Legacy Code Part 5: Crossroads

So, you're committed to bringing your legacy ColdFusion app into this century. You've been following along with these posts, and maybe even started to study some of the latest technologies. Now comes the big question. Are you sure?

Hopefully, you know your app. Is it big? Is it small? Are there a large number of sub-applications? I'm not gonna lie to you, there's a lot of work ahead. A lot of it is very tedious and repititive too. Right now, you are at a crossroads. (How fitting that you're here...) You've got a decision to make.

It's time to look at the ROI. How much time, money and effort do you already have in this application? You have to weight the pros and cons of your actions, in relation to the bigger picture. You have a couple of different directions that you can go from here.

You can just rewrite your app from the ground up. If your app isn't that big, this might be a really good opportunity to go ahead and start from scratch. You might decide, at this point, that you want to work on an entirely different tech stack. OK, I can see that there might be real, viable reasons to go that way. That said, I also know the true Rapid Application Development capable with ColdFusion, in the hands of a talented developer, so for me the reasoning to move to something else would have to be overwhelmingly compelling.

You can scrap your app, and replace it with a COTS alternative. This only works if there is a COTS alternative, and even then you have to find a way to handle data migration.

The final option is to refactor. This will typically be slow, requiring you to pick apart your applications, document process and workflow, and truly think about what's going on under the covers. There will be trial and error. Version control branching strategies will become critical. The big advantage here is, you have code, so you have a blueprint for how it was all supposed to work.

So know, going in to this decision, that if you choose this last option you will have a lot of work ahead of you. But, in the end, you should also end up with a well documented application, for which you will know every in-and-out.

So, time to decide. Are you up for the game? Or bowing out? If you're coming back to the table, in my next post we'll really start digging in on "how" to upgrade that legacy app.

This article is the fifth in a series of articles on bringing life back to your legacy ColdFusion applications. Follow along in the Legacy Code category.

Legacy Code Part 4: You Don't Know...

You're bringing your ColdFusion app into this century, but you've never heard of CFC's? Still using third party tags for image manipulation? Didn't know there was scripting? Before you start touching your code, it's time to do some research...

ColdFusion has grown a lot, in the past decade. CFC's help create reusable code, and allow for Object Oriented like architectures. There's built in image manipulation methods, MS Office, Exchange, and Sharepoint integration, native JSON serialization on remote requests, PDF creation and manipulation, and a whole lot more. On top of that, you can script most anything now as well. Take some time to look through the documentation to see some of the new things available for your application.

Speaking of changes, the <center> and <font> tags were deprecated years ago as well. Today, we use HTML markup for data, and CSS for display declaration. Get up to speed on HTML and CSS and JavaScript. You're a web developer, not a process manager. All of this data is useless if the user can't "use" it. Learning these things now will go a long way as you bring your app up-to-date. I bet your SQL server has some upgrades too (like stored procs in MySQL).

The web changes at the speed of light. It can take a lot to keep up, but it's necessary in an environment that never stops growing.

This article is the fourth in a series of articles on bringing life back to your legacy ColdFusion applications. Follow along in the Legacy Code category.

Legacy Code Part 3: The Right Tools

You don't use an butter knife when you need a hatchet, nor a machete when you need a scalpel. When you're bringing Legacy Code out of the Dark Ages, you need the right tools. That old copy of ColdFusion Studio was the bomb in it's day, but it's not working so hot on your new Windows 8.1 laptop. On top of that, it's help dictionary is out of date by about 5 server revisions, and it's never even dreamed of HTML 5.

You need some good tools to resuscitate a dying app, and the first one is a good editor. I personally prefer Adobe ColdFusion Builder, but you could use CF Eclipse or Sublime Text 2. I like an IDE, and love Eclipse for it's plugin architecture, which allows me to handle the majority of my workflow directly in one environment. Others prefer just a text editor, and that's fine too, but at least pick something with code complete and up-to-date dictionary add ons.

Do you use Source Control? Now's the time to learn. The ability to branch, merge, and revert are critical for continuing to maintain a working application at this stage. I've used Subversion in the past, but have come to prefer Git. The learning curve is steep, but the benefits and flexibility are well worth the time investment, especially in a team environment.

Using MS SQL? Then you want the Redgate SQL Toolbelt. This one isn't cheap, but it's well worth the purchase. You can do comparisons of database schemas, source control sql, backup and restore at an object level, document your db, and the compression technology here can save you a bundle in storage costs. And all of that is just scratching the surface.

And when it's really time to dig in, you're going to want FusionReactor. For me, this tool paid for itself in the first five minutes. You can watch every single request that's hitting your app. Track your slowest requests, queries, and more. Get live data on memory utilization. You can setup notifications for different events, and even setup auto recovery scenarios. This is the must have tool when you're modernizing your application.

Finally, if your getting hit with security breaches right now, it'll probably take some time to pay off some of that code debt and get back on track. FuseGuard, from Foundeo, is an easy way to add some badly needed security when you have none. It won't do your work for you, but it can save you a lot of grief while you get it together.

This article is the third in a series of articles on bringing life back to your legacy ColdFusion applications. Follow along in the Legacy Code category.

Legacy Code Part 2: Getting Started

Your ColdFusion site is crawling. Pages take seconds to render. The DOS attacks from China are taking you down daily. Your boss is crawling up your backside, because clients are running away. And... you're still running ColdFusion 5 and MySQL 3.

Why are you complaining again? Wake Up!

Your problem isn't your platform. It's...your platform. Why would you think that you have to upgrade your desktop software, but not your web platform? Every new iteration of an Operating System becomes (hopefully) a little more performant and a little more secure and (generally) has a few more bells and whistles. So why are you still running IIS on Windows NT?

You want things to get better? Want the boss to stop breathing down your neck? Step 1: Get Current. If you aren't up-to-date, your app will show it's age. We can get wrinkled and put on weight with age, why wouldn't your site?

Give your site a Lifestyle Lift. Get a modern OS, a modern web server, a modern database server, and a modern app server. (And, if you're that far out of date, you probably need some modern equipment too.) No budget for all of this? Consider a hosted VM instance(s), where the host handles the software licensing.

The language has changed/improved, a lot, in the past decade+. So has the server. You can't take advantage of any of these enhancements if your infrastructure is archaic.

Now, all of this being said, you'll want to test your code on a local architecture of the same make up. Chances are that there are minor code changes that you will have to make just to get up and running on "New Stuff". Set yourself up on a local VM, with all the same upgrades (OS, web server, db, etc) and thoroughly test your application. Having trouble? It's worth the time to test and figure it out (or hire a good consultant).

This article is the second in a series of articles on bringing life back to your legacy ColdFusion applications. Follow along in the Legacy Code category.

Legacy Code: Coming In To This Century

For more than a decade now, I've made a living upgrading legacy applications. Many times, these are applications originally built on ColdFusion 4 (or even earlier) and never touched again. Some company invested thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars having an application written, adding to it over and over with time, but never refactoring it for a new age.

This is probably the number one issue with how ColdFusion gets viewed, as a language and a platform, from outside the ColdFusion community. There are these huge applications, written on a platform that has grown and moved on, and that old code just doesn't perform the way they want it to anymore. What was written was probably great, at the time, but now there's millions of database transactions, thousands of concurrent users, and changes to processes in general. That old app just isn't cutting it anymore.

The question that comes up for a company, at this point, is do they rewrite the app? Do they upgrade the app? Or do they replace the app all together? Each of these questions have answers with their own pitfalls, but today many companies are looking at this issue and saying that their problem is ColdFusion, instead of seeing it as their answer.

Here's the bottom line: ColdFusion isn't always the answer to every problem. No more so than .NET is, or PHP, or Ruby, or any other particular language. That said, ColdFusion does have a very large advantage, in that it truly is a Rapid Application Development platform. If you know the language, if you know the server, and if you have a solid plan, it is possible to rapidly change an an application, or write a new one.

With this post, I'm going to start a new series of posts about some of the things that I've found, over the past decade, that can be used to bring a legacy application into a new age. There are a number of things that a company can do to bring new life back to that old and frail beast that used to be their pride and joy. More over, some of the things I'll relate can save a company from unnecessarily spending thousands of dollars in redevelopment when they didn't need to do so.

The New Armaggedon? Or Web Developer Boon?

OK, so it's a little link baiting, but... ZDNet has just posted an article about Your perilous future on Windows XP. Basically, Microsoft will stop supporting XP on April 8, 2014. This means no more security patches, no more malware checks, and no more holes plugged in Internet Explorers 6 & 7.

Wait...What?

Yes, there are still people using Internet Explorer 6 & 7. Why? There are large organizations (public and private sector both) that invested a lot of time, money and resources to put XP on their desktops to begin with. They then wasted even more money developing browser based applications that only ran in those browsers.

So, here's what's going to happen. MS will EOL XP, and IE 6 & 7 with it. (Definitely 6, and hopefully 7...). The day the last patches are released, new zero day exploits will come out that will never be patched. After the initial pandemonium, organizations who have not upgraded from XP will either A) upgrade right away, or B) start using Firefox or Chrome. Many of them would also start spending mad resources to upgrade their application code to work in browsers other than Internet Explorer.

Where this is going to be felt first, hardest, and likely the slowest to respond, will be within the finance and government sectors. These are the areas that should be the most secure, but are also the tightest on the purse strings. It will probably take some major intrusions, crimes, and data loss before they finally begin to respond appropriately. Even then, it will probably take an Act of Congress, which means it'll be even longer.

The upside is that contracts for web developers should skyrocket, come April or May of 2014. If you are highly skilled in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and can work quickly and reliably, you should be in high demand.

Now, will all of this come to pass? I don't know. That's what it looks like in theory. They all though Y2K was the end too, and it wasn't. I do think that this is a much bigger threat, on the grand scale of things. Guess we'll just have to wait and see...

New Home Old Hobbies New Take

So, it's been a busy few months, what with contracts and buying a house and such. We recently moved back to Nashville, Tennessee, after two years living just outside of Jacksonville, Florida. Don't get me wrong, Florida was nice. It was pretty, the weather allowed me to wear shorts and flip-flops ten months out of the year, and we made some great friends. All that aside, we missed the hustle and bustle of the NashVegas life, so when we were looking to buy a new house we landed right back at home.

Before we left, I was asked to be the photographer at my niece's upcoming October wedding. This was finally the perfect excuse for me to go ahead and purchase that digital SLR I've been wanting to get for the past decade. I did a little research, and finally decided on the Nikon D3200. Their Nikkor lenses are perfect for me, because many of them have a Vibration Reduction mode, which is good for guys who drink way too much coffee ;)

I used to take a lot of pictures with my (now archaic) Minolta X-7. It was a great camera, and I would take hundreds of shots to get those ten or twenty perfect pics. Before I was a family man, that wasn't such a big deal, but as a husband and a father you get to be a bit more budget concious. Thousands of dollars in developing costs just don't translate, which is why digital has been such a godsend to the photography industry.

Even better though are the tools. It used to be that you took pictures, got the developed, found the right ones, scanned them in, and pulled them up in Adobe Photoshop for final edits. After you'd tweaked it just right, you either printed your adjustments out on a high dollar photo printer, or had a developer charge you too much to process again on their new digital equipment. Digital cameras have helped remove so many of those steps, and the software has gotten better over time as well.

I've had Adobe Lightroom on my system for some time, but had never really had the chance to play with it much. When we decided we wanted some new wall art in our new house, I went looking through some of the shots I'd taken down in Florida with my new camera. I found one I really liked, loaded it up in Lightroom, and started "tweaking" my image. Exposure and Contrast, Highlights and Shadows, and individual color adjustments and... Wow! Lightroom is amazing. I brightened things up, pulled my greens out more, sharpened things and more and got a brand new pic for my wall.

Now I'm going to have some real fun! Time to get back in my Lynda account and find some good tutorials.

ColdFusion Dev Needed: Albany, NY

Naresh Taneja, of USTech Solutions, forwarded on the following position. If interested, please email your latest resume.

Position: Coldfusion Consultant
Duration: 24+ Months
Location: Albany, NY

Description
Required

  • Minimum of 60 months of experience with ColdFusion 8 or newer administration / programming
  • Minimum of 60 months of experience of Microsoft IIS 6 web server administration
  • Minimum of 60 months of SQL-Server administration / database design & development in versions 2000, 2005 and/or 2008
  • Minimum of 48 months of experience in SQL-Server development tool set including; Management Studio and Business Intelligence Development Studio (BIDS) for Integration Services (SSIS).
  • Minimum of 48 months of experience using Content Management tools such as Adobe Creative Suite (CS 5) Contribute or Drupal
  • Minimum of 48 months of experience mentoring and training staff
  • Minimum 24 months experience working with end-users to assess business needs, translate needs into application requirements and use those requirement specifications to architect, develop and
  • Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science

ColdFusion Dev needed: South Florida

Ellie Taylor called me this morning, looking for a solid ColdFusion developer in south Florida.

Beacon Hill Technologies is seeking a Coldfusion/SQL Devloper for a direct hire or contract position with a large financial company in Coral Springs FL.

Required Skills:

  • Expert in Coldfusion (5+ years/current)
  • Advanced skills in MS-SQL
  • Strong skills in Java, JQuery and Crystal Reports
  • Must be able to design, develop and document
  • Local Area Candidate Preferred
  • Position is Onsite in Coral Springs

Top 3 skills:

  • Certified in Coldfusion
  • Strong in SQL- They will be doing extensive updates to the database
  • Strong Java/Jquery skills

This opportunity is for a long term contract if you are interested but only looking for permanent this can be negotiated. The opportunity is with a large fast paced financial firm. The reason for the need is due to their tremendous growth this past year.

Please feel free to reach me (Ellie Taylor) directly, they are looking to do interviews this week.

eBay Looking for a ColdFusion Developer

Ben Smith, of Panzer Solutions, sent me an email stating that eBay is looking for a ColdFusion developer to work on their Marketing Resource Management solution (MARS). Here are the particulars:

Job Title : ColdFusion Developer Location : San Jose, CA Duration : 3+ months with extensions Required Skills: Excellent working knowledge of ColdFusion

Job Description: The ColdFusion developer will augment eBay's Marketing Resource Management solution (MARS), built in ColdFusion, based on pre-defined and prioritized business and technical requirements.

If you're interested, click on his name (at the top of this post) and send him the latest version of your resume.

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