Open Source BlueDragon

Tuesday, March 11, 2008 by Mistlee

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Open Source BlueDragon

By Sean Corfield

In a move that has surprised some folks, New Atlanta has announced plans to create a free open source version of their J2EE BlueDragon product. They will continue to develop, sell and support a commercial version of it, as well as continuing the .NET version and the standalone JX version (neither of which will be open sourced).

This move makes a lot of sense for New Atlanta. They started out in the Java world and migrated to the .NET world and the latter became their primary development focus some time ago with enhancements being "backported" to the Java editions. Vince Bonfanti spoke at CFUNITED last year about the increasing focus on and innovation around the .NET version, such as tighter integration with IIS 7 and native administration via the Windows control panel etc - some very slick stuff! Vince also touched on the possibilities of the DLR (Dynamic Language Runtime) that Microsoft has developed which may allow a version of BlueDragon to be developed that targets the DLR and therefore allow CFML to be a first class language on the .NET platform in the same way "IronPython" has elevated Python (and other dynamic languages will follow).

My understanding is that New Atlanta took their original Java code and migrated it to J# to create the .NET version and I expect that since then the code base has continued to diverge, even with a common Java/J# core shared between all their versions. I've said several times that it would make sense for New Atlanta to open source their Java edition and focus on the .NET edition so this announcement comes as no surprise to me. I think it's a very sensible move.

The timeline in New Atlanta's press release and FAQ indicate that they have the move to open source fairly well planned out and they intend to create a steering committee to manage the direction of the project. I would expect this to follow the model of Sun's JCP - Java Community Process - with requests for change coming in from the community and being reviewed by the committee and, if approved, a small team of developers will implement those changes. Like all successful open source projects, the pool of committers is likely to be fairly small and, initially, will probably only be New Atlanta engineers. They have to maintain the integrity of the product, after all, especially since they plan to continue to develop and sell a commercial version of it.

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I don't see their plans being much different to how Flex is being managed by Adobe, for example, so folks should not expect a free-for-all approach to just adding new functionality to the open source BlueDragon project!

Will this change the ColdFusion world? Some people are certainly claiming on their blogs that it will. I'm a bit more cautious. Smith going open source hardly made a ripple. BlueDragon J2EE going open source is a bigger deal but I think the reality will be only a small, core set of CFers will actually get involved after the buzz dies down. Apart from the obvious benefit of a free CFML engine that is feature-rich and market-proven, I'm not sure exactly how the open source aspect will change our world.

The real question is whether folks outside the current CF community will sit up and take notice. If the availability of an open source (& free) CFML engine is enough to entice a significant number of PHP folks (or maybe even Ruby on Rails folks) then that could be game-changing.

Bear in mind that the CF community has not exactly stepped up to help with CFEclipse - a Java-based open source project - or Smith and even the CF-based open source projects hardly get any contributions from the communities that use them (although I'm seeing some very small signs that things may be improving very slightly, very slowly...).


About the Author:
Sean is currently Senior Computer Scientist and Team Lead in the Hosted Services group at Adobe Systems Incorporated. He has worked in the IT industry for nearly twenty-five years, first in database systems and compilers (serving eight years on the ANSI C++ Standards Committee), then in mobile telecoms, and finally in web development. Sean is a staunch advocate of software standards and best practices, and is a well-known and respected speaker on these subjects. Sean has championed and contributed to a number of ColdFusion frameworks, and is a frequent publisher on his blog,

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