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CF8 Debugger and Monitor: What's it mean for FusionDebug, FusionReactor, and SeeFusion?

So by now most have heard that Adobe announced at cf.Objective() that Scorpio (now CF8) would include an interactive step debugger. And many may know I've long been a fan of FusionDebug, having written quite a bit about it, as well as the monitoring tools, Integral's FusionReactor and Webapper's SeeFusion.

A natural question on the minds of many is whether Adobe's entry into these markets is a death knell for these vendors? I don't think so, at all. Here are just a few reasons why. I'm sure I (and others) will think of more. Comments are indeed welcome.

  1. Are you running 6, 7, or 8? - First of all, it's vital to keep in mind that the new CF 8 tools work only with CF 8. If you're still on CFMX 6 or 7, then you can't use the CF 8 debugger or monitor. I've heard some who thought that the new CF 8 Debugger might work worth the earlier releases. It does not. Of course, it's indeed another strong incentive to move up to CF 8, and there are more and more reasons being released all the time. But until you do, you can't benefit from them. Both SeeFusion and FusionReactor/FusionDebug work with CF 6, 7, and 8 (and the monitor tools also work with BlueDragon/J2EE and should work with Railo, Smith, and others.)

  2. Do you have more than just CF to monitor? - Indeed, another point in the favor of the third-party monitoring tools is that more than just CFML servers, they indeed work with any Java server. And that's not just tools like Tomcat, JBoss, WebLogic, and WebSphere, but also includes other Adobe-specific tools that are also J2EE server-based, like Flex/LiveCycle Data Services, the older Flex 1.5, and more, and of course the Adobe J2EE server, JRun. FusionReactor's installer and "add server" feature will both recognize any of these automatically so that the one FusionReactor Enterprise Dashboard monitor can watch all such services, while SeeFusion offers a separate SeeJava product for watching such J2EE servers.

  3. Does one size really fit all? - Another point to keep in mind is that each of the tools still do something that the other does not. I've said the same when contrasting SeeFusion and FusionReactor, and I can now say the same of them and the new CF 8 tools. Each can have their place in a developer/administrator's toolbelt. I could even argue that one could/should have them all, for whatever benefit each offers. The prices are low enough that it's not much of an issue.

  4. CF 8 monitor API is public - With regard to the new monitor in CF8, Adobe has made it clear that it's just a particular (albeit very nice) Flex interface on top of an underlying API of admin CFCs that anyone can call. Naturally, this means that the other monitor tools could easily add whatever feature they (or users) may think must be added. (The FusionReactor folks will announce plans at CFUnited for integrating CF8 monitoring features into FusionReactor, so we should see some benefits and cooperation taking place.) Again, though, perhaps the reasons above may diminish the significance of needing to "keep up". Perhaps they can peacefully coexist.

  5. If a tree falls in Times Square, it will make a sound - One can argue that a benefit of the new CF 8 monitor and debugger tools is that they will raise the profile of--and interest in the CF community for--such tools. And of course competition also breeds innovation. I think we already saw that between the two monitor tools themselves (and indeed between CF and BD, and others). In fact, still another outgrowth of this will be an increase in the opportunities for skilled folks (like those at these companies) to help CF developers make the most of the mass of information that these tools all provide. That will serve both companies well, since they each do training and consulting.

  6. The past is prologue - Further to the last point, let's keep in mind that we can only compare the new CF 8 tools to the current versions of their third-party counterparts. Both Intergral and Webapper have told me (and others) that they've known these things were coming and have been considering enhancements for quite some time. The companies will be in a great position to watch and see what things people like (or don't like) about the CF 8 tools. I mentioned Intergral's plans above, and the SeeFusion folks are talking about extending their product to provide actual problem-solving intelligence, beyond just exposing metrics. Of course, we can expect Adobe will continue to evolve the tools as well (both before the final release and in later ones).

  7. An abundance of riches - Finally, consider how fortunate we are in the ColdFusion community to have third party vendors who take risks to enhance the CF toolset and bring new and exciting professional tools to market--even before Adobe! We should support them if indeed they provide solutions to our problems. To the degree that we do (and they do), they will continue to survive.

Clearly I'm high on the entire CF tools market and think there's a place for all the companies and their tools.

Even so, there are some things that the CF8 monitor and debugger do add that are not currently in the other tools, and there's no doubt that for many, if they're moving to CF8 they may be happy with what they get built into those tools.

But it's not a zero-sum game with only one possible winner. Even if only a small fraction of the market remains interested in and using the 3rd party tools, whether because using the older CF releases, or for the features they offer, that's still a decent market for the toolmakers. And as they (and the market) evolve, the third party tools should continue to gain new fans.

I'll be writing (and speaking) quite a bit about both of the new CF 8 tools, as well as those from the other vendors, and how they all compare now and into the future.

It's just more testimony of why it's now really a great time to be involved in CFML.

Comments
Couldn't agree more, Charlie. Well said.

Damon
# Posted By Damon Coooer | 5/23/07 1:49 PM
I particularly like your 5th point. I have been clamoring for a CF debugger for a long time, and while I like FusionDebug, I'm glad to see finally see a debugger from Adobe. Because when I brought the issue up on mailing lists, the response was generally, "Who needs a debugger, CF's built-in debugging combined with cfdump/cftrace works fine for me."

I think once people get used to using a debugger, they'll uderstand what they've been missing, and they'll never want to go back. CF's built-in debugging is very helpful, but there are times when a step debugger is a huge productivity enhancement.
# Posted By Jake Munson | 5/23/07 5:03 PM
Thanks, Jacob. I'm totally with you on the evangelizing of debugging. I started doing it a lot regarding FusionDebug, and as you say there are many who will argue against it. See some of the comments in the older entries in the FusionDebug category of entries I've done, at http://carehart.org/... But we can just keep trying to help them see the light, espcially in other than trivial uses. The good news is that others will now, as well, once Scorpio is in the hands of many.
# Posted By Charlie Arehart | 5/24/07 2:13 PM
Hi,
I am a big fan of debugging tools and when I was searching for some tools for CF, I came across FusionDebug and I really liked it. As Charlie said, competition breeds innovation and I hope FusionDebug comes up with much better enhancements than the other competitors. For me, point number 1 is the biggest plus for FusionDebug. You always want an application to be backwards compatible and FusionDebug does that. To top it off, it also works with CF 8 which is like icing on the cake. I have used FusionDebug's first release and I havent got chance to try the new FusionDebug which was released sometime back. I believe that the debugging features in any language should be like the options provided in Visual Studio for ASP.NET applications. Thats one of the strongest points of developing applications using .NET. I hope we will have the same kind of options for CF in future.If you know of an option/tool for CF which allows you to see the errors in a page while you try to run it in editor(like .NET Visual Studio does) then let me know. If there is one already then pardon me for my ignorance.

Thanks
# Posted By Ajas Mohammed | 5/30/07 9:35 AM
Ajas, I'm afraid there are no features in either FD or the Scorpio debugger to stop the editor on a line in error. I don't know if it's a limitation of the Java debugger (upon which both are based) or what, but neither supports it unfortunately, and I can't see how any other tool could enable it if they don't. We can hope for the future, though. This would indeed be an area where FD could innovate, if it's even possible. I'm sure they'll see this and consider it.
# Posted By Charlie Arehart | 5/30/07 5:05 PM
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