Macromedia ColdFusion to Get Feature-Rich Upgrade

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2004-08-09

Macromedia ColdFusion to Get Feature-Rich Upgrade

Macromedia Inc. has released some more details on the next release of its ColdFusion Web application development and deployment platform, code-named Blackstone.

The San Francisco company said it will formally announce ColdFusion Blackstone later this year and the product will ship early next year with several new features, including new support for rich forms, printing and reporting.

Tim Buntel, senior product manager for ColdFusion, said the new features enable developers to create more compelling applications "with rich developer-centric features" that take advantage of the architecture advancements the company made in previous versions of the technology.

The new version will include support for printing HTML documents, banded reporting, rich tag-driven forms for data entry and data management, new support for styles and themes for a consistent look and feel, the ability to easily generate PDFs, and "a big suite of extensions for [Macromedia] Dreamweaver," Buntel said.

In the last release, Macromedia included support for Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) application servers such as IBMs WebSphere. "Since we focused so much on J2EE infrastructure, we want to take advantage of it," Buntel said. Blackstone will include support for Web Archive (WAR) files and Enterprise Archive (EAR) files, he said. Another Java-related benefit is the ability to run multiple ColdFusion servers on one machine, he added.

In addition, Macromedia has developed gateways that enable ColdFusion to respond to additional requests other than just HTTP. "So we developed these gateways like TCP/IP or a file system gateway or a content management system where ColdFusion could react to a file being added," Buntel said. The gateways can also enable ColdFusion to respond to other Internet technologies like instant messaging or SMS text messaging. "This is new territory for us that were really excited about," Buntel said.

"Were going to ship a number of these gateways preconfigured by us, and were going to allow developers to build their own," he said.

Moreover, the next version of ColdFusion will include the ability for applications to work better with government organizations that require high security by enabling users to plug in their own security model, Buntel said.

Buntel said despite open-source alternatives for Web development, such as PHP or Perl or even proprietary technologies like Microsofts ASP.Net, ColdFusion represents a better value for developers because of all its features, which are not commodity features.

"A lot of the features in Blackstone would be impossible in an open-source environment, or youd have to buy a commercial add-on" to match its feature set, Buntel said.

"The new version is going to be an amazing boon to the productivity of ColdFusion developers," said Roland Collins, chief technology officer at InvestEdge Inc., in Pittsburgh, who has been working with an alpha version of the product. "Some of the new features are really pretty revolutionary for the application server market, and could easily sell as separate products. They will really help us—and all developers for that matter—make huge steps forward in the quality and interactivity of Web-based applications."

Next Page: PDFs on the fly.

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Angela McGregor, Webmistress at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Theater, Film & Television, who also has an alpha version of Blackstone, said, "The thing that stands out the most to me so far about the new version is all the new functionalities—items like being able to create PDFs on the fly (my personal favorite)—which are going to replace add-ons that a lot of us previously paid for through third-party vendors."

In addition McGregor said she is "very favorably impressed by how backward-compatible it is with [ColdFusion] MX—Ive yet to see any broken applications."

Rob Brooks-Bilson, senior manager of Web services at Amkor Technologies Inc., said, "Weve standardized on J2EE here at Amkor, and ColdFusion gives us a way to develop J2EE applications much more quickly than if we were to do all of the coding in straight Java. Were able to take advantage of Javas power and enterprise capabilities without the overhead and cost associated with J2EE development." Brooks-Bilson works in the Chandler, Ariz., operations center of West Chester, Penn.-based Amkor.

"Were greatly anticipating the release of Blackstone," he said. "It seems like each new edition of ColdFusion comes out just in time to fill a need we have. In this case, were eagerly awaiting the new reporting capabilities, especially the ability to generate PDF documents. Were also extremely excited about the support for event gateways. Were already thinking about the potential usage for hooking our ColdFusion servers up with messaging services such as JMS [Java Message Service] and [IBMs] MQ Series. Were also looking forward to the announced API for server administration as well as the sourceless deployment capabilities."

In addition, Macromedia will be updating many of the components the company licenses from others, such as its support for Verity Inc.s search engine and DataDirect Technologies Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) drivers, Macromedias Buntel said.

Buntel said the company got the code name "Blackstone" from the Blackstone River in Massachusetts, which is named after William Blackstone, who was one of the first settlers in Boston. ColdFusion has roots in Boston, where Allaire Corp., which developed ColdFusion, was based.

Editors Note: This story was updated to correctly identify Tim Buntel, senior product manager for ColdFusion.

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