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ColdFusion MX: Macromedia’s Rapid Server Scripting Environment

ColdFusion 1.0 was launched in 1995 by the Allaire Corporation as the first Web application server for Windows NT. It was conceived and designed specifically to help HTML programmers create database-oriented web applications. Promising from the start, significant improvements were made over the years leading to ColdFusion 5.0. The Allaire Corporation was acquired by Macromedia in 2001 and since then ColdFusion has been integrated with Macromedia’s industry-leading development software – Dreamweaver and Flash. Today, the latest version is called ColdFusion MX, which is part of the Macromedia MX “family” - an integrated suite of products that is designed to streamline the creation and delivery of everything from simple websites to Rich Internet Applications. The "MX" moniker is not an acronym and doesn't have a literal translation. "MX" simply designates ColdFusion MX as a major new release and part of the Macromedia MX product family which also includes Macromedia Flash MX, Dreamweaver MX, Fireworks MX, Director MX, Macromedia Flash Communication Server MX and Macromedia Studio MX.

One of the greatest features of ColdFusion is its simple, tag-based scripting language called ColdFusion Markup Language or CFML. What makes CFML great is that it’s very easy for developers to learn because they are already used to working with tag-based HTML. That allows ColdFusion applications to be written faster, even by developers with less experience. CFML is simple and very intuitive, reducing common web functions - like accessing a database - into single CFML tags. Compare that with several lines of code that are required with PHP or ASP. ColdFusion also handles low-level programming tasks automatically and simplifies code reuse. In addition to over 75 tags and 240 built-in functions, CFML allows developers to extend the language by creating their own custom tags or userdefined functions, or by integrating COM, Java/C++ and Java components. With the release of ColdFusion MX, Macromedia now offers developers next generation architecture that allows deployment of ColdFusion applications on Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) servers, including Macromedia JRun, IBM Websphere, BEA WebLogic and Sun One.

There are other key advantages to ColdFusion MX such as its comprehensive feature set including built-in graphing and charting functions and Verity search engine. ColdFusion MX is also supported on Solaris, Linux, Windows and HP-UX with code compatability between platforms. Another big advantage is how reliably it is supposed to scale to heavy loads.

Unfortunately, ColdFusion MX was initially not very reliable and a big disappointment for developers who upgraded from ColdFusion 5.0. And a lot of developers made the switch as soon as MX was released because Macromedia slashed the cost to license MX ($795) to almost half the cost of version 5.0 ($1295). The big problem was instability arising from the change from 5.0’s ColdFusion Server to MX’s JRun Server. Macromedia has since released a couple of updates to ColdFusion MX that have apparently fixed the initial problems with it – but not before a lot of developer headaches. Macromedia has now raised the licensing cost to $1295 for ColdFusion MX, which is about the only real downside we can see compared with other competing platforms that are less expensive. There is a freeware version of ColdFusion MX available but its features are limited.

If you are interested in ColdFusion Hosting, check out our ColdFusion Showcase section and browse ColdFusion Hosting packages offered by today’s leading primary hosting providers.

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