One of the biggest criticisms of Linux in the IT world is the lack of available robust server-side applications for it. The variety of server products available in the Solaris and Windows NT world simply does not exist for Linux. The release of Cold Fusion 4.5.1 may change this.
One of the biggest criticisms
of Linux in the IT world is its lack of available robust server-side applications. Sure, enterprises have Apache and sendmail, but they don''t have the wide range of server products, lik
e application servers and database-management products, that you do in the Solaris and Windows NT world.
By and large that''
s true, but more and more server-software vendors are realizing that Linux support is a smart business proposition, provided there a
re accompanying software tools to fit specific needs. The latest entry in the Linux enterprise-software field is Cold Fusion 4.5.1 f
or Linux. Allaire pioneered the application-server field, and with this upcoming release, Linux should be considered a serious playe
r in the enterprise-server market. Cold Fusion 4.5.1 for Linux joins IBM''s WebSphere and BEA''s WebLogic as serious enterprise-leve
l application server that run on Linux.
We downloaded the Enterprise Edition (all 28.8 MG) of Cold Fusion 4.5.1 from Allaire
''s Web site last week and put it through its paces. (The beta version of Cold Fusion 4.5 for Linux was reviewed in LinuxPlanet; much of this review is based on that beta review, as little changed between the b
eta version and this final release.)
One of the biggest past criticisms of Cold Fusion is that it was developed originally a
nd exclusively for the Windows platform. With version 4.5.1, however, Cold Fusion is extended with native Linux and Sun Solaris supp
ort. (An HP-UX release is also planned for sometime in 2000.)
Cold Fusion 4.5.1''s Linux support, however, isn''t as extensi
ve as we''d like: Allaire currently supports Cold Fusion 4.5.1 only on Red Hat Linux 6.0 or 6.1 running Apache HTTP Server 1.3.6 or
1.3.9. (To use this technology requires some small changes in Linux configuration. The ksh shell is installed, and you must compile
in some optional modules into Apache.) That''s a shame, as the clustering technologies in TurboLinux or the sheer performance of Sla
ckware Linux would be perfectly suited to an application server in an enterprise situation. We hope Allaire puts some effort into ma
king sure that Cold Fusion 4.5.1 runs on a wide variety of Linux distributions (an effort to do so, according to the Allaire Cold Fu
sion release notes, is currently under way).
On the Windows platform, Cold Fusion 4.5.1 works with a variety of technologies
, including any Web server running a Common Gateway Interface (CGI). That wide variety of support should be replicated in the Linux
and Unix worlds.
In addition, Allaire sees Linux as a server platform, not as a development platform. Allaire separately sel
ls Cold Fusion Studio, a package for developing Cold Fusion applications, in only a Windows version. (This is too bad, as Cold Fusio
BA.) But except for a few features (e.g., various security differences) system administrators should not see a big difference betwee
n the Linux and Windows versions of Cold Fusion.
The lack of Linux support isn''t the only criticism that Allaire addresses wit
h version 4.5.1. A pleasant surprise is an added emphasis on Java within Cold Fusion. In the past, Cold Fusion was built around a pr
oprietary markup language, CFML, that never really gained wide acceptance past the Cold Fusion audience. While we are not going to g
et into a deep discussion of the CFML markup language Cold Fusion devotees defend it in much the same manner as Tcl devotees
defend Tcl and Perl devotees defend Perl it was clear that if Cold Fusion were to ever gain a wider acceptance in the appli
cation server world (where Java now reigns supreme) it would need to address Java support at some point. And that time is now.
Cold Fusion is now much more extensible with support for technologies other than CFML. Most notable is the Jav
a support, and Allaire added this support in a big way with a number of enhancements. The most apparent is Java Object and Enterpris
e JavaBeans (EJB) connectivity, where a Cold Fusion application can connect to any EJB server to access complex business logic or th
ird-party distributed components. On a practical level, this means an enterprise that is already committed to Java and EJB can integ
rate Cold Fusion technology into an existing scheme.
The Java support continues with a servlets engine, JRun, that gives Col
d Fusion applications the capability to call Java servlets. In addition, Cold Fusion Extensions (CFXs) can be created in Java. The a
dd-on market for Cold Fusion is a lively one, so this Java support is important for many smaller developers.
There are other
noteworthy integration features in version 4.5.1, including support for XML and Character Large Binary Objects (CLOB), which is use
d for encoding binary objects and transmitting them via XML. The product offers support for Web Distributed Data Exchange (WDDX) 1.0
, used to exchange complex data between servers and other programming environments. Cold Fusion 4.5.1 also increases support for e-m
ail on the enterprise level in two ways. First, it supports LDAP 3.0 for directory access and authentication, moving past the Window
s directory support found in previous versions of Cold Fusion. Second, there are advanced tools for creating e-mail-centered applica
tions with new support for controlling mail headers, BCC fields, and multiple file attachments.
One area where Cold Fusion 4
.5.1 for Linux is lacking is in the security field, as many of the security tools are still centered around Windows NT. Even though
Allaire has done a good job of migrating Cold Fusion to the Linux world, the server still does not "feel" like a Linux application i
n some ways, and security is one area where Windows NT-only tools are still more advanced than their Linux counterparts. For example
, Cold Fusion security can be set up to work with an existing Windows NT security system architecture, with authenticated users for an application limited to privileges authorized through Windows security. Similarly, administrators can create OS Server Sandboxes,
which process all requests under the privileges of a designated Windows NT user account. These are Windows-NT-only featured that hav
e no counterparts in the Linux version.
Those who have not followed the application server marker should know that, like Linux, Cold Fusion has been seeking respect
in the enterprise. Available only on Windows NT, a commitment to a proprietary development language, and the lack of some sorely ne
eded reliability features, Cold Fusion has been widely accepted on the midsize departmental level, where a small workgroup could eas
ily set up and manage a single Cold Fusion server. That''s why the popularity of Cold Fusion is somewhat misleading: without penetra
tion into larger enterprises, Cold Fusion could potentially be pigeonholed and eventually lose market share.
The process of
tailoring Cold Fusion into a multitiered application server began before the release of version 4.5.1. However, with the introductio
n of some new scalability and reliability features, and the support for Linux (which is a much more stable server platform than Wind
ows NT), Cold Fusion is ready for the enterprise. (By and large, the features listed here are available only in the Enterprise Editi
First, Cold Fusion supports clustering on the Linux platform, something Linux itself does not do a particularly good job
with. Cold Fusion 4.5.1 enables load balancing and failover with two components: ClusterCATS Server and ClusterCATS Explorer. Those
from outside the enterprise or mission-critical-application worlds may not realize how significant these features are, particularly
in a Linux environment.
Load balancing is pretty much what the name implies: Within a cluster of servers, the ClusterCATS s
erver ensures server workloads remain even and that one server is not totally overwhelmed while others are underused. The load balan
cing in Cold Fusion is not among the most advanced on the market, as it relies mainly on some rough calculations of server levels. S
imilarly, failover means that if a server or an application hangs or fails, the sessions are then switched over to another server in
the cluster while ClusterCATS attempts to recover the failed application server. (This can be done on Linux servers outside of a cl
uster as well.)
For the enterprise, the Cold Fusion load balancing can be enhanced on a network using Cisco Local Director s
oftware. Load Director provides advanced load clustering based on load metrics and application server availability, so there''s a mu
ch more sophisticated analysis of usage levels and better responses to problems.
Cold Fusion 4.5.1 also enhances performance
by a number of small steps that, when combined, should yield some verifiable results. For example, client-side page caching improve
s site performance by keeping frequently accessed pages in RAM. Cold Fusion also reduces white space in pages, making them smaller a
nd faster. Debugging system performance can be done via scriptable performance metrics during runtime, while also accessing debuggin
g information on the performance of each individual page included in an application page.
Finally, Cold Fusion features a sl
ew of connectivity options, including ODBC, OLE DB, and native drivers (DB2, Oracle, Informix, and Sybase).
In the End
Cold Fusion 4.5.1 for Linux is available in three editions: Professional, Enterprise, and Express. The Professional Edition is a
vailable for $995, while Cold Fusion Enterprise 4.5.1 for Linux (as well as Windows and Unix versions) costs $3,495. These prices ar
e actually on the low side when compared to other application servers.
Our only hesitation about wholeheartedly recommending Co
ld Fusion 4.5.1 for Linux is the lack of some tools, such as a Linux version of Studio and better security controls, that are import
ant in the Cold Fusion world. But this may be a somewhat unfair criticism, as Allaire has done a masterful job in migrating a comple
x application originally developed solely for Windows NT. There''s no doubt that both Allaire and the larger Linux community will be
nefit from the release of Cold Fusion version 4.5.1 for Linux. Both have been seeking greater respect in the enterprise community, a
nd with many of the new features found in Cold Fusion, enterprises should sit up and take note. And, one would think, they''d decide
that the affordable, powerful, and efficient Linux operating system makes the most sense for deployment in the enterprise.
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