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Why we're moving away from ColdFusion

posted under category: ColdFusion on January 13, 2017 at 12:14 pm by MrNate

Many of you know me and where I work. If not, let's just say it's a big place with lots of smart people who all have their own motivations that generally align with making money. Over the past couple decades, we've had an increasing number of ColdFusion applications, mostly on the company intranet. At this point we have literally thousands of CF sites and apps, developed by hundreds of skilled and unskilled ColdFusion developers. We also have a heavy investment into server architecture to support this. It's not been cheap or easy to get here.

Why, then, did we make the decision to leave ColdFusion?

Over the past few years, our Enterprise Architecture department has been trying to reduce the amount of variation in applications around the company. It makes sense because having a more homogenous server and application architecture can reduce costs. So what did they pick instead? The new application infrastructure is going to be nothing but Java, especialy with Spring MVC, and ASP.NET MVC. That's it. Nothing else.

We know from lots of experience that neither Java nor ASP.NET is actually a cheaper solution because of the cost of IDE software and other various servers and components to match the functionality in ColdFusion. Also, a Java developer has a more demanding salary than someone who does a little more than HTML, or an analyst who dabbles in dynamic web programming. Long story short: We're not doing it to save money.

Is it because ColdFusion is last decade's technology? Well, what does ColdFusion do? It puts web sites on our intranet while connecting to every type of other system we may have running. Okay, it's not tablet apps, but it can let you create mobile web apps. It stands as a sturdy back-end to JavaScript applications. This is not old technology, not by a long shot.

Are we dumping ColdFusion because of a rapidly shrinking talent pool? Maybe. It's hard to say because we haven't been hiring a lot of people over the past few years. However, if you've ever seen ColdFusion, you know it's essentially HTML-plus. CF's unbelievably low barrier to entry means anyone with HTML skills and 15 minutes of playing around can write CFML on their resume. Complex CF applications are something else, but are generally along the lines of any MVC application on another platform. Also, as I said, we already have hundreds of ColdFusion-literate people - we're not short for talent.

No, instead of all of this, we are moving away from ColdFusion because of Gartner's IT Market Clock for Programming Languages. I've read it - Gartner does a very strong analysis of the market as a whole from what information they can learn on the public internet. They check the job sites and question boards like StackOverflow, and they determined that ColdFusion is on the brink of obsolescence. In our proactivity, we are jumping off before it gets ugly.

So why are we moving away from ColdFusion? In a word: Gartner.

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On Jan 13, 2017 at 4:50 PM Jose Galdamez (galdamez@example.com who would have preferred an address at mac.com) said:
It's kind of funny how night and day the Gartner report and IDC's White Paper "Turning up the Heat on API Development with ColdFusion 2016" really are. I haven't actually read Gartner's analysis. All I can say about the IDC paper is that it has a bit of a rosy outlook, to say the least. At the end of the day, customers don't care how or what the code is written in, so long as it works. New apps come in as old apps go out.

Over where I'm at we're doing something similar by way of canning one language (not CFML) to better consolidate our tech stack. Only we're replacing it with a much older language written by some dude named Larry Wall. For us, the issue isn't cost or the newness of the language, but rather it is what is most widespread in the organization.

Every company has to decide what makes the most sense for them. You guys will learn many new things in the transition, I'm sure. You'll likely also get a much different support experience.

On Jan 13, 2017 at 7:37 PM GaryF (gravatar who spends every waking moment visiting directpath.co.uk) said:
Your company is changing its server-side programming language after 20 years of success and accumulation of skills because of an external report that wasn't written specifically for your company? Hmm, ok.
Gartner don't always get it right. Google "Why does the IT industry continue to listen to Gartner?" and read the 2012 ZDNet article for examples of predictions gone wrong. And apparently they were wrong about OpenStack in 2015.
Some would say that CF has been obsolete for years. Maybe, maybe not, but obsolescence is relative to the observer. If an organisation has a pool of talent to create good CF apps and is keeping busy and profitable then CF is very much contemporary for that company, staff and clients.

On Jan 13, 2017 at 8:09 PM Andy K (a_guiness@aol.com or @hotmail.com) said:
I have no opinion on moving from CF, etc. - we still use it for many things, but we use plenty of other tools and I can think of many, MANY valid reasons to move away from it. That dead horse has been sufficiently flogged, ad nauseam.

But I just wanted to semi-echo some of what Gary was mentioning about Gartner. We're in Silicon Valley and in the computer hardware business. Gartner weighs in on trends in our industry in a big way and they are near universally considered a joke by all of my contemporaries, whether manufacturing partners, customers or our competitors. The word "laughable" comes to mind.

That being said, my own opinions on the future of CF is aligned with theirs and were I in a corporation reliant upon that tool, I would absolutely consider this type of position - risk management is essential and this type of analysis and resultant action is wise.

But Gartner??? Pfftt...

On Jan 16, 2017 at 10:59 PM Charlie Arehart (Charlie who spends every waking moment visiting carehart.org) said:
It's nice to see a rather even-handed discussion of this topic without the normal "sturm und drang" (hyperbole, chicken little pronouncements, attacks on Adobe or anyone supporting cf/cfml). From Nathan's original post to the helpful comments, pro and con, it's just refreshing to see an adult conversation on this topic.

As has been noted, much more could be said (pro and con) to give a full picture for those facing the decision but who have not seen other discussions. But for those of us who have, this is a welcome change of pace.

On Feb 22, 2017 at 5:32 PM Alex (alex who dances with pixl8.co.uk) said:
Do you know if they considered Lucee ? An organisation of that size after all would effectively have a java app but with far less migration headache. Not sure what the policy on Open source contributions was but with other players like NASA JPL using ?

On Feb 22, 2017 at 5:59 PM Nathan Strutz (http://www.dopefly.com) said:
Alex, thanks for the thought. I don't know for sure if the infrastructure and architecture group considered Lucee. I've brought it up a few times, but there wasn't much interest with developers. Again, it's not the money that is the issue here, and not the technology, it's maybe more like the CF ecosphere that led Gartner to push CF to the outer edge. We could probably stave it off if with more stackoverflow and reddit posts, and more job posts, but truth is our traffic is dropping. It's a slow decline. I think it won't just dry up overnight, but it's trending the wrong way.
I just want to encourage you all to think about your future, what technologies pay your bills, and what you would do without CFML, if that day were to come. Start practicing new skills now - worst case is they make your general programming skills better and put new tools in your box, best case is they give you a more lucrative future.
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