity to all major carriers, Internet service providers, Internet backbones and ...
SYS-CON Events announced today Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
Smart Cities are here to stay, but for their promise to be delivered, the data they produce must not be put in new siloes. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mathias Herberts, Co-founder and CTO of Cityzen Data, will deep dive into best practices that will ensure a successful smart city journey.
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long dev...
The 19th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Digital Transformation, 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 opportuni...
There is growing need for data-driven applications and the need for digital platforms to build these apps. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Muddu Sudhakar, VP and GM of Security & IoT at Splunk, will cover different PaaS solutions and Big Data platforms that are available to build applications. In addition, AI and machine learning are creating new requirements that developers need in the building of next-gen apps. The next-generation digital platforms have some of the past platform needs a...
Pulzze Systems was happy to participate in such a premier event and thankful to be receiving the winning investment and global network support from G-Startup Worldwide. It is an exciting time for Pulzze to showcase the effectiveness of innovative technologies and enable them to make the world smarter and better. The reputable contest is held to identify promising startups around the globe that are assured to change the world through their innovative products and disruptive technologies. There w...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - comp...
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, a director and senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, will discuss the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
19th Cloud Expo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, 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. Meanwhile, 94% of enterpri...
I wanted to gather all of my Internet of Things (IOT) blogs into a single blog (that I could later use with my University of San Francisco (USF) Big Data “MBA” course). However as I started to pull these blogs together, I realized that my IOT discussion lacked a vision; it lacked an end point towards which an organization could drive their IOT envisioning, proof of value, app dev, data engineering and data science efforts. And I think that the IOT end point is really quite simple…
Identity is in everything and customers are looking to their providers to ensure the security of their identities, transactions and data. With the increased reliance on cloud-based services, service providers must build security and trust into their offerings, adding value to customers and improving the user experience. Making identity, security and privacy easy for customers provides a unique advantage over the competition.
Is the ongoing quest for agility in the data center forcing you to evaluate how to be a part of infrastructure automation efforts? As organizations evolve toward bimodal IT operations, they are embracing new service delivery models and leveraging virtualization to increase infrastructure agility. Therefore, the network must evolve in parallel to become equally agile. Read this essential piece of Gartner research for recommendations on achieving greater agility.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Venafi, the Immune System for the Internet™ and the leading provider of Next Generation Trust Protection, will exhibit at @DevOpsSummit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Venafi is the Immune System for the Internet™ that protects the foundation of all cybersecurity – cryptographic keys and digital certificates – so they can’t be misused by bad guys in attacks...
For basic one-to-one voice or video calling solutions, WebRTC has proven to be a very powerful technology. Although WebRTC’s core functionality is to provide secure, real-time p2p media streaming, leveraging native platform features and server-side components brings up new communication capabilities for web and native mobile applications, allowing for advanced multi-user use cases such as video broadcasting, conferencing, and media recording.