Four Common Objections to ColdFusion Refuted

I recently wrote an article entitled, “ColdFusion is Alive and Well!” and in that article, I listed some of the reasons why ColdFusion is NOT dead as some assert and how small to medium sized business can leverage ColdFusion for their web applications. As the comments streamed in, one user Abdul Raheem, astutely noted four of the most common objections to ColdFusion he hears from clients. These are (and I’m paraphrasing):

  1. ColdFusion is dying language
  2. A company’s ability to secure good ColdFusion resources is limited
  3. The costs of hosting a ColdFusion application are overwhelming
  4. ColdFusion is an “old language” and modern applications can’t be built with it.

These objections show a lack of understanding of both the current condition of ColdFusion and the capabilities of the language. Abdul accurately refuted each of them briefly in his comment but I will address each of these in more depth.

ColdFusion is a Dying Language

I elaborated on this point in the above article, “ColdFusion is Alive and Well!” and the takeaway from that article is that the assertion “ColdFusion is a dying language” is due mostly to Adobe’s lack of marketing efforts. They simply do not spend the money to boost the brand in the marketplace. This is unfortunate and has given rise to the perception that ColdFusion is fading off the scene. This perception has resulted in fewer ColdFusion developers as they do not see a reason to add ColdFusion to their skill-sets. This reduction in developers has resulted in fewer user groups and therefore less activity on the search engines, social media and development forums. Adobe needs to realize that they have a gem here and rather than keep it in the jewelry box they need to hang it around their necks for everyone to marvel at. They polish the stone by releasing new updates, hiring evangelists, hosting ColdFusion conventions and providing support but the problem is very few potential customers can see these efforts. I have a business and understand that to show visibility you must be active online and actively spend money doing it. For ColdFusion to reappear as a major contender on the development scene Adobe must allocate significant resources to its promotion – at least for a while.

In my opinion taking three steps would go a long way to addressing some of the issues with the negative perception.

  • First, I believe Adobe should give ColdFusion away (yes, at no charge) to hosting companies in order to boost the ColdFusion hosting options and allow these companies to market ColdFusion for us all. Let’s face it, most small to mid-sized businesses use a hosting company. PHP and .NET servers are free and to make ColdFusion competitive in the hosting marketplace ColdFusion must be free as well. These hosting companies will certainly describe ColdFusion’s capabilities and market the ColdFusion option as aggressively as they do the rest. They know how to sell hosting products and services so let them do it. While on the topic of giving ColdFusion away, I also suggest they donate the server to technical colleges and universities who will train future developers and supplement that by providing training curriculum to those institutions.
  • Second, I suggest that they provide a cloud-based hosting solution of their own much like Amazon’ Web Services (AWS), where users can build and host their websites. This would include both a developer side and public side. The developer side would allow the developers to communicate directly with Adobe developers or Adobe Certified developers to help them with the development process. The Adobe developers could jump onto the user’s site and give guidance by looking at the actual code. This training is crucial, especially as ColdFusion hits the marketplace again. The idea is to not only make ColdFusion affordable but manageable as well. A lack of developers can only be overcome by training. Developers will want to look at ColdFusion again when support, hosting and costs becomes realistic and training is a big part of that process.
  • And my third suggestion is that they reduce the price of the ColdFusion server by at least two-thirds for small to mid-sized companies. The definition of a small business is subjective but can include a revenue cap or number of employees. This would put ColdFusion within the reach of small to mid-sized companies who wish to host ColdFusion on their own servers. This revenue can be made up through paid support services and the increase in sales volume which would certainly come because of this reduced price.

In summary, the perceived decline of the language is due mainly to a lack of visibility and availability. Increasing visibility will increase the developer base which will increase the end-user base. Perhaps I will be perceived as naive regarding these suggestions but I have been running a successful ColdFusion development firm for sixteen years, this experience gives me the right to say my piece. Sure, these are only my suggestions and perhaps, as we used to say in the Navy, they represent my “dream sheet” but whatever the methods used, Adobe need to focus on returning ColdFusion to the marketplace. Perhaps these suggestions are already in place to some extent, and if they are, we’ve circled back again to poor advertising (I know there are developer versions of CF and Builder already).

Inability to Secure Reliable ColdFusion Support

Listen, the developers are there. ColdFusion was a major player for many years and those developers haven’t all died off, they have just faded away. They are still out there, somewhere, lost in the crowd of more common languages. Currently, most developers will mention ColdFusion somewhere within their list of ancillary skills like jQuery and AngularJS. They see it as a plus but not necessarily fit for a resume title. Adobe’s goal should be to have these developers title their resumes, “ColdFusion Developer”; not bury it within a paragraph of skills. This is how we will know we have overcome the visibility hurdle. To achieve that result, Adobe needs to return ColdFusion to the marketplace as a solid contender, but I’ve said enough about that above. In the meantime, there are hundreds of ColdFusion development companies who can fill the gap until these developers come up to speed and move into in-house IT positions. This is important because as ColdFusion ramps up ahead of the developer base, customers need to know that support is available. The Adobe certification and partnership programs are a good start. But what if, and it is a big what if, Adobe contracted some of these development firms to provide ColdFusion support and training on their behalf until the market reaches sufficient size? This would change the perception of support. To summarize this point, the developers are out there they are just much harder to find. As the number of developers increases, the cost of development will decrease. This is the fair-market system at work. Adobe must make it advantageous for developers to come out of the closet and be proud of their ColdFusion background.

The Cost of Hosting a ColdFusion Application

Hosting anything yourself is an expensive proposition. There are hardware costs, software costs and license fees, high-speed connection costs, costs of vulnerability testing, the cost of maintaining server administrators, and a myriad of other expenses which make hosting an enterprise server an expensive prospect. For those who need to host the application server themselves, ColdFusion is not a good option right now. It is expensive and requires substantial horsepower to run. Yet, more and more companies are turning to hosted solutions to overcome these hurdles. A reputable hosting provider can give you all of that at a low monthly price. They can do it because they make their money in volume, not on a single user. In my previous article, I elaborate on that and will not do so again here. However, my main point was that there are many hosting companies who provide affordable ColdFusion hosted solutions at a very low price. These hosted solutions are secure, reliable, and affordable. In my opinion, it just is not worthwhile hosting a server in-house when better and more secure services are available at a fraction of the cost. That’s my business side talking. The ColdFusion hosting company I use includes with every hosting plan, a mail server, an analytics server, various plugins and additions, a shared SSL certificate, SQL Server, and awesome tech support. This makes ColdFusion affordable for smaller companies and even individuals. However, there are not many of these companies out there now because ColdFusion is so expensive. Why would they go through the expense of setting up ColdFusion servers when they can host thousands of users on free services like PHP and .NET, which have a better position in the market than ColdFusion right now? I wouldn’t.

ColdFusion is an Old Language and Modern Applications Can’t be Built with it.

We’re talking about apples and oranges here. ColdFusion isn’t a front-end language. Although it does provide some front-end functionality, its strength is clearly back-end server processing and a database interface. The person who raised this objection could not have meant that a ColdFusion back-end is not modern because ColdFusion can do everything any other language can do and in most cases, do it better and more efficiently. Therefore, this objection must be leveled against the front-end interface which really has very little to do with ColdFusion. The user interface is generally a blend of HTML, CSS and JQuery or some other JavaScript library. There are many developers and development companies who know how to effectively leverage both (mine included). In the past, we had page refreshes to send data to the server for validation. The generally accepted method of sending data to the server was a form post of some type. But those days are long gone. Now, clicking a form submit button fires a jQuery event which retrieves information from a CFC and returns the results in JSON format which is displayed on the page within a DIV. There is no page load at all; this is standard operating procedure these days. What happens in that DIV with the returned data and what the page looks like is a front-end aspect of development which many ColdFusion developers lack. For example, explore the DC-DC Converter application we built for Coilcraft engineering. This is not a sales pitch or a portfolio plug but merely an attempt to show how data should be handled these days. The search results load within a DIV and can be manipulated in many ways. Especially interesting is the graphing capabilities: in that linked application, after the results are displayed select a few parts and click the “graph” button to see what can be done using a hybrid jQuery/ColdFusion application. To say that modern applications cannot be built with ColdFusion shows a lack of understanding of what exactly ColdFusion was designed to accomplish.

Summary

This article can be summarized in a single sentence: ColdFusion is not dying but simply under-promoted and misunderstood.