Zend sets stage for PHP

New products and alliances with Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle to be featured at Zend/Con

The popular PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) dynamic language continues to attract software heavyweights Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM. Their latest alliances with PHP tools maker Zend Technologies will be highlighted Tuesday at Zend's technical conference.

Zend also will refresh its own product line, highlighted by a PHP IDE to work with the Eclipse open-source tools platform, at its Zend/Con conference in Burlingame, Calif.

"[PHP is] the most popular Web development language," said Andi Gutmans, Zend CTO and co-founder.

IBM, Oracle, and Microsoft are participating in the PHP ecosystem, Gutmans noted. Microsoft at the event will announce delivery of a "GoLive" beta release of an add-on to its IIS (Internet Information Server) Web server for FastCGI, Zend said. This will serve as an interface between PHP and IIS to boost reliability of PHP applications on Windows. Microsoft previously has partnered with Zend to boost PHP for Windows deployments.

Microsoft and Zend also will reveal that they are working to support Microsoft's SQL Server database in PHP. Developers would gain an optimized way to link PHP applications to SQL Server 2005. Zend noted that it already has integration with the Oracle, DB2 and MySQL databases.

Additionally, users of Zend Framework, which is Zend's class library for application development, will be able to integrate with Microsoft's identity solution. This will be accomplished through support for Microsoft's Information Card in Zend Framework. PHP developers will be able to build applications that leverage single sign-on capabilities for Web site users. Information Card is part of Microsoft's CardSpace identity management platform. 

Zend will support the Server Core option of Windows Server 2008 with its Zend Core PHP distribution. Server Core is a small-footprint installation of Windows Server used by companies like hosting providers. PHP developers will able to optimize server performance when PHP applications are running.

With Zend's own Zend Studio for Eclipse beta product, the company will provide a commercial IDE for PHP that builds on the Eclipse PDT (PHP Development Tools) project. Zend Studio for Eclipse goes beyond the PDT toolset, offering such enhanced capabilities as re-factoring, unit testing, and profiling. It also is integrated with Zend Framework and the Zend Platform application server.

"Think of the basic PDT more as a text editor with some code compilation and a bit of debugging support. It's a base line or infrastructure that you can build professional tools," on top of, Gutmans said.

Developers with Zend Studio for Eclipse can use Eclipse plug-ins for capabilities like source code control, said Gutmans. General release of Zend Studio for Eclipse is planned for the first quarter of 2008. It will cost $298 per seat.

With the announcement, PHP developers get a leading development platform, said Michael Goulde, senior analyst at Forrester.

"At the same time, Eclipse gets access to that huge number of PHP developers," he said.

"There's enough additional features plus support," to attract PHP developers to the product, even if they get the base Eclipse product free of charge, said Goulde. Still, Zend faces a challenge in that PHP developers can build applications without ever using the company's products, he said.

Previously, Zend has offered its Zend Studio IDE based on Java Swing libraries. "We have decided that going to Eclipse is the right strategic move for Zend to really take Zend and PHP to the next level," Gutmans said.

Also on tap from Zend is Zend Core 2.5. Version 2.5 supports unattended installation, enabling hosting providers, large PHP deployments, and ISVs to automate installation.

A Zend Core subscription starts at $298.

Meanwhile, IBM is planning to announce "Info 2," a technology for building mashups that is built on Zend Framework, in a couple weeks, Gutmans said. To support this effort, Zend Core 2.5 will be bundled with the DB2 Express-C version of the DB2 database. Zend and IBM are confirming availability of single-source support for PHP and DB2.

If users add DB2 Connect technology, they can access i5/OS and z/OS data servers as well.

Like Microsoft, IBM also has a history of working with Zend.

Another recent Zend partner, Oracle, has developed connection pooling in its Oracle 11g database in collaboration with Zend. This technology makes it possible to scale PHP applications using Oracle databases. As part of the announcement, Oracle has posted a new PHP OCI driver supporting Oracle 11g to the PECL (PHP Extension Community Library) repository. Zend will support the capability in upcoming releases of Zend Core.

Oracle will open-source its PHP driver as part of this announcement, Gutmans said. Oracle's driver can now be included n the standard PHP distribution and be distributed to all PHP users, he said.

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