On this episode of the podcast Script talks with Rakshith Naresh, the Senior Product Manager for ColdFusion at Adobe. They discuss many of the items featured in Adobe’s recent “ColdFusion Roadshow”. This includes information about some of the highlighted features of the ColdFusion 2016 (the current version), as well as some of the anticipated features of its next version, codenamed “Aether”.
But Script kicks off the podcast and his conversation with Rakshith with a discussion about ColdFusion’s reputation of being a “dead language”.
You can find out more about ColdFusion at http://www.adobe.com/products/coldfusion-family.html or find out more about it on Twitter @coldfusion.
You can follow Rakshith on Twitter @rakshithn.
Adobe is putting on events similar to the “ColdFusion Roadshow” on the west coast from April 10-17. For more information go to http://blogs.coldfusion.com/post.cfm/adobe-coldfusion-events-april-10-17
Hello and welcome to Episode 5 of the “Wake Up! With Script Van Winkle” podcast. My name is Chris Laning, a.k.a. Script Van Winkle. But my friends call me… collect. Come to think of it there Junior Developer, you might need to look that one up.
Two months back, Adobe put on their ColdFusion Roadshow. It was an informational meeting taken to several cities on the East Coast. I got to attend their session in Durham, North Carolina. I got lots of information about the current status of ColdFusion, and a look at some of the features that might be in future releases.
As someone who is been developing in ColdFusion for over 20 years, obviously I was interested. Especially because I am working with servers that are several versions behind the current one. So I wanted the opportunity to at least get a taste of what I’ve been missing.
I have run into many people who believe that ColdFusion is a dying language. While I resisted that opinion for the longest time, I have begun to believe it as well. I have seen a lot of the giants in the CF field move on to other languages and technologies. However, as you will hear in the interview, Adobe has numbers regarding ColdFusion usage and adoption which just don’ t jive with that line of thinking.
Which leads one to wonder where the truth lies. Is it really dying, or could it be that a lot of people who have been doing ColdFusion for all these years have moved on to other things not so much because the language is falling behind, but rather because they were tired of doing the same old things and wanted new challenges. I have to admit, I’ve somewhat lost my enthusiasm for programming in CF. But in my case, that may be because I’m still stuck so many versions behind. But what if it is the case that people’s tastes just change from time to time? Maybe there are people coming to ColdFusion from other technologies that they have been doing for a long time.
It’s also hard to say what the job market is like in the ColdFusion field and I have heard mixed opinions. Some recruiters have told me that while there are not a lot of jobs in ColdFusion there are considerably less experienced ColdFusion developers to do those jobs. In short, they have assured me that if I ever need a new job, I should not have a problem finding one. Unless of course my potential employer has listened to the podcast.
Now at the ColdFusion Roadshow, Adobe mentioned how it has taken several steps to help make it easier for other developers and particularly students to learn about CF. At its heart, it is not a difficult language to pick up. Especially if you’re coming from the strictly front-end HTML side.
ColdFusion is really easy to understand for beginners. But, they have also made many advancements to it over the years to bring it more in line with other programming languages. That, ultimately, makes it easier for people to jump from those languages to ColdFusion.
The long and short of it is this. Perception may not be reality. I don’t know whether ColdFusion is a dying language or significantly growing. But I will say this. It is certainly possible that it is just in a phase of transition bringing on different types of clients and different developers. I guess that remains to be seen. I will let you decide that for yourself.
I also had the chance to sit down with Rakshith Naresh who is the Senior Product Manager for ColdFusion. I am grateful to Adobe for making Rakshith available for an interview that day. I made it clear to them that one of the questions I was going to ask was about whether it was a dying language. So this is not “gotcha” journalism. Rakshith, Elishia Dvorak, and the rest of the staff from Adobe who were there that day were friendly, personable, and willing to take on any and all questions. That is why I am glad I get to bring this interview to you.
Now on the last episode I explained in great detail why I was dropping the phony character accent I used on Episodes 2 and 3. This interview was before before I dropped it. So enjoy my bad accent one more time.
Without further ado, here’s Rakshith Naresh from Adobe.
Alright, so I came to this ColdFusion Roadshow that they had going on here in Durham, North Carolina and it was kind of giving us a map of, well first they were giving us a map of the future, but they were also talking about what’s out in ColdFusion 2016.
Very informative and very enlightening. I decided to grab Rakshith Naresh, that’s the Senior Product Manager with Adobe. He gave some of the presentations and I thought I’d get him to talk to us a little bit about what’s going on.
Welcome to the show, Rakshith.
Thanks, thanks a lot. It’s great to be a part of the show.
So I got to start with the 2,000 pound elephant in the room here. You know I’ve been a ColdFusion developer for all these years but in the last few years I keep hearing over and over ColdFusion is dying. I know you’ve heard that, so what do you say to people that really think that ColdFusion is becoming a dying language?
It’s definitely not dead. I had this on my slide deck as well. It’s clearly the best undead language ever. We are working on the next version of the product already. I spoke to you about the roadmap as well.
Just last year, and we run a business at Adobe clearly, so ColdFusion is about business for Adobe. The business last year was really good. This was one of the best years that we’ve had over the last eight years or so. ColdFusion is really doing well for Adobe, so what it means is that Adobe is more and more committed to ColdFusion as a platform.
That’s the reason we have a 10-year roadmap as well, so we have support commitments to 2027. With every version of the product you get five years of core support and two years of extended support. Our existing support commitments for ColdFusion Aether, which is the code name for the next major version of the product, and the version beyond that goes up to 2027. That’s the longterm commitment that Adobe has for the product as a platform.
Some of the things that we are doing as a part of the next version really excites me. We are focused on the things that really matter to a ColdFusion developer. We will improve on performance, improve the security aspects of ColdFusion, make the platform more secure by default, improve the CFML language as well. We have some exciting stuff going on in the next version. Somebody who thinks that the language is dying, it’s just a myth that’s floating around. It’s definitely not dead and we are actively working on it and we’re working on the next version of the product, code name Aether.
I think one of the impressions that people get, and frankly I got that impression myself when you’re out there seeing what’s out on the market. It seems like ColdFusion seems to be mostly focused in like federal government and big bank institutions. Is there any push for ColdFusion in the more nimble, start-up type arena?
Absolutely, so that’s the reason we have two different versions of the product, which is ColdFusion Enterprise focused more towards the larger companies, and ColdFusion Standard geared more towards start-ups and even a small size organization. That’s the reason we still have standard alive today. If we were not focusing on the small companies, the start-ups, we would not even have ColdFusion Standard anymore, we would just focus on ColdFusion Enterprise.
Standard gears towards somebody who’s starting afresh and trying to bring new stuff using ColdFusion. One of the talks that we have, which is still an initiative that we have in mind is, can we do something with the start-ups? For instance if there’s a new start-up coming up, can we provide them with licensing support for the first few years to support the start-up? Then once the organization matures, obviously they will become ColdFusion customers as well.
That’s one of the thoughts, we still are working the details of it, but clearly even though existing customers set-up today, we do have all kinds of companies. We do have federal government, we do have really large customer organizations, and we do have really small organizations, start-ups as well.
Just so that you know, even today we added on 2,000 new customers every year. It’s not just an existing customer story, the platform is growing. It may not be growing to the extent of some of the competing technologies. We have to accept that as a fact it’s not a super growing product, but at the same time it’s not a product that has stagnated. We continue to grow, we continue to add 2,000 new customers year over year.
One of the questions that we heard here today, somebody wanted to know what you’re doing to go out there and recruit the newer, upcoming junior developers. That’s a good thought, I mean me, I’m an old, grizzled, senior developer, whatever. If you don’t get the fresh blood in there, it’s going to be some problems. What are you doing in that realm to try to get these guys and girls onboard?
Yes, absolutely. That’s a great question. We have quite a few initiatives, we clearly see that as an issue. Whenever we talk to our customers and even developers out there, we hear that hiring new developers, that is the number one challenge out there. It’s not so much about the product; the product runs great. Where can we find those new developers? That’s basically the problem that our customers have today.
One of the issues that we saw was the curriculum at the community college, they are pretty much outdated. We wanted to come up with this new focused web application development course for the community colleges, or even for any university in general, and provide them with a semester-long course, provide them with instruction videos as well, curriculum material, even projects so everything is right there. They just need to hand it over to a certain instructor to teach that curriculum in the college.
What we’ve also been able to do is create a model where we have tied in our customers with a few community colleges where they typically go hire new developers. It’s worked out quite well for us in a few areas where we have the schools in place at a community college. Developers love to be a part of the course, more so because there’s a customer who’s looking to hire interns from the community college. They take part in the web application development course, and once they’re out of it they get an internship opportunity with one of our customer organizations. It’s kind of like a win-win, both for the new developer as well as our customers who are looking for fresh blood in the ColdFusion community. That is one part of it.
The other issue that I generally see is a lack of introductory training materials out there for ColdFusion. There are a few, like Learn CFML in a Week and a few other training materials, but we are focused on bringing in some new curriculum courses with new training courses as well for a new developer. We have this Adobe platform called Adobe KnowHow. We do have … I don’t know how much it is, I think it’s 30 hours of instructional video for a new developer on Adobe KnowHow. That’s a great resource for somebody who’s trying to get in to ColdFusion and learn. Videos are the in-thing today to learn any kind of technology. You don’t go through a set of documentation to learn, so we are doing that.
The third really interesting project that is my favorite is the CF Fiddle. This is an online tool that works in your browser. What it does is, it shows you a code snippet that you can go tweak and you can run the code snippet from within the portal itself on the browser and see the output right there. The whole idea is instead of showing ColdFusion developers static content or new developers some static content in the documentation, we will have a link to CF Fiddle that will take you to an online portal where you can run the code snippet and see it working.
You can tweak that, share it with others, and also if you have any kind of questions, if you want to ask a question to the community on Stack Overflow or Adobe forums, you can now link a CF Fiddle code snippet and link it in the forum, and somebody who’s an expert in the community can take a look at it, see the output right there, see the issue, fix it for you, and then pass it back to you as an input. We have all these initiatives in place. It’s not going to change things drastically in just a year or so, but we believe that it will change the game in the next few years.
That’s really cool. We’re going to take a quick break and we’ll be right back with Rakshith Naresh, Senior Product Manager with Adobe.
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Welcome back to the Script Van Winkle podcast. I’m Script Van Winkle and I’m here with Rakshith Naresh, the Senior Product Manager at Adobe. The main purpose of this CF Roadshow was to kind of tell us what’s going on in 2016, and then take a look at the future. First off, what do you think are some of the highlights of 2016, the things that you’re most excited about?
I’m really excited about the performance improvements that we’ve done. Your existing applications will run up to 30% faster. Even without having to make any code changes, you can get 30% increased throughput.
What it means for you, for a developer is that your existing applications, even without you having to change the code, tweak the application, you will be able to leverage those runtime improvements, perhaps to deliver on one of your goals or one of the KPIs that you may have. You may have a KPI to reduce the end-user response time by so many percent, but the new platform itself will give you the boost so that you can accomplish your goals. That is one thing that I’m really excited about.
The second one is security. We are focused on security so you have access to a team within Adobe called PSIRT. They’re a group of security experts who work within Adobe and they give us recommendations and how to go about fixing a security threat. Even if it’s a threat in the wild out there, we get to hear about it from the PSIRT team and they interact with the product team and help us release those security fixes on time.
We do have frequent security fixes as well. In 2016 specifically, we came up with this new security code analyzer. Let’s say you may have some legacy applications that you’re just maintaining. Somebody else wrote it, let’s say 10 years ago, and you have been assigned to maintain it. You don’t really know what kind of security issues are present in that particular legacy application. When you run the static code analyzer that we have, it points out exact line numbers, which have the vulnerabilities and it will also recommend how to go about fixing that. That is something that I’m really excited about.
The third one is API Management. I just love what we have built. Even the customers who we work with, they just love the solution. Some of our customers have actually moved out off some of the leaders in the API Management space to adopt our solution. That helps you take your APIs to market with ease. You just have to worry about designing your API, coding the API. Everything else about securing, managing, engaging developers, analytics, everything is baked in, in the product.
This is freely available as a part of ColdFusion and it cannot just manage CFML-based APIs, it works with any kind of APIs. One of the things that we saw was 74% of our customers have multiple technologies in their organization. If the API manager can actually track those individual technology-based APIs as well, be it a .Net API or a PHP API, the relevance of the importance of ColdFusion all of a sudden is so much more within the organization, so that’s one of the reasons why API Management excites me. 2016 in general with performance security language improvements and API Management are like the top picks for me.
We got a lot of listeners here that maybe aren’t so up-to-date on things and may not understand what you mean by the API Manager. Are we talking like services, micro-services, what are we talking here?
That’s actually a great question. The way API Management platform works is, it’s actually a gateway that sits in-between or before your ColdFusion server. Your back-end APIs, be it REST APIs or SOAP APIs, will be returned in CFML.
Now there’s a gateway component that you install either on the same machine or a different machine, so this kind of routes all your API calls to the back-end. While it’s routing the calls to the back-end, it provides this additional layer of security. It provides you access control so that nobody can hit the back-end API without having to bypass the API Management layer. It has to pass through the authorization mechanism that we have, and then access the back-end.
Similarly SLAs, so service level agreements. You can enforce them at the gateway. Similarly analytics, since the traffic is routed through the gateway as a separate constant, it’s a stand-alone component, it can track analytics as well. All this that you were supposed to take care of as a ColdFusion developer when you’re building an API, is now offloaded to this new component that sits in front of your ColdFusion server. That’s the whole idea about the API Management layer.
Okay, that makes it sound a lot simpler, because I know there is this big push toward moving toward services and things like that. I have mentioned in other podcasts that this whole of micro-services, I kind of like it. I want these little short things to do what you need to do. Sounds like it’s a good direction.
One of the things that caught my eye, being an old-school developer, is some of the language changes. In particular, could you explain the changes in the structure?
In 2016, we introduced this concept of ordered structure, so you can now retain the insertion order. So just like an array. An array maintains the insertion order. You can get elements out of an array based on how you insert on index one, two, and three. What if you want something like this on a struct to get data back out of the struct in the insertion order? That is what this ordered collection gives you.
We also have this new capability of ordered structs. What it does is, whenever you insert something on the struct, you can order the struct based on the key values that you insert. You can customize it by your own function that it can pass, or it can say that you want an ascending order struct or a descending order struct, and you would just order the keys based on what you select.
This keeps us from having to take stuff that was in the struct, moving it into an array to do the ordering, and then dumping it back out?
Yes. Internally it works slightly different but yeah, for a developer it feels as though the struct, when you do an array and got back all those elements in the insertion order, absolutely.
Awesome. Before we go, real quick. You mentioned some of the things that are coming up in the next version called “Aether”.
Just a real quick overview of some of the hot things that you think are coming out with that.
I’m excited about Aether as well. Again, through multiple service, through multiple customer interviews, what I find is our customers and developers are looking for performance improvements. We did performance improvements to the runtime in 2016 but we plan to take a slightly different approach in the next version.
We are planning to provide tooling that will help you extract the best part of your existing infrastructure. We’re planning to come up with an auto connector tuner that can optimize your connector to the best. We also will revamp the server monitors so you can figure out any kind of bottlenecks in your application, JVM settings not tweaked in an appropriate manner.
You’ll get notifications on all of this using the revamped server monitor, which will have a new dashboard that will kind of give you a sense of how well is your application performing in just one snapshot. That is one thing. We are also planning to introduce a code profiler for performance. Performance improvements will obviously be there. We’re also planning to support a distributed cache. Those are some of the things in performance.
On security, we may have an integration with a web application firewall just to make your application so much more secure. This also functions like a gateway, even before your ColdFusion applications come in the picture, it just scans your HTTP request pattern and prevents malicious request patterns from hitting your back-end. That is also something that I’m excited about.
Quite a few language changes as well. We are planning to improve the object-oriented support, perhaps look at introducing CFScript 2.0, introduce null support. There are a lot of potential directions but we may not be able to accomplish all of it as a part of Aether because we only have limited resources available.
The directions are pretty interesting and the nice thing is in all these Roadshows, I get a sense that everybody likes the directions that we are taking. That’s the best part about the directions that we have. I had this $100 test for people who are here and it seems to echo what we are planning to do. Clearly performance, everybody likes performance. The performance improvements that we’re doing, the security, the language, so exciting times for the next version as well.
We appreciate it. We’ve been speaking with Rakshith Naresh. He’s the Senior Product Manager at Adobe. I thank you for your time and real quick, the Aether is due out, when is that 2018?
Yes. We’ve been having a two year cycle pretty much. Potentially I can’t comment on the exact date of-
Come on, I want a committed day right now, down to the day. Let’s go, break it here!
Okay, it’s going to be in 2018.
Awesome. Again, we’re speaking with Rakshith Naresh, Senior Product Manager at Adobe. Appreciate your time and thank you for being with us.
Thanks a lot, it was great being a part of the show.
That’s all for my interview with Rakshith Naresh. I hope you found it as informational as I did and that it left you with some things to think about it.
That’s all for Episode 5 of the “Wake Up! WIth Script Van Winkle” podcast. If you’ve got questions or topics you would like me to cover, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Twitter @ScriptVanWinkle. You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes, Google Play, or on Stitcher. You can comment on this episode, see blog posts and find more info at ScriptVanWinkle.com.
Thanks for listening and I’ll talk to you next time.