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Adobe Releases First Beta of ColdFusion 9

Adobe Systems this week released the public beta of the next version of its ColdFusion Web development platform. The new version, dubbed ColdFusion 9, will come with an optional integrated development environment (IDE).

By adding the new IDE, called ColdFusion Builder, Adobe is adding capabilities for more sophisticated developers that ColdFusion has lacked. Among other features, Adobe said it will offer a more customized and extensible development environment for coding data-driven applications, server management, and debugging.

Originally developed by Allair in the mid 1990s and retained by Adobe when it acquired Macromedia, ColdFusion has about 800,000 developers, according to Adobe. But it faces steep competition from the likes of Ruby on Rails, Java Server Pages, and Microsoft's ASP.NET, among others.

"There are a variety of options that were not there a few years ago," said Gartner analyst Eric Knipp. But, he added, the new upgrade is substantial and will likely appeal to the more advanced ColdFusion developers. "A lot of the features that are in ColdFusion 9 are features that the advanced ColdFusion developer community has been clamoring for, for a long time."

Notable is the ability to access any part the language from the ColdFusion scripting language, CF Script, and its support for object relational mapping (ORM) to databases via integration with Hibernate, he said.

ColdFusion 9 will integrate with Adobe's forthcoming Flash Builder 4 framework, released to beta last month. "For the first time we are really able to offer a full server side to client side development work flow, with all of our tools and our technology," said Adam Lehman, Adobe's ColdFusion product manager.

"Cold Fusion Builder is an Eclipse based plugin similar to the Flash Builder, so you basically are installing one inside each other. If I am developing server side code and I want to kick over to write some client access code, and I am in the Flex [Flash] world, all of a sudden I am in the same IDE. We've done a lot to maintain a lot of the fidelity between the two"

The Hibernate support will make it easier for developers to provide bi-directional synchronization to databases by providing support for Hibernate-based object relational mapping (ORM). Through the integration, Lehman said developers will be able to access all of the Hibernate internals.

"Today developers spend a lot of time taking that tabular data and basically converting SQL into CFCs [ColdFusion Components when they are writing SQL code for inserts and updates and then moving that into this object model," Lehman said. "Because we are basically removing SQL that means we are truly building database-independent applications."

While the ORM support should be welcome by ColdFusion developers, Gartner's Knipp said that capability that is now expected. "I don't know it's something that's going to win people over to the language; it might keep them from leaving," he said.

Also new in ColdFusion 9 is Server Manager, a Flex-based AIR application that will allow for the administration of ColdFusion Servers. Developers can run the manager on the desktop and control settings and receive alerts, Lehman said. "You can deploy a data source or update our JVM arguments or even deploy a hot fix," he said.

On the integration side, while ColdFusion 8 introduced support for native .NET code and Exchange, ColdFusion 9 adds native support for Microsoft Sharepoint services. Developers can build Web Parts in Sharepoint via the ColdFusion Markup Language (CFML), including support for single sign on.

"Everything ColdFusion has access to can now be exposed to Sharepoint Server, but we also have a way to talk to the Sharepoint back-end services, so if you are building an application that needs to interact with a document repository or some of the content management features, you can do that with native CFML, you don't have to learn any .NET APIs or anything like that," Lehman said.

The new release will also allow developers and users to create, read, and update Excel spreadsheets; generate PDFs from Word and Powerpoint; and create Flash presentations from PowerPoint.

For Java developers, ColdFusion 9 will integrate with key portlet servers via support for JSR-168, JSR 268, and Web Services for Remote Portlets (WSRP).

The new release will also include Adobe's Blaze DS, which will support high-speed Flash remoting.

Lehman is not saying when ColdFusion is going to be released, but he indicated the company is hoping to ship by the end of the year. Pricing was not disclosed.

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