Microsoft, Zend boost PHP for Windows

Server deployments enabled by interface, other efforts

In what may prove a watershed event, Microsoft and Zend Technologies on Tuesday will reveal a collaboration to bolster PHP (PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor) deployments on the Windows Server platform.

Officials at the two companies explained that much PHP development is occurring on Windows desktops systems, but the applications themselves are then being deployed on Unix boxes because of limitations with Windows Server. Tuesday's announcement aims to cure these performance issues. PHP has become a popular scripting language for Web development.

"We will be leveraging Windows-specific APIs to make the best possible performance on Windows," said Andi Gutmans, co-founder and chief technology officer at Zend.

"The way PHP's run on Windows up to today is in a way that does not perform," Gutmans said.

The vendors will announce their multifaceted collaboration at the Zend/PHP Conference & Expo in San Jose, Calif. Key to the arrangement is an interface between PHP and Microsoft's IIS (Internet Information Services) Web server. Called FastCGI (Common Gateway Interface), the interface will be free for users of Windows Server 2003 and the upcoming Windows Server "Longhorn."   

"We're building a piece of technology called FastCGI, that will help [significantly] the performance of PHP in the Windows Web server environment," said Bill Hilf, Microsoft general manager for technical platform strategy.

Specifically, FastCGI eliminates the need for the Web server to start a new PHP engine to serve each request to the Web server. "This new technology is going to reuse those [existing] PHP processes multiple times so that we don't have to pay that overhead of re-spawning PHP on each request," Gutmans said.

FastCGI, which is already completed, will be demonstrated on Tuesday and a technology preview will be available as well.

The Microsoft-Zend collaboration will open doors for more people to consider running PHP on Windows in production applications, said RedMonk analyst Michael Cote. "It looks like they're just taking care of some of the architectural things," he said.

Microsoft, Cote said, realizes that people want to run dynamic languages on Windows.

Other facets of the collaboration involve technical improvements for PHP on Windows Server, which will be submitted under a PHP license to the PHP community for feedback. Zend will establish a Windows testing lab to maintain high performance of PHP on Windows Server.

The two companies also plan to work to ensure a production-quality PHP runtime environment for IIS 6.0 for Windows Server 2004, and for IIS 7.0 on Longhorn. Both vendors will participate in the PHP community to help developers planning to deploy PHP applications on Windows Server.

Zend in the first quarter of 2007 plans to start using the PHP improvements in its Zend Core product line. A technology preview of an updated Windows version of Zend Core is available here. Also, Zend will use the technology for its Zend Platform product line to support business-critical PHP environments on Windows Server.

At this juncture, Microsoft and Zend are not announcing any tie-in between PHP and Microsoft's popular Visual Studio development platform. But that may occur in the future, Hilf said. The two companies are discussing it, he said.

Microsoft is not the first major software vendor to align with Zend. IBM also has worked with Zend to enable PHP deployments on IBM's Cloudscape and DB2 databases, via the Zend Core for IBM package.

Also at the conference:

** Zend is announcing an agreement with MySQL to boost integration between Zend products and the MySQL open source database.

** Zend is releasing an update to Zend Core for IBM, which implements support for DB2 Version 9 and Informix Dynamic Server 10.

** The latest pre-release of Zend Framework is being made available to provide a foundation for building Web sites based on the MVC (Model-View-Controller) pattern. Zend Framework also is being fitted with an implementation of Google's Gdata API, to provide a protocol for PHP applications to read and write data to and from Google applications such as Google Calendar.

** Version 5.5 of the Zend Studio IDE is being announced, featuring Java integration, support for Zend Framework, and improved source code management.

** Zend is announcing ZendBox, a hosted server for running the PHP 5 technology stack. Users can deploy solutions for operating PHP applications. ZendBox features hardware, an operating system, PHP 5 and utilities supported by Zend, and a partner network of hosting providers. Rackspace will be the first provider for ZendBox.

** Zend will note that the PHP Eclipse project is on track to be released in June 2007. The project is intended to provide a framework for PHP developers for the Eclipse platform.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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