Tuesday 14 August 2012

Obligatory ColdFusion Roadmap article

Like the vapid echo-chamber that it is, Twitter had been resounding with content-nil repetition of people restating what Adobe announced overnight: a public-facing roadmap for the direction of ColdFusion and ColdFusion Builder.

I struggle to communicate anything of merit in 140 characters (so... much the same as anyone else then  ;-), so I'll write about it here instead.

First up: heres a link to the official blog post, linked from which is the roadmap PDF.

And here is a bulletpoint summary:

  • CF next version codenamed "Splendor"
    • Streamlining mobile development
    • PDF stuff
    • "Enabling enterprise to easily integrate with Social media Streams"
    • Improved installation & deployment
    • Other areas:
      • Performance
      • Security
      • Pluggable Framework
      • Enhancements
      • Language Improvements
      • HTML5
  • CFB next version codenamed "Thunder"
    • Mobile dev
    • Improved "Getting Started"
    • More JS dev support
  • ColdFusion on cloud
    • AMI on AWS
  • Flexible cloud offering

  • CF following version codenamed "Dazzle"
    • Enterprise mobility
    • Responsive multi-screen content
    • Digital marketing (analytics)
    • Video portal
  • CFB following version codenamed "Blizzard"
    • Support for multi-screen content
    • Application deployment
    • Test & debugging improvements

  • Looking at then content of this PDF then:

    Starting from the end and working backwards: it looks like CF11 if scheduled for release next year, and CF12 in 2014. There was no mention of CFB in this context, but I guess we can assume it'll lock-step with CF.  Oh, hey: I'm gonna refer to these things as CF11 and CF12.  "Code names" are for kiddies playing James Bond.  They've said they're the next two major releases, so let's just call them what they are.

    This is a pretty good release cycle, and if they can also get bugs fixed and delivered via the updater mechanism on a regular basis from now on, I think this should quieten-down those people bitching about product stagnation. I count myself amongst that demographic. I'm pretty pleased about their targets here: nice one, Adobe.

    So back to the beginning of the document.

    The first thing I noticed is that they have made a point of splitting "ColdFusion" and "ColdFusion for cloud computing" into separate line items (so there's three top-level items: CF, CFB and then a cloud-centric entry for CF as well). That's interesting... does this mean they are bring treated as separate offerings? Separate products? Or is it just some marketing to draw attention to the cloud offering (which is entirely reasonable)? Dunno. I'll be keen to find out, and what the ramifications are if they're intended as separate entities.

    The first bullet point for CF features is for it to have some sort of mobile-app development support. This is very interesting to me, and I think it's a timely direction for ColdFusion to take. For over a decade CF has expedited HTML development for us, and it'll be great if it did the same for mobile dev. Or indeed assists with the duality of desktop and mobile dev requirements. I do hope it's not simply some CFTABLE-esque "helpers" for generating mobile-friendly HTML5. That would suck.

    I also hope if they do implement this stuff, they don't target it at newbie, unskilled developers. A lot of CF's approach to things in the past had been hamstrung by being targeted at the lowest common denominator. Let's leave them behind: they can step-up or they can just stay where they are: this is the nature of development.  And I say this as a distinct noob when it comes to mobile development... I'm not even at the "Hello World" stage yet.  But I'll lift my game.  I just thinks there's a middle ground one can take here, and that's better for everyone.

    CFB also is targeted for some sort of enhancement with mobile dev in mind. I hope they spend a lot of time getting their house in order first.  I'm distinctly underwhelmed that CFB has had three releases now (1.0, 2.0, 2.0.1), and it's still as flaky as it is.  TBH if they had announced they were chucking what they've done so far and starting again, I'd see it as good news.  I've suggested to Adobe they dump what they've done and engage the people at Zend to create Adobe's CF IDE.  That would make for a brilliant product.  It's thusfar fallen on deaf ears.  And I guess they've invested too much time in the current product to just bin it.  Pity.

    The next bullet point for CF11 is "revamped and new PDF functionalities".  Without any detail, there's not much to say on that.

    This bamboozles me: "Enabling Enterprise to easily integrate with Social Media Streams".  It sounds like the leftover words after a round of buzzword bingo.  I'm also wary of that word "Enterprise" in there: does this flag that whatever this feature is, it will be for CF Enterprise only?

    The last bullet point for CF11 is that they intend to improve the installation and deployment experience.  This is good news, especially after my rant about it the other day!  I am sure the two are not connected.  It's not like I'm the first person to bang on about it.  It's good news though.  I hope they take the approach that a dev install can be pretty "no frills", like a Railo Jetty-based install.  Fair enough to have a more comprehensive installer for production environments (although make sure it's fully scriptable), but for dev installs - which most installs are - don't need all that bumpf.  Just some sensible defaults will do.

    Onto the rest of the CFB bullet points for the next version (I presume it's CFB3.0?  Dunno.  Still not gonna use a "code name" when I refer to it ;-).  "Improved getting started experience".  I really don't think that warrants mention in a PR roadmap.  It kinda suggests there's nothing really much else to say.  And finally for CFB3: "Professional JavaScript Development Support".  My advice here is they should deliver a professional CF development environment first, which they haven't quite achieved yet.  Focus on the main game before you start getting bored and wandering off into the periphery, please.  Eclipse is a plugabble application, and people have already implemented JS dev plug-ins.  CFB needs to do one thing well:  CFML development.  That's it.  Get that perfect.

    Underneath the main list are a bunch of things that actually interest me as much as the headlines:
    • Performance
    • Security
    • Pluggable Framework
    • Enhancements
    • Language Improvements
    • HTML5
    Well, OK, I think listing "enhancements" there was kinda stating the obvious in a roadmap document.  But performance and language improvements are always things I'm keen to hear about.  I'd be very interested in hearing what language enhancements are in the pipeline.  These things are more interesting to me than the "marquee" type bells and whistles, if I'm honest.  Well: actually I'm pretty interested in the mobile stuff, I have to say.

    All in all I have to say I'm more interested in the sound of CF11 than I was in the sound of CF9 and CF10.  So that's good.

    CF12.  Obviously they're gonna be a bit nebulous in their feature descriptions, because this is still a coupla years out: a lot can change in that time.  They seem to be focusing on mobile and social-oriented stuff, which is certainly embracing the zeitgeist (I've now used that in two blog posts in one week... must stop...).  I have no idea what "support for responsive multi screen content" means.  Nor the ramifications of a customisable enterprise video portal.  Sounds neat though.  I question their intended foray into analytics.  Doesn't Google already pretty much do that?  I guess I cannot sensibly comment (not that this has ever stopped me before) without more detail.

    The CFB enhancements lock-step with CF's direction, and also claims to be adding deployment & test & debug improvements.

    Both new versions specifically single out cloud offerings, as I mentioned earlier.   This is very interesting, and I can't wait to see the details of this, and how it all fits together.  but there's not much else to say for the time being on that.

    In closing, I'm actually pretty pleased about what they're suggesting they're doing with CF, and it's heartening to see a roadmap at last.  It kinda suggests Adobe have more buy-in to ColdFusion than sometimes it seems.

    I also calculate that if they want CF11 out next year, they'll be underway with development already.  I better go stand in the queue to get into the pre-release programme.

    Thanks for posting the roadmap, Adobe.  Nice one.

    UPDATE: I meant to add I've got a few ideas of what I'd like to see being added to CF... language enhancements really.  They're all draft blog posts at the mo', but I guess it's time to pull-finger and get them out there for discussion.  I'm dead keen to hear what other people would like to see added to CF.  I might add an "open thread" for people to comment.  But first I need some lunch...