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Railo joins

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ColdFusion Markup Language (CFML) is the dynamic scripting language used by Adobe’s ColdFusion. It is similar to JSP in that it mixes HTML mark-up and specific tags to invoke built-in functionality. As well as ColdFusion, a number of alternative implementations exist, including Railo’s, which compiles CFML to Java bytecode that can then be run in a JEE servlet container.

At this year’s Scotch on the Rocks conference Railo announced that they will become part of at Red Hat. Starting from the release of version 3.1 of their product, which is expected later this year, the professional version will be open sourced and released under the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL2).

Some Railo components such as the pdf generator (cfdocument) and the video playback (cfvideo) are licensed from third parties and cannot be open sourced, so there will be two versions of Railo - the aforementioned professional version, and an enterprise version with the additional features which will remain closed. Even so, the majority of the current engine and tag libraries will be released. As Sacha Labourey put it on his blog post covering the announcement:

“Just to make it clear, they are not going to open source just a “baby edition”. Instead, they will open source the complete codebase except a few components they are licensing from a thirdparty (such as the PDF generation and their online admin console) and which cannot be open sourced.”

The JBoss community will be contributing to the enhancement of core functionality, and are already exploring ways to integrate Hibernate and JBoss Cluster Cache directly into CFML. Railo may also be distributed with future versions of JBoss AS.

"JBoss has been a driving force behind the Open Source ecosystem built around the Java platform and in legitimizing Open Source Java middleware in the Enterprise", said Gert Franz, CEO of Railo, "and we believe that having as a community partner will dramatically increase the adoption and use of CFML in the enterprise market."

Given that CFML is tightly controlled by Adobe Systems it is unsurprising that Railo had talked to Adobe before they made this announcement, and the public reaction from Adobe has been very positive. Adam Lehman, Adobe’s chief evangelist for ColdFusion, said on his blog:

“Partnering with JBoss will expose CFML to the greater Java community. Additionally, CFML is now being recognized as a mainstream programming language by RedHat, a major player in the Enterprise space. There is nothing stopping a JBoss developer from dipping out of the JSP world to use a little CFML.”

Ben Forta, another Senior Technical Evangelist for Adobe, and well known amongst the ColdFusion community, gave a similarly up-beat assessment:

“Could the JBoss Railo relationship impact ColdFusion sales? Yes, of course it could. So why am I not worried about Railo's new announcement? Why do I think that this is actually a very positive direction? Because unlike some other relationships, this one does indeed have the best interests of the community at heart. Neither Railo nor JBoss see ColdFusion apps as legacy, and they don't see their only business model as in converting ColdFusion developers to Java or to .NET. Rather, they see the value that is CFML and the ColdFusion community, and they want to enhance it and expose it to the wider Java community. Which means that very realistically this relationship could significantly raise ColdFusion and CFML awareness, and could enhance ColdFusion's reputation and visibility, and could even help grow the size of the community and the number of deployments. And at the end of the day, if that were to occur, then the entire community would benefit, including ColdFusion and its customers and users.”

A number of third party ColdFusion tool vendors have also announced their support for the open sourced Railo product. Amongst them are Intergral, whose FusionReactor monitor product already supports Railo, and who have announced that they are working on a version of FusionDebug for Railo 3.1.

Railo is the third alternative CFML engine to be open sourced - the creation of OpenBD and The Smith Project both pre-date the announcement. But the choice of LPGL, meaning that developers will be able to bundle Railo's engine in their own products even if they are closed source, and the positive reaction from Adobe, make it a particularly interesting announcement.

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