ColdFusion Summit 2018 Recap, Part 1

October 08, 2018

Last week was the 2018 ColdFusion Summit in Las Vegas. By all accounts it was a very successful event!

This year’s conference was held at the Hard Rock Hotel, slightly off the strip more than past hotels have been, but I didn’t really mind. Between teaching a pre-conference workshop and the various music references in the hotel, I didn’t really have a need (or time) to venture out until after the conference was totally over.

Pre-Conference Workshop

Like last year, I taught a pre-conference workshop with Carl Von Stetten; this year’s topic was connecting Angular and CFML.  Many weeks ago, Carl and I were told the workshop was sold out! After that happened, a second large wave of people contacted Adobe and begged them to expand the workshops (not just ours) to more attendees, which they did. Somewhere in all the usual chaos leading up to a conference, that info didn’t get passed on to all of the instructors. So Carl and I showed up expecting around 40 students, and instead saw a room of between 80 and 100 people!  Many of the folks in attendance hadn’t finished the class prerequisites (installing CommandBox and Node.js) which caused some delays and other hassles.  We made a few game-time decisions, switching up how the class would be run, and eventually got things back on track. Huge amounts of thanks and gratitude go out to Brad and Gavin from Ortus Solutions as well as Josh Kutz-Flamenbaum and Giancarlo Gomez for helping later in the day.  Everyone’s assistance was greatly appreciated!  (Carl and I are already formulating a plan for next year’s class, and ideas on how to improve the experience for everyone.)

Day 1, Keynote

The first “official” day of the conference kicked off with the expected Adobe Keynote where they mostly focused on the continued legacy of ColdFusion, as well as some metrics about the conference itself.  

Everything had a very “Vegas/Rockstar” style to it — each speaker walking on the stage while various Queen songs played in the background (and several Queen photos within the slide decks too).  As a die-hard music fan, I appreciated this spin on the presentation.  And as someone who’d given an 8-hour workshop the day before, I was glad for the exciting delivery lest I risk falling asleep from exhaustion. :)

Over 450 people were in attendance, from over 300 different companies. The pre-conference was jam packed and attended by over 180 people! Of the conference attendees, over 60% were attending CF Summit for the first time!  Were these all new companies? Older companies that are now using CFML for the first time?  Are companies merely trading off which employees can attend every other year?  I’m curious to know those answers but regardless, there was a huge crowd of people excited to learn about the newest features in ColdFusion.

Tridib Roy Chowdhury from Adobe did most of the speaking during the keynote.  Among other things, he mentioned that ColdFusion has met its business goals for the last 23 quarters in a row.  Tridib also said Adobe is “aggressively committing to the platform”, and is basing a lot of the product strategy around listening to its customers to really understand how CF can add value to the business and workflow.

Other highlights from the keynote:

ColdFusion gets faster with every release — CF2016 is 30% faster than ColdFusion 11. And CF2018 is 45% faster than version 11. (Obviously that varies a bit depending on your codebase, but still it’s good to hear that things are improving.)

The API Manager continues to be a focal point and gets a lot of positive praise from Adobe and the customers using it. Latency is extremely low even with high-traffic systems.  (Personally I think Adobe missed a golden opportunity here by not building the API Manager in CFML, but I generally think Adobe should be using the platform to power more of their own web apps, that’s not a specific complaint about API Manager.)

Since 2012 there have been no 0-day vulnerabilities in ColdFusion while comparatively, PHP had over 200 vulnerabilities between 2014 and 2017.  

Toward the end of the keynote, John Homan from NASA took the stage and told the audience how NASA uses ColdFusion.  Apparently it is quite prevalent there! Specifically, there are 3200 people working at the Glenn Research Center (GRC) and related NASA centers across the country. ALL of those centers use ColdFusion! )Due to ColdFusion often being used for internal apps, people don’t always get to show off their projects - it was nice to hear about something exciting like components of NASA’s workflow being handled by ColdFusion!)

Shirak Avakian from Worktray also gave a quick presentation about their product and the technology stack in use. Worktray uses ColdFusion for the back-end combined with Vue.js, jQuery, TypeScript, and Bootstrap 4 to power their application.  If I had to guess, I suspect that NASA’s codebase may have some legacy CFML hiding in it.  So while it was great to see how much NASA uses ColdFusion, it was also good to see a newer startup embracing CF for their app, and combining it with other modern tools.  We need more of this!

Shirak mentioned not specifically looking to hire “ColdFusion developers” but instead just hiring “smart people”.  They were able to hire 2 students as junior developers, and had them trained as productive members of the team (using CFML) within 3 months — they are now writing APIs for the Worktray application.  (Again, we need more of this!  Show off modern CFML any chance you get! Show fellow developers that it’s not that different from other OO languages, let’s work to remove the stigma that only developers with a specific buzzword on their resume are able to use said technology.  ColdFusion really is easy to learn and be productive with, quickly!)

Retensa's TalentPulse app also got some time in the keynote. Their bread and butter is based on giving better feedback to managers and HR at various companies -- the TalentPulse app provides a feedback system and related metrics for employment.  They offer an easy way to track which employees came from which recruiting agencies (so a correlation can be seen between which firms are or aren’t providing quality people that fit into the company culture) as well ways to improve collecting “water cooler conversation” feedback so management can look at automated reports, and try to act on the feedback accordingly.  (The details of the TalentPulse technology stack weren’t discussed.)

Perhaps the best highlight came near the end of the keynote, when Michaela Light from TeraTech was brought on stage to announce the newly released book “CF Alive: Making ColdFusion Modern, Vibrant and Secure”. This isn’t your typical tech book with code samples.  Instead, this book focuses on ways developers can improve — concepts like using frameworks and source control and contributing back to the community. All things that can help any developer, in any language, not just CFML. (Full disclosure: I was interviewed for the book and helped with some tech editing.)  The CFML community was long overdue for a new book, and a round of motivation.  “CF Alive” seems to be well received so far; let’s hope that continues!

More updates about the conference coming soon in another post, and notes from some of the sessions will be posted shortly as well.