PHP upgrade improves Windows backing

Zend official details 5.3 release of the scripting language, including garbage collection, namespaces, and PHP archive files

PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) 5.3, a significant upgrade to the server-side scripting language for Web applications, is expected to be available in a beta release in October, a representative of the PHP community said on Wednesday.

Version 5.3 features improved support for Windows, said Andi Gutmans, who is participating in development of the release and is CTO at PHP tools vendor Zend Technologies. Gutmans spoke about the release during an interview at the company's ZendCon 2008 conference in Santa Clara, Calif. on Wednesday afternoon.

"The community has worked on creating a much better binary package for PHP on Windows, which includes the latest [Microsoft] compilers," to benefit performance, Gutmans said. Additionally, more recent third-party libraries are featured for running PHP applications on Windows, with support for XML, graphic manipulation, and database access.

Namespaces, a capability enabling mixing and matching of PHP code from various sources, is highlighted in 5.3. This feature enables better maintenance and reuse, Gutmans said. "It allows you to modularize your applications for better maintenance and it makes it easier to use various frameworks together," he said. Frameworks like Zend's PHP framework and PEAR (PHP Extension and Application Repository) could be leveraged, said Gutmans.

A full implementation of garbage collection, which provides more efficient use of memory, is featured in PHP 5.3 as well. With garbage collection, long-running PHP scripts will make more efficient use of memory by avoiding conditions that could lead to memory leaks, Gutmans said.

Another feature, PHP archive (phar) files, enables bundling of a PHP application into a single archive. This makes it easier to distribute and deploy a PHP application, Gutmans said. The concept is similar to the JAR (Java Archive) files used in the Java world.

Version 5.3 also offers significant performance enhancements as well a client library integrating PHP with the MySQL database. In general terms, PHP 5.2 applications should function on the PHP 5.3 runtime, according to Gutmans.

Internationalization support has been enhanced, for building of applications that can be multilingual. Specifically, the ICU (International Components for Unicode) library is being exposed. Developers can perform functions like sorting and transformations.

Although Gutmans previously estimated a late-2008 release for PHP 5.3, the release now is expected to reach the release candidate phase in the first quarter of 2009. General availability will follow.

Also at ZendCon on Wednesday, Zend offered insights on what it views as the next-generation of PHP applications. These will be easily maintained, extensible, powerful, and lucrative, said Wil Sinclair, manager of the advanced technology group at Zend.

The first generation of PHP applications was very simple and lacked testing, he said. They had layers for presentation, application control, database access, and business logic. The next generation of applications has had perhaps millions of users, is object-oriented, and is typically modular, Sinclair said.

Next-generation systems have been built on the Model View Controller framework and are unit-tested. "Now, we've got an assurance of quality, not necessarily a guarantee," Sinclair said.

PHP has entered the commercial world, he said. Sinclair presented as an example Magento, an open-source e-commerce platform built on PHP 5 on top of Zend Framework. Built by Varien, Magento has had more than 450,000 downloads and more than 170 Magento Connect extensions. The application has processed millions of dollars in transactions, according to Sinclair.

The first public beta of Magento appeared in August 2007, and the 1.0 launch was on March 31, he said.

"We definitely see Magento as a next-generation PHP application, said Roy Rubin, founder and CEO of Varien.

Meanwhile, open-source SOA vendor WSO2 leveraged ZendCon to make a play in the PHP realm. The company launched WSO2 Web Services Framework for PHP (WSF/PHP) 2.0 this week, featuring a scripting language library enabling developers to build and consume SOAP and REST Web services. Security and reliability are offered for enterprise SOA, the company said. The technology was demonstrated at ZendCon.

Data services, interoperability, and security are extended in the release. Developers also gain a framework for deploying PHP services meeting enterprise SOA standards, according to WSO2. Additionally, developers can bridge to tens of thousands of PHP Web applications and enterprise data sources, applications, and services.

Capabilities are added in four key areas with version 2.0:

* Replay detection to track whether a message is fresh or has been sent previously, thus preventing replay attacks that could lead to denial of service

* WS-Trust backing to issue, renew, and validate security tokens for trusted relationships

* WS-SecureConversation support to allow a series of messages to be protected by a single session key and improve efficiency of the operation

* Public Key cryptography standards enablement for handling multiple client x509 certificates simultaneously

Developers can send and receive binary data as attachments using MTOM or a SOAP message with attachments. MTOM in version 2.0 has been optimized via caching. WSDL support has been expanded via tools. WSF/PHP 2.0 is available for download now.

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