In this blog post, we will learn:
- What is open source?
- What makes open-source different?
- What is Lucee?
- What makes Lucee different from ColdFusion?
- Is it up-to-date?
Are you a CIO who instinctively looks at price tags? It’s OK to admit you are. We’d all be a little better off minding where our money is spent.
Maybe it’s instinct. Maybe you’re working on a shoestring budget. Or the company is reshuffling expenses to fund a daring new project. Maybe you need flexible cloud licensing now rather than waiting for CF 2020 to release.
You’re asked to mind the expense side of the ledger often. Sometimes, people will see certain items and ask, “Did we really need to spend that much?” This may include your choice of programming language.
The upfront costs of using Adobe ColdFusion can seem steep at $2500 for CF Standard and $9500 for the Enterprise edition. While we’ve harped on and on about why CF is better than other languages and worth the money, maybe you simply don’t have that much cash lying around.
Say hello to Lucee. No, it’s not some ace developer with a misspelled name. It’s ColdFusion’s open source sibling.
Lucee is a free, low-calorie, and light-weight CFML engine which can do many of the same tricks as CF at 100% less cost.
What is open source/Lucee?
Open source refers to free software, apps, or products whose source code is open and editable. Other developers can tinker, edit, or add-to the app, expanding its capabilities well beyond whatever the original code allowed.
Making something open source creates a hive mind which swarms around the product, morphing and forcing its evolution until it does some neat, unexpected tricks. It also keeps costs down, with a volunteer community replacing a staff of employees. The most-often used example is the Firefox browser, which has a community of developers dedicated to keeping it up-to-date and relevant.
ColdFusion has its own open source equivalent: Lucee, a fork from the vetran open source CFML engine Railo.
Lucee is a free, open-source CFML engine supported by the Lucee Association Switzerland.
Lucee and ColdFusion: siblings not twins
You might be tempted to think Lucee is just a free version of ColdFusion. You’d be wrong. But it has its perks.
If you’re new to ColdFusion and CFML, Lucee could be your gateway drug! ColdFusion’s open source equivalent includes a lot of the goodies that make CF a modern, useful programming language.
There are benefits that you will only get when using Adobe ColdFusion paid version, that otherwise will remain locked.
Otherwise, think of Lucee as a doctor-recommended addition to your CFML diet. It costs you almost nothing and improves a situation that’s already good. So, if you run on a tight budget, using Lucee can only help you in your next project.
Here’s what you need to know about Lucee:
- It uses the same language
ColdFusion and Lucee both use CFML to interact with a Java Virtual Machine. The languages uses CF tags and CFScript for efficient coding. This makes both ACF and Lucee infinitely more efficient than competitors, based upon fewer keystrokes alone!
- Lucee is popular
According to our State of the CF Union Survey, over 40% of all CFML developers use some version of Lucee. This means there’s a strong and active group of developers available to help with any project that involves Lucee. “Join the community, get involved” is their official invitation for everyone who wants to contribute either as a community supporter or by contributing with the source code, etc.
- Its ancestor is still around
Lucee was created off a now-defunct open source CFML engine called Railo. Though it may be gone, a lot of my guests on the CF Alive podcast and I encounter some remnants of Railo out in the wild. It’s been over a decade since the folks at Lucee broke off to do their own thing and some of our clients still have Railo-based spaghetti code out!
- It’s a Java Servlet
Basically, Lucee, just like ACF, is a middleman between data and web servers, fetching whatever information an app needs to function. It runs as a servlet on top of Java. This makes it incredibly useful.
Lucee ≠ ColdFusion
While Lucee’s got a pocketful of ColdFusion-like tricks, they aren’t the same. Don’t think of the open source CFML engine as a substitute for the real deal. Lucee’s sweet price tag ($0) comes with some downsides and a few advantages.
What makes it different from CF?
- Easier to install
Lucee checks server connections for you and lets the installer run as a stand-alone application. ColdFusion requires a few more steps, such as checking server connections, as well as other considerations for Windows and Unix machines, before you can install.
- It’s free!
Anyone with a compatible machine can download Lucee today at no cost. If you like Lucee then it is good to sponsor the Lucee Association Switzerland to help fund their work and support Lucee’s advancement.
- Community-based support
Buying a paid version of ColdFusion includes its own support via Adobe’s dedicated team, which is very responsive. Lucee has something similar, though less-formal via the Lucee Association in Switzerland. The developers there make up a vibrant and helpful community, yet it’s a little less formal than dealing with Adobe.
- Easier to install
- Cloud clustering
Because of it’s fast startup time, smaller footprint and free licencing model, Lucee is ideal for cloud based ColdFusion deployment. Though I heard from Adobe CF Director of Engineering, Ashish Garg, that CF 2020 will improve ACF in these areas.
Is Lucee better than Adobe ColdFusion in every way? No, there are drawbacks.
For example, Adobe pushes its updates to users as they are released, removing a lot of guesswork and logistical overhead for companies.
With Lucee, users have to check on their own for updates. The Lucee Association in Switzerland, for all its vibrancy, is showing a lot of effort in communicating updates to users. Their team includes Michael Offner and TeraTech friend and CF Alive! guest Gert Franz.
Gert and Michael lead a group volunteers dedicated to keeping Lucee up-to-date and relevant. Although it’s not made by Adobe, Lucee is compatible with current and legacy versions of CFML.
Adobe employs a team and the necessary resources to improve ColdFusion at regular two-year intervals. Lucee, with its volunteer group, pushes out monthly minor version update and every few years a major version release Though it’s not the same as having a company working on it.
That does not mean Lucee isn’t modern though!
Meet the new Lucee
- Better integration of popular ColdFusion tools like CommandBox and Docker, which make coding and testing faster than ever.
- Upgrade in speed, not only in how fast Lucee runs but also the quickness of apps made by it.
- New tricks developers will appreciate, like event-driven architecture and native support for JavaStreams.
- A security boost, with lockdown settings, quarantine mode, and a password vault among other improvements.
All in all, Lucee is a useful alternative for cash-strapped companies and those seeking a cleaner, mistake-free CFML builder. You can still use CFML without the upfront costs. Perhaps even use Lucee as a way to showcase CFML’s potential, and justify the investment in ColdFusion.
Those curious could also use Lucee as an introduction to CFML before buying Adobe’s ColdFusion.
Regardless of your reasons, you won’t regret the small amount of time it takes to get to know Lucee, and the foundations it’ll set for a switch to ColdFusion.
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