Note: This blog post is from 2007. Some content may be outdated--though not necessarily. Same with links and subsequent comments from myself or others. Corrections are welcome, in the comments. And I may revise the content as necessary.So by now most have heard that Adobe announced at cf.Objective() that Scorpio (now CF8) would include an interactive step debugger. And many may know I've long been a fan of FusionDebug, having written quite a bit about it, as well as the monitoring tools, Integral's FusionReactor and Webapper's SeeFusion.
A natural question on the minds of many is whether Adobe's entry into these markets is a death knell for these vendors? I don't think so, at all. Here are just a few reasons why. I'm sure I (and others) will think of more. Comments are indeed welcome.
- Are you running 6, 7, or 8? - First of all, it's vital to keep in mind that the new CF 8 tools work only with CF 8. If you're still on CFMX 6 or 7, then you can't use the CF 8 debugger or monitor. I've heard some who thought that the new CF 8 Debugger might work worth the earlier releases. It does not. Of course, it's indeed another strong incentive to move up to CF 8, and there are more and more reasons being released all the time. But until you do, you can't benefit from them. Both SeeFusion and FusionReactor/FusionDebug work with CF 6, 7, and 8 (and the monitor tools also work with BlueDragon/J2EE and should work with Railo, Smith, and others.)
- Do you have more than just CF to monitor? - Indeed, another point in the favor of the third-party monitoring tools is that more than just CFML servers, they indeed work with any Java server. And that's not just tools like Tomcat, JBoss, WebLogic, and WebSphere, but also includes other Adobe-specific tools that are also J2EE server-based, like Flex/LiveCycle Data Services, the older Flex 1.5, and more, and of course the Adobe J2EE server, JRun. FusionReactor's installer and "add server" feature will both recognize any of these automatically so that the one FusionReactor Enterprise Dashboard monitor can watch all such services, while SeeFusion offers a separate SeeJava product for watching such J2EE servers.
- Does one size really fit all? - Another point to keep in mind is that each of the tools still do something that the other does not. I've said the same when contrasting SeeFusion and FusionReactor, and I can now say the same of them and the new CF 8 tools. Each can have their place in a developer/administrator's toolbelt. I could even argue that one could/should have them all, for whatever benefit each offers. The prices are low enough that it's not much of an issue.
- CF 8 monitor API is public - With regard to the new monitor in CF8, Adobe has made it clear that it's just a particular (albeit very nice) Flex interface on top of an underlying API of admin CFCs that anyone can call. Naturally, this means that the other monitor tools could easily add whatever feature they (or users) may think must be added. (The FusionReactor folks will announce plans at CFUnited for integrating CF8 monitoring features into FusionReactor, so we should see some benefits and cooperation taking place.) Again, though, perhaps the reasons above may diminish the significance of needing to "keep up". Perhaps they can peacefully coexist.
- If a tree falls in Times Square, it will make a sound - One can argue that a benefit of the new CF 8 monitor and debugger tools is that they will raise the profile of--and interest in the CF community for--such tools. And of course competition also breeds innovation. I think we already saw that between the two monitor tools themselves (and indeed between CF and BD, and others). In fact, still another outgrowth of this will be an increase in the opportunities for skilled folks (like those at these companies) to help CF developers make the most of the mass of information that these tools all provide. That will serve both companies well, since they each do training and consulting.
- The past is prologue - Further to the last point, let's keep in mind that we can only compare the new CF 8 tools to the current versions of their third-party counterparts. Both Intergral and Webapper have told me (and others) that they've known these things were coming and have been considering enhancements for quite some time. The companies will be in a great position to watch and see what things people like (or don't like) about the CF 8 tools. I mentioned Intergral's plans above, and the SeeFusion folks are talking about extending their product to provide actual problem-solving intelligence, beyond just exposing metrics. Of course, we can expect Adobe will continue to evolve the tools as well (both before the final release and in later ones).
- An abundance of riches - Finally, consider how fortunate we are in the ColdFusion community to have third party vendors who take risks to enhance the CF toolset and bring new and exciting professional tools to market--even before Adobe! We should support them if indeed they provide solutions to our problems. To the degree that we do (and they do), they will continue to survive.
Clearly I'm high on the entire CF tools market and think there's a place for all the companies and their tools.
Even so, there are some things that the CF8 monitor and debugger do add that are not currently in the other tools, and there's no doubt that for many, if they're moving to CF8 they may be happy with what they get built into those tools.
But it's not a zero-sum game with only one possible winner. Even if only a small fraction of the market remains interested in and using the 3rd party tools, whether because using the older CF releases, or for the features they offer, that's still a decent market for the toolmakers. And as they (and the market) evolve, the third party tools should continue to gain new fans.
I'll be writing (and speaking) quite a bit about both of the new CF 8 tools, as well as those from the other vendors, and how they all compare now and into the future.
It's just more testimony of why it's now really a great time to be involved in CFML.
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