What is it?
Coldfusion is an application server and software development framework used particularly for building dynamic websites.
It was acquired by Adobe Systems in 2005 and is considered something of an anomaly in the world of web development. For a start, it is expensive in a field where the expectation is that tools and frameworks will either be free, like Perl, PHP and other scripting languages, or, like ASP.net, supplied at no extra cost once you have bought into the Microsoft proposition.
Champions of Coldfusion say that the cost is quickly defrayed by the boost it gives to productivity.
Under Adobe's ownership, it has been integrated with some of the web's dominant technologies, such as Acrobat and Flash. It can be used to generate Flash movies and, unlike Microsoft's web technologies prior to Expression Studio, it can convert directly from standard HTML to PDF.
Where did it originate?
Released in 1995, the original Coldfusion provided HTML developers with a means of accessing databases from their applications. Creator Jeremy Allaire merged his company with Macromedia in 2001, joining the company as chief technology officer. In 2005 Macromedia was acquired by Adobe Systems.
Legend has it that Coldfusion was Microsoft's first choice to be the basis of what became Active Server Pages. It would have been a good fit: up to version 5, Coldfusion was written in Visual C++ and was virtually confined to Microsoft platforms. Version 6, released by Macromedia in 2002, was re-engineered using Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE).
What's it for?
Coldfusion is an application server and development framework most often used for data-driven websites and applications. The Coldfusion Markup Language has a similar syntax to HTML there is also Adobe's Ecmascript-compliant Actionscript, which is used by Flash and Flex developers. As a J2EE application, Coldfusion has access to Java and Javaserver Pages classes, libraries and functions.
What makes it special?
Coldfusion adds database access to HTML programming. It provides platform-independent database querying using open database connectivity and Java database connectivity, and it can also retrieve data from systems such as Active Directory.
How difficult is it to master?
Developers from other web backgrounds will probably find more to unlearn than learn. Adobe claims "the shortest learning curve" among all competing languages and frameworks. Just as Microsoft has been working to poach Coldfusion users, Adobe has been making a pitch for ASP.net developers, claiming that the two approaches are not that different.
Where is it used?
There are more than 250,000 Coldfusion developers on 6,0000 servers, according to Adobe. These include Bertelsmann AG, Channel 4, The Economist, many large banks, Kenwood, Nestl, Ben and Jerry's, the Department for Education and Skills, the European Parliament's publications database, and many Australian and US federal and state departments.
What systems does it run on?
J2EE and .net platforms.
What's coming up?
Version 8 of Coldfusion, codenamed Scorpio, is due for release soon. It includes tighter integration with Adobe PDF forms and with Microsoft .net.
More on IT skills
Coldfusion courses are delivered in the UK by Adobe-authorised training companies, which can be found on the Adobe Systems website.
There are online courses and books from O'Reilly, Wiley and other publishers.
The Coldfusion User Group's website has details of special events.
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rates of pay
Junior Coldfusion developers can earn from £30,000 to £35,000. More experienced developers can earn up to £50,000.
Computer Weekly/SSL salary survey