OpenCFML for government (and beyond)

I’m very lucky to be spending this week in Washington DC attending a couple of related conferences about CFML and in particular the MuraCMS that I’ll be using for a major project in the coming months.

Now I can hear all you Ruby, Django…even .Net and PHP…guys giggling from here. Yes Coldfusion does still exist! Despite the combination of Coldfusion and open source being seen as something of an oxymoron by some the rise of FOSS tools has given the language a shot in the arm and the OpenCFML Foundation, who organised the event I was at yesterday, has been formed to increase the profile of that.

There was quite an honest assessment of the task at hand. It was admitted that most conversations about CF start with the statement ‘no, it isn’t dead‘ 🙂 With Adobe* mainly focusing on the upgrade market their isn’t really a champion advocating CF to the wider web community and that combined with the fact that many of its main users are big enterprise or government and not the kind of organisations to be out there shouting about their shiny new project (that might change with me about though!) just reinforces the perception that CF is a dying language.

Now I have no idea about the strengths or weaknesses of it as a scripting/programming language I’ll leave that to the ‘talent’ as I have said before. What I will say though is that on the evidence of yesterday at least there are some very impressive looking products being built with or for CF and that there are some pretty high profile sites in the US Government making use of the technology. Plus Apple. Which isn’t bad. [Apple use CF for B2B and intranet sites.]

The event itself was pitched as a primer for Gov types to better understand the opportunities that open source CF projects offer and while I did stray off topic at times and become a little over salesy it was a useful introduction for me. It was also interesting to hear people from various branches of the US Federal government talking about very familiar problems (in particular how to escape Sharepoint but also procurement problems, accessibility issues, publishing bottle-necks…it was clear it is the same all over!) Also despite some very high profile open source projects in the US gov web space(like the Whitehouse and Drupal) it was clear that open source is still avery hard sell with some CIOs etc which surprised me a little.

I was particularly interested to hear about the US Senate intranet which is run on MuraCMS and where any downtime is considered a national security issue. Also the Department for Homeland Security uses a number of CF tools including Mura (and the open source CF engine Railo) for its ‘food security’ programme which provides secure, collaborative websites for all US states. Probably the site most people will have seen though is this one. The Mars Rover website (and a number of other NASA/JPL sites are based on CF).

The open source developer community is clearly smaller than that of the other popular languages but there are upwards of 2000 live projects in Github and based on the level of geeky conversations in the bar last night the community is as passionate as any I have encountered.

All in all it was an interesting day and now I am looking forward to the main MuraCMS conference today.

*Adobe now own the commercial ColdFusion brand – previously it was Allaire, then Macromedia.


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