Adobe Releases ColdFusion 8

Adobe Systems is set to release a new version of its ColdFusion software development environment today (July 30). ColdFusion 8 provides an expanded set of tools and technologies aimed at developers building dynamic Web sites and rich Internet applications (RIAs).

ColdFusion 8 (code named "Scorpio") is the first release of the 12-year-old solution as an Adobe product, and there's a lot of interest in it among the installed customer base. Adobe acquired the technology when it purchased Macromedia in 2005. The public beta of the product has been available on the Adobe Labs Web site for several months, and the San Jose, Calif.-based company is reporting more than 14,000 downloads since May.

"This release is about Adobe's DNA being injected into a tested and proven way of building Web apps," said Tim Bruntel, senior product marketing manager for ColdFusion. "Traditionally, people relied on ColdFusion to build applications with static HTML front ends. In version 8, we've introduced the idea of a richer user experience of the content created by a ColdFusion application."

ColdFusion combines an application server with a rapid application development environment designed to integrate databases and Web pages. It employs its own scripting language, the ColdFusion Markup Language (CFML), which is similar to JavaServer Pages, C#, and PHP, and uses tag-based syntax like HTML.

This release introduces a slew of new features to the product, but the loudest buzz is being generated by its .NET integration. As a Java-based solution, ColdFusion has long allowed developers to invoke Java objects natively; the new version adds the ability to invoke .NET objects natively.

ColdFusion 8 includes a new Server Monitor feature, which lets developers identify bottlenecks and tune the server for better performance. It supports seamless integration of ColdFusion apps with other Adobe technologies, such as Flex, PDF, Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) and Adobe LiveCycle. Also, this release uses AJAX-based components to allow developers to design and deploy applications by integrating complex environments into intuitive interfaces.

This release also provides expanded support for the leading Java EE application servers, including IBM WebSphere, BEA WebLogic and JBoss.

"ColdFusion is a classic example of a niche tool," observed Gartner analyst Mark Driver. "The existing market is very entrenched, and it plateaued several years ago. But there's a lot of code written in ColdFusion (CFML), and companies don't have a good reason to rewrite it. Plus, many organizations have a lot of ColdFusion skills in-house, and they don't want to retrain their people."

Driver expects the new release to generate a spike in ColdFusion licensing revenue from existing customers, but he doubts that new users will flock to the solution.

"I haven't talked with anyone thinking about trying ColdFusion for the first time in the past three years," he said.

Nevertheless, he feels that ColdFusion will continue to be a solid offering, especially in Java shops that need to write quick and dirty applications.

"ColdFusion is a perfect way to augment the Java skills of a certain class of developers," he said. "It's not necessarily going to be the principle development platform moving forward, but it's a great tool to have in the tool chest."

Looking into the product's future, Driver has a suggestion for Adobe: open source it.

"No one has told me that there are any plans to do it, but I wouldn't be shocked if, in the next year or so, we see Adobe open source a significant portion of ColdFusion," he said. "It worked well with Flash, and I think it would be a good move for the company to get the proprietary stench off the product, to compete more strongly with technologies like PHP and Ruby on Rails. That would be my recommendation to Adobe; it could flush the entrenched leaders out of their comfortable market niches by changing the dynamics of the game."

ColdFusion 8 is available now in two commercial editions. ColdFusion 8 Enterprise Edition is a high-performance solution for delivering multiple Web sites and applications on one or more servers or on existing Java EE application server installations. The other commercial edition is ColdFusion 8 Standard, an easy-to-manage configuration for single applications, aimed at small-to-medium-size businesses. There's also a free Developer Edition, which is a full-featured server for development use only.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].

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