Zend adds Flex to PHP for developing rich Web apps

Adobe partnership follows recent move in which similar accommodations were made for AJAX

PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) will be linked with Flex development for rich Web applications under an arrangement being announced Tuesday by Zend Technologies.

The announcement, which pairs PHP on servers to Adobe's Flex technology on clients, is one of several being made at the ZendCon conference in Santa Clara, Calif. The partnership comes just two weeks after Zend made accommodations for another client-side rich Internet development technology -- AJAX -- via an upgrade to the Zend Framework for PHP.

Tuesday's collaboration brings PHP and Flex communities together via the Adobe Flex Builder tool and the Zend Studio platform, said Andi Gutmans, CTO at Zend. Specifically, users will be offered instructions on quickly plugging Flex Builder into Zend Studio to provide a unified experience for building modern Web applications, he said.

"We're going to make sure Flex Builder and Zend Studio can work as one," with developers able to use PHP on the back end and Flex on the front end within the same development tool, Gutmans said. Both Flex Builder and Zend Studio are based on Eclipse technology, he said.

Adobe, Gutmans said, recognizes "the size and importance of the PHP community." Adobe had been geared toward Java and ColdFusion development communities, he said.

Adobe will contribute AMF (Action Message Format) protocol support to Zend Framework, which is an open source framework for PHP development. AMF is the protocol used by Flex to talk to back-end systems; it will be featured as an officially supported offering in Zend Framework 1.7 later this year. Users previously have had access to this code in the Zend Framework public project repository, but the official support is new, Gutmans said.

An Adobe representative stressed the synergies of Flex and PHP.

"Flex and PHP together make a lot of sense because Flex is just a UI technology," said Mike Potter, Adobe senior product marketing manager. Flex applications run inside the Adobe Flash Player and Adobe AIR.

"Using the two of them together really allows PHP developers to build really amazing rich Internet apps," Potter said. Developers, for example, could build corporate dashboards or an e-commerce site with chat capabilities, he said.

The partnership was called a "nice logical move" by Stephen O'Grady, principal analyst at RedMonk. Adobe has ambitions in the rich Internet application space, while PHP has a massive ecosystem in Web applications. "The deal itself is essentially a marriage of those two ambitions," O'Grady said.

Also planned is community outreach to offer best practices on using PHP and Flex together, Gutmans said. Going forward, Adobe and Zend plan to implement cross-product integration points to optimize developer workflow and reduce development time.

Zend at the conference Tuesday also will roll out Zend Studio 6.1, featuring tighter integration with Zend Framework and the Dojo AJAX toolkit. JavaScript support will be increased, with capabilities added such as code assist for Dojo and improved syntax highlighting. Priced at $399 and shipping Tuesday, Version 6.1 will be based on the Eclipse 3.4 platform and feature a visual query builder for database queries.

Additionally, Zend will offer Zend Core for i5/OS 2.6, with additional PHP extensions for IBM's computers formerly known as the AS/400 platform. The new release improves security and includes Zend Framework 1.6 as well as extensions making it easier for PHP to access native resources on i5 systems.

Zend is announcing a "Zend Certified Engineer (ZCE) for Zend Framework" examination, complementing the ZCE for PHP certification already available.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.