Builder AU met with Tim Buntel, Adobe’s ColdFusion Marketing Manager, during WebDU in Sydney to gain some insight into the upcoming release of ColdFusion 8 called Scorpio.

Builder AU: What are the new features to look out for in Scorpio?

Buntel: So we’ve been talking about Scorpio since MAX (Adobe’s annual conference in the US) last year, 2006. Gradually introducing some of the planned features to the public and to the developer community. We’re doing that more here at WebDU, we’re going to be introducing another major feature here at WebDU, but it’s secret yet until tomorrows keynote so find out more after that. (The new feature revealed in Tim’s keynote is that ColdFusion 8 will be able to display data with new Ajax based UI controls).

Basically how we’ve been looking at the features of Scorpio is in terms of the audience that they benefit. So we begin with a number of features that are primarily important for the user of your applications, so features that will provide a richer experience with the web application.

Things like being able to use PDF forms and PDF documents more extensively within a web application, the ability to create presentations on the server that are similar to what you would have made with Macromedia Breeze or Adobe Acrobat Connect. Some image manipulation functions, greater connectivity between ColdFusion and Flex for really the ultimate Rich Internet Application experience. So a number of features in that area.

We’re also targeting a number of key features at the enterprise IT level, so things that are important to standards within large corporations, as well as to IT architects. Performance is a really key feature in this area. Applications written in older versions of ColdFusion will run much faster on Scorpio then they have on previous versions.

Will Scorpio offer .NET integration?

So the basic idea here is, in the same way that ColdFusion can consume Java objects today – we’ll do the same with .Net objects. So if you have an organization that’s doing both Java and .Net development, ColdFusion can be a balancing point between both of those technologies.

Essentially a ColdFusion application will be able to consume .Net objects, either locally on the same machine or remotely, which is a fairly unique implementation in the Java world, that will make .Net objects just another first class citizen in a ColdFusion app as would be a Java object or a web service or any of the backend resources that you’d use in a ColdFusion app today.

So what is the benefit of PDF forms?

So think about how much we interact with HTML forms today. All manner of gathering information from customers or from users of your application, but with a HTML form you’re stuck in the browser, you know it’s not printable and it’s not portable. A PDF form allows a paper-based metaphor for gathering data, but now ColdFusion with Scorpio will be able to integrate that into your web app.

So if you have information already on a server that you want to populate into a PDF form, ColdFusion can dynamically pre-fill fields in the form. And additionally if users have finished filling out a form, that PDF form can be posted back to ColdFusion and ColdFusion can extract the data to then use it in any of your backend systems — so add that information into a database or interact with file systems and so forth.

How will Flex and Scorpio work?

So with the ColdFusion 7.0.2 release we added a tremendous amount of functionality for ColdFusion and Flex to work together. There’s both productivity features in Flex Builder that makes ColdFusion developers able to build Flex apps more rapidly than you would with other server side technologies, and we also increased the communication capabilities that ColdFusion has to send data to a Flex application.

With Scorpio we’re going to take even further, some of the areas that we’re going to focus on are performance. So making sure that you can exchange large amounts of data between the server and the Flex client much more rapidly. We’re going to simplify complex data exchange. So today sometimes it’s difficult to map complex data types in a server side with what may be required on the client, we’re going to simplify that.

Is ColdFusion the black lamb of Adobe’s products?

ColdFusion is still very strong, I think that the challenge comes simply in the fact that Adobe have so many more products. When ColdFusion was Allaire and was the principal product it was very easy to see the company emphasising that one product. Macromedia had somewhere in the 25 products range.

Adobe is up over 70 products I think, so the sheer amount of information that an Adobe sales rep or sales engineer needs to understand is a whole different universe now with such a large company.

But the product is absolutely still strategic; we’re in the same business unit as Flex and LiveCycle – so there’s lots of great opportunities for a ColdFusion developer to start to learn how ColdFusion can integrate with these other technologies, and really give them a doorway into a lot more exciting ways to use their existing skills with the other Adobe products.

Again, our position in the enterprise development business unit means that ColdFusion’s visibility within the company is still very high. So we continue to invest in bringing the message of the product to the community, we’re doing that here by attending events like WebDU. We’re investing heavily in a major user group tour to help the launch of Scorpio later in the Spring, Spring North America.

So we’re absolutely investing in the future of the product, the future is bright and we’re really excited about the technologies.