Charlie Arehart Accepts CTO Position with New Atlanta, to Evangelize BlueDragon and CFML

By now you may have heard that in April of 2003, I accepted an offer to become CTO for New Atlanta, the folks who make BlueDragon, an alternative engine for running CFML on J2EE and .NET platforms. I know the news was shock to many, but after watching the company for a year+ and seeing the great strides they'd made, it was hard to ignore the opportunity.

More important, I felt that it was a win-win for the CFML community, as BlueDragon really brings great benefits to extend the life of CFML in shops that are otherwise facing moving off of ColdFusion. You don't need to throw away your valuable investments in CFML (and people), yet you can also take advantage of the power of deployment on J2EE or .NET, and as of BlueDragon 6.1, you can even get all the benefits of CFMX-level features like CFCs, XML, and web services.

In this article and faq, I'd like to explain the move, a little about BlueDragon, and the impact of the move on my many activities.

First, it's important to clarify that I remain an advocate, even an evangelist, for CFML. Really, my role in the public has not changed at all. I still write lots of articles and speak at many user groups. And all of this is on CFML (even often showing Macromedia tools working with CFML), as much as on BlueDragon itself. BlueDragon is still CFML. Our president, Vince Bonfanti, sums it up nicely in two CFDJ articles available on our site.

If you're not familiar with BlueDragon, I'd like to point you to some resources to help get you up to speed. But for those who think they're already familiar with BlueDragon, or especially those who haven't looked at it recently, here's what I saw that I liked a lot:

  • BlueDragon's J2EE deployment capability is more straightforward and streamlined than Macromedia's CFMX for J2EE (or the new 3rd install option in CFMX 6.1)
  • the upcoming BlueDragon/.NET deployment capability is truly unique, and will be the only way to natively integrate CFML and .NET applications
  • those two products help solve important problems for organizations being forced to move off of Macromedia ColdFusion and/or unwilling or unable to move to ColdFusion MX
  • the base BlueDragon Server edition is offered free for development AND deployment
  • the CFML implementation is very close to being completely compatible with CFMX (as of the new 6.1 release, which was released in beta in November 2003)
  • the ability to package your CFML code into a BDA file and wrap that into a single WAR/EAR for deployment, protecting your intellectual property by not having to deploy the CFML source, is very compelling and better than CF's CFENCODE capability
  • New Atlanta's responsiveness to customer (and prospective customer) requests has been superlative
  • I could go on
I think New Atlanta's got a great niche. The goal isn't about taking business from MM, but instead catching business that would have left MM, especially those being told to move off of CF. Now they don't have to, and BlueDragon can give them greater integration options. I know that many will see still this as a competitive thing. That's too bad. I hope in time they'll see that I (and New Atlanta) continue to be strong advocates for CFML. We're all together when it comes to promoting CFML as a great development platform. Indeed, we want to help keep folks in CFML who might have felt pressure to leave it. Folks who know me know that this is the sort of challenge I relish. And even MM has made hay over the fact that CFML is now no longer proprietary. It's perfectly reasonable and capitalistic for competition to exist, and as always it makes the competitors stronger and their products better, which benefits clients of both products.

As for my taking on this role, two of the New Atlanta partners (it's a privately held company) had long wished to have me as their evangelist, and I'd kept them at bay for a variety of reasons. But they finally made an offer too good to refuse, even making my independent training and consulting pursuits not as attractive. I'm really enjoying the challenge of helping spread the gospel for them, and helping people see BlueDragon (and the future of CFML) in a new light. Of course, those who know me know that it's what I'm built for! :-)

Some have asked why Macromedia never gave me any sort of position even approaching this. I don't quite know. I did apply for the community manager job, both times, but was not selected (despite support from inside various quarters at Macromedia). And while I was on Team Macromedia and the Customer Advisory Board, both of which I was honored by (though now have been removed from), those were unfortunately not positions I was really able to leverage for profit in my business. They were certainly ways for me to continue to give back to the CF community that I've served since 1997, though, and I plan to continue to do that in this new role.

But the New Atlanta role is one where I feel I really can make a substantive difference for all the CFML community and really help a lot of folks in particular. And I get to do what I love to do, while acting in a CTO-level role for a substantial and successful company--and get paid commensurately for all that I'll bring to the challenge. It's a real win-win-win.

I'd like to answer what have been some frequently asked questions. I've broken then into groups:

For these first few about BlueDragon and New Atlanta, I point you to existing FAQs and docs at New Atlanta, but then I also offer several new answers and extended answers here.

About BlueDragon and New Atlanta

Are you just going to talk about the product and company in these FAQs? I'm busy!
No, just the first couple are about that. The rest are information you won't find listed anywhere else, so I hope you'll take a few minutes to read this entire page. It will really help explain a lot of things (about the "competition" thing, about my future activities , etc.) But first, a couple of things for those new to the whole world of New Atlanta and BlueDragon.
Who is New Atlanta?
The New Atlanta site's page, "About New Atlanta", says it better than I could. :-)
What is BlueDragon and why would I use it over ColdFusion?
Again, there is a complete area of the New Atlanta site devoted to such basic questions: http://www.newatlanta.com/bluedragon/.
How much does BlueDragon cost?
There is a pricing page at the New Atlanta site discussing this. I want to point out that there is a free version of the Server edition (with slightly limited functionality) that can be used for development AND deployment, as well as 3 other versions of the product, each addressing different requirements. See the aforementioned pages for details. Competition is good, right? We're all for helping make it easy for people to stick with (and even for new folks to get into) coding with CFML.
Can I just read about it before downloading it?
Sure, the docs are quite simple. They don't explain how to use or program in CFML, instead presuming you're familiar with that but just need to know how to install BlueDragon and understand the differences between it and ColdFusion (CF5 and CFMX).
I heard (or remember seeing) that BlueDragon supports only some CF, and only CF5
BlueDragon has come a long way since its release in 2002 and its prior life as TagServlet before that. There are pages on the BlueDragon site that explain the features supported, and the Compatibility Guide" details differences from ColdFusion. Basically, the only tags most developers will miss are CFGRID-related tags (we lacked Verity and CFMX features, but those have been added in 6.1). There are a handful of other minor differences that can trip up migrations but they're mostly edge cases. There are some features that don't work as documented in the CFML manuals. Whenever we learn of an improperly working feature, we are quick to address it and offer a patch or a plan for adding it in the future.
I've heard that BlueDragon adds some new tags that are not in ColdFusion?
Yes, the New Atlanta folks are CFML fanatics themselves, and there are features that they've long wished CF to have, so they finally simply added those in themselves. I'll address the natural questions of "standards" that some may ask, but first, let's clarify the additions. The aforementioned Compatibility Guide explains things in more detail, but look into:
  • CFIMAP - perform IMAP based mail processing
  • CFIMAGE - perform image manipulations, such as creating thumbnails
  • CFFORWARD - perform a server-side redirect
  • CFINCLUDE - include the output of a JSP page
  • CFPAUSE - pause processing for x seconds
Sure, some may claim that such extensions break the "purity of the CFML standard" (though technically there is none). But look at what's offered. These are clearly features that you either want or you don't. It's not like we're fundamentally changing some intrinsic feature of CFML. And it's not at all like the ugly days of the browser wars, since this is all server-side functionality.

This is more like use of different flavors of SQL on different databases. But just as with that discussion, one has to ask how often they'll really be moving code back and forth between BlueDragon and ColdFusion. Indeed, since most BlueDragon customers have already likely made the decision to move off of MM CF Server, this is not too significant an issue, really.

To be fair, some of the changes we've added simply bring CFMX-like features into easier reach of customers who would not otherwise implement CFMX. For instance, the CFFORWARD tag allows a server-side redirect (as does CFMX's getpagecontext().forward() function) and our URLSessionFormat is equivalent to the CFMX function of the same.

But are there changes to standard CFML tags?
There are a couple of minor instances where we've made extensions to attributes of existing CFML tags, where we thought there was a benefit that people would want. For instance, the CFQUERY offers a new CACHENAME attribute that simplifies caching of resultsets. It makes it easier to cache them, easier to flush them, and also allows persisting of the cached results over server restarts. Again, the Compatibility guide spells out all the differences (and we will update it if we learn of any undocumented differences).
Can I install BlueDragon along with my current ColdFusion 5 or ColdFusion MX
Sure. BlueDragon Server comes with its own built-in web server (or it can connect to IIS or Apache), and it defaults to using port 8080 if you don't install a web server adapter.
What's the difference between the free server version and the $549 JX version?
Primarily, it's that the free version does not offer these tags which do run in the JX (and of course the J2EE version):
  • cfexecute
  • cfgraph
  • cfobject / CreateObject
  • cfschedule
  • cfservlet / cfservletparam
  • cfwddx
  • And, as of BlueDragon 6.1, MX features like CFCs, XML, and web services support
This info is also offered in the release notes (http://www.newatlanta.com/products/bluedragon/self_help/docs/index.cfm), but I will be working to get it into the docs as well. Indeed, one thing missing from those notes is that the various extension features mentioned above are also NOT in the free version.
Can I easily try out some sample applications against BlueDragon?
Well, why not try copying your own CF applications to see how they would work? If using the built-in web server, just copy them into the BlueDragon webroot. If using another web server, you can integrate BlueDragon with it using the administration console, and then run the code from wherever you currently have the web server content directory. Or, you could configure the web server to use a virtual directory to point code from an existing document root but run it against BlueDragon. I discuss this in a Sep 2003 CFDJ article. If using BlueDragon/J2EE, just copy the CFML into our skelatal web app and deploy it on your J2EE server of choice.

In any case, you'll like find that everything just works, just as we have found with customer applications as well as sample applications we've taken from books, articles, and even the ColdFusion Example applications.

You may not even have to add any datasource definitions to the BlueDragon Administrator (similar to the ColdFusion Administrator). On Windows systems, the BlueDragon installation automatically detects and makes available (and loads into its Administrator) any ODBC System DSNs already defined (on Windows systems).

See the "BlueDragon Installation Guide" (available with all the documentation) for more information on all this.

Don't you see this as clearly competitive to Macromedia?
Really, I (and we) don't. The thing is, we're advocates for CFML. As Vince has made clear in his articles (referred to above), CFML is not equal to ColdFusion. ColdFusion is a server product from Macromedia. CFML is a language that we all know and love for building web applications easily, and most of us are heavily invested in it and don't want to leave it.

If you are being forced by management to remove your ColdFusion servers, and/or if you or your management has become unhappy in any way with Macromedia, you now have an alternative platform on which to run your CFML code. In essence, CFML is no longer a proprietary language. That's a good thing!

We simply offer an implementation that is more standard for Java, and integrates natively with .NET. While we both support the CFML language, we offer you more platform options, better native integration, and (our customers say) more responsive support.

We want to promote and advocate CFML, and of course the whole reason New Atlanta looked to hire me in the first place was because I am clearly a CFML advocate! It was only after further discussion that they saw I could bring more to the company than just an evangelist, thus the CTO role. They've clearly done a great job already. I just want to help, while also continuing in my CFML advocacy role.

Again, I still do mostly what I've already done: writing, speaking, teaching about CFML and related products, tools, and services. I still even write about how to make the most of tools like Dreamweaver MX, HomeSite+/ColdFusion Studio, Flash, and more. CFML is CFML.

Indeed, I look forward to now being able to help find and promote even more of the many great tools companies out there who support CFML. We want to help the CFML community learn about those tools. We want to help make the CFML community stronger. A rising tide lifts all boats. CFML Forever! :-)

OK, ok. Where do I sign up? :-)
The best thing would be to join the BlueDragon Interest list. Instructions are at the self help resources page, where you'll also find the docs, FAQs, other resources, and a place for feature requests. The BlueDragon interest list is where community starts with BlueDragon, and you'll not only find it a friendly place to discuss the product and help solve any implementation challenges, but you'll find that it's staffed by the real engineers working on the product and even the management team as well.

This is another important difference with BlueDragon. You'll find that it's a more hands-on team, perhaps reminiscent of the early days at Allaire. And of course I want to foster that even further. We're be expanding the resources in many ways. I've been putting together more information on all of this, including more to help those wanting to try out and/or move to BlueDragon.

I've also been helping expand our resources to help those who may be interested in establishing relationships with New Atlanta, such as vendors of CFML-based products and services (VARs, hosting companies, etc.) We are very interested in creating such relationships.

In fact, we're willing to help you in showing how your product works with BlueDragon and will happily showcase your product on a new partners area. We want to really make this sort of partner program make sense for you, us, and our mutual customers. If we can help in any way, let us know.

And that goes for our current and prospective customers, too. We want to really provide a sense of home for you. I look forward to that, and I hope you do, too.


About Charlie's Move and What's Happened to SysteManage and Other Affilitations

What happened to SysteManage?
SysteManage is no longer an independently operating company. It was just me and my wife, and now we're focused full time on New Atlanta. This site, systemanage.com, will continue to exist as a resource for the CFML community for the foreseeable future, simply because of the depth of its resources (articles, presentations, 3rd party product info, and more) that so many have already long linked to. Even the prior email addresses at systemanage.com will continue to exist .
Are you still doing training and consulting?
I am no longer doing independent training and consulting. In my role as CTO, I do those things on occasion for New Atlanta customers, but I am no longer able to offer my seminars previously offered on this site.
Will you be relocating to Atlanta?
Yes, my wife and I have relocated to Atlanta, Alpharetta in particular. It's a lovely place, and if you're ever in the area, please contact me and arrange a visit to the New Atlanta offices. The people are charming and very professional, and the offices modern and inviting. Many folks there live within a few miles of the offices (in Alpharetta) and seem to like the convenience very much (plenty of shopping, parks, and walking trails nearby, too).
What happened to the Southern Maryland CFUG that you managed?
Unfortunately, Macromedia asked me to step down as manager of that group, even before I left the area. I do think that was unfortunate, but someone else stepped up and took on managing the group.
Will you continue to visit user groups?
Oh yes! That's one of my favorite things to do (went to over 40 last year), and the folks at New Atlanta certainly want me to continue doing that. Whether I'll be doing as many or not remains to be seen, and whether they'll be sales pitches for BlueDragon or generic talks about CFML will also vary by interest of the CFUGs. I/we realize that some hate sales pitches, but I've had (and took up) offers to come speak about BlueDragon specifically. Even then, I will continue to find topics of value to all CFML developers, whether using BlueDragon or not.
What will happen you your efforts to create online user group presentations?
I am planning to continue the process of creating online user group presentations, such as the one I created, Flash for CFers (see my blog of 2/21/03 for more on that particular online presentation.) And as I said above, these will not necessarily be BlueDragon specific. There are plenty of subjects that are generic to CFML. I hope to continue to record more presentations, both some of those that talks I've already given to some groups and those that I will develop anew with New Atlanta.
Will you contiunue to write for the ColdFusion Developers Journal (CFDJ)?
Of course. Continuing the theme that the New Atlanta folks hired me to be an advocate for CFML, they certainly want me to continue writing for the CFDJ. Some may know that New Atlanta's president, Vince Bonfanti, has already written a couple of articles (links available at those self-help resources above) and is now a regular columnist. While we both have written on BlueDragon in particular (gotta spread that word!), my goal is to continue to be an advocate for CFML and often do articles that appeal to all readers.
Are you still co-tech editor of the ColdFusion Developers Journal?
Sadly, my time commitments with New Atlanta led me to have to step down as co tech-editor. I arranged for Simon Horwith to take over the mantle along with Ray Camden. I'm sure they'll make a great team!
Are you still a member of Team Macromedia.
Well, perhaps it was to be expected. Macromedia removed me from Team Macromedia. I had hoped that Macromedia would see New Atlanta and BlueDragon (and my role) as a means to continue promoting and legitimizing CFML, and therefore I hoped they'd recognize my continuing contributions to the community--writing in the CFDJ, my contributions to user groups and several mailing lists, and more--as supportive of CFML and even other MM products as I always have been. I'm not "leaving" Macromedia. I'm simply continuing to serve the CF community through a new (and expanded) role.

To be fair, their main point of contention is that while on the Team Macromdea mailing list, I might be privy to information about future releases of ColdFusion. I argued that an NDA is an NDA, but it seems water under the bridge. I'll still appreciate the time that I was on the team, and will hope to continue to act in a way that speaks to the values of helping the community that are the hallmark of Team Macromedia.

Do you expect to be a speaker again at DevCon?
Hard to say. I would love to have spoken at my 4th DevCon...called "MAX" now Again, depends on how MM folks see things.
What about your Blog? (CFMXPlus.BlogSpot.com)
I have stopped contributing to that blog, but it does remain active. It was (and still is) a great resource to a lot of people, with plenty of useful tips both about CFMX and general interest CF topics. I've now instead created a BlueDragon blog, at a new site, Blog-city. Please come check that out. There are often generic tips as well as BlueDragon-specific ones.
As for this page and these faqs, I welcome your direct feedback, at [email protected]. Indeed, if you'd like to offer well-wishes, I certainly look forward to hearing from you. See below...

I received many nice comments from folks since the move

Where I don't yet have permission to identify the author by name, or they prefer to remain anonymous, I have indicated them as such.
    Great news about your move to New Atlanta, Charlie. It speaks well of the company that they saw the opportunity to bring you on board and it seems you'll have great backing for all the things you do to support the CFML community. Welcome to Atlanta!
    Hal Helms, trainer, writer
    I am very happy for you as I am sure New Atlanta will provide you with the resources you need to help the CF community even more so than you have as an individual.
    Matt Liotta, President of Montara Software, and a CF author, toolmaker, and commentator
    I've known the guys at New Atlanta for some time now, and they're a great team. Bringing Charlie Arehart in as CTO is the smartest move they could have made. New Atlanta's vision bolstered by Charlie's expertise, development experience, and drive...talk about synergy. I can't wait to see BlueDragon's next release!
    Adam Churvis, President of Productivity Enhancement, and a CF author, trainer, and toolmaker
    Good fortune to you! I am very pleased that you have been so recognized and so rewarded. The New Atlanta folks did indeed make a wise decision in acquiring you. I am certain that you will continue to do many good things not only with the BlueDragon product line but also at New Atlanta. I do indeed think that BlueDragon has hit upon a strong chord in the community and that it does indeed a serve an important place.
    Guy Rish, CFDJ author, book contributor, consultant
    I'm sure it's a great day for you, and it's definitely a great day for the viability of CFML as a platform-independent language--if there's anyone out there who can talk BlueDragon into real market share, it's you! I look forward to your evangelical efforts. See you at CFUN!
    Rey Muradaz, speaker, developer, FuseBox Advocate
    Congratulations on the move to New Atlanta! I think this will be an excellent move for you. You already have moved one organization (mine) to more seriously consider New Atlanta's product based on your recommendations at the conference.
    Anonymous
    I thinks its fantastic! Its amazing that no one else has snatched you up, not that it would be easy, but I find it truly amazing that you have not been brought in by someone sooner. I think it is great news.
    Anonymous
    I'm so very pleased for you. I can't think of a better person for this job to go to!
    Anonymous
    I regard this as nothing but excellent news...congratulations. It seems like a perfect fit as well. New Atlanta has been at virtually every user group event over the past two years, so I know them pretty good also. ... And if they made you a "Godfather offer", then what are you supposed to do?
    Anonymous

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