First look: Zend's PHP developer cloud

Zend Developer Cloud woos PHP developers with enterprise-grade development features, snapshots for easy recovery and project sharing, and the promise of single-click cloud deployment

When you consider the cloud, you typically imagine a realm of deployed, production applications. Zend Developer Cloud (ZDC) adds a twist: ZDC creates a place in the cloud where PHP-based applications can be developed for the cloud. No more developing locally, then deploying into the cloud -- ZDC pushes both into the ether.

If that were all it did, ZDC's utility would be questionable. However, it offers benefits that are not at first apparent, but warrant a closer look.

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At the time of this writing, the Zend Developer Cloud is still in beta. Interested developers can try it out at Access to ZDC -- during the beta phase -- is free. Anyone who takes advantage of this trial period will be able to keep a free account even after ZDC goes "live," which is anticipated sometime in early 2012. The live version will offer both free and paid-for accounts. Details of the differences between the two account types have yet to be officially specified, but the Zend engineers claim that anyone who has begun development work in the beta stage will lose none of that work when the system becomes publicly available.

Zend Developer Cloud: Zend Server and MySQL
Zend Developer Cloud is hosted on Amazon Web Services, but hides the underlying Amazon infrastructure. Register with ZDC, and you are given a "container" -- a sandbox that hosts the execution of the applications you are developing. You can think of it as a virtual system, to which is allocated memory, disk, networking, and CPU resources. Specifically, a container is permitted approximately 300MB of memory, 500MB of disk space, and about 2TB per month of network bandwidth. The CPU allocation is specified in throughput consumed by database operations -- about 200MBps.

Naturally, a ZDC container is also equipped with software services. This being Zend Technologies, it's no surprise the container includes a PHP runtime, an instance of Zend Server (the full-fledged enterprise edition), and an instance of MySQL Server. Actually, it is more accurate to say the container has access to a MySQL Server instance. The capacities that a container can command from the MySQL instance are limited. Although you can create as many MySQL tables as you wish, you are limited to a single schema (database). Currently MySQL is the only database option, but support for MongoDB and others is likely to follow.

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