Zend Technologies Inc, a commercial provider of the PHP open source scripting language, announced a long-term agreement with Microsoft Corp to make PHP as fast and stable on Windows IIS as it already is with Apache.
And to give attendees a taste of what’s coming, the companies used Zend’s user show yesterday to jointly demonstrate what production-quality PHP on Windows servers could look like.
It’s a fix that’s been long awaited considering that roughly 75% of PHP’s developer community work on Windows.
Ever since it emerged just over a decade ago, the PHP scripting language has been considered a kinder, gentler, and most importantly, simpler way to generate web pages. Over 4.5 million developers prefer it to Microsoft’s ASP.NET or Java Server Pages.
The only problem in was that PHP’s performance and stability on Windows servers has been quite poor.
Zend chief marketing officer Mark de Visser characterized the efforts so far as consisting of a number of small enhancements. Microsoft rewrote the fast CGI interface to the Windows Internet Information Server web server. For its part, Zend made roughly 15 tweaks to PHP that it promised to submit to the community.
Although Microsoft remains firmly committed to ASP.NET, it is also equally if not more committed to promoting the Windows Server back end. Consequently, it has been courting several popular open source platforms that deploy on Windows, having concluded a similar accommodation with JBoss earlier this year.
De Visser characterized the Zend/Microsoft efforts as just the beginning. He listed Active Directory, SQL Server, and Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) as possible future targets for improvements. He said that Zend would choose the target based on what customers demand.
Zend made a series of other progress report announcements on what it and the PHP open source community are currently working on.
One of them was a demonstration of a very early prerelease, 0.2 version (yes, that’s not a typo) of the Zend framework, a project first announced a year ago with partners such as IBM, Oracle, MySQL, Intel, Actuate, ADP, FileMaker, and others. The idea of the framework was to add the some of structure that heavier-duty development platforms like .NET and Java already have.
The highlight was an improved Model-View-Controller design pattern. For non-programmers, MVC is the way most web application front ends are structured. A controller handles user input, a model represents the data, and the view renders the model onto an HTML page. PHP’s heritage as a simple web page scripting language carried only rudimentary support for such structured presentations, a shortcoming that the prerelease version of the framework attempted to address.
In spite of the low number assigned to this version, de Visser claimed 0.2 was a major milestone. Zend also announced a roadmap for the next major versions, which will carry more advanced numbering like 0.7 and 0.8. It claimed that the framework has been downloaded over 200,000 times and counts 115 contributors.
Zend also took the wraps off the 0.7 version of its Eclipse project, where it is leading development of a plug-in to make PHP more accessible to Java developers. The 0.7 release, which showed code highlighting, code completion, debugging, and other features, is planned for early December, while a 1.0 version is expected next June.
A nearer term announcement was of a hosted service branded ZendBox, which would run the latest PHP 5 technology stack (including Zend Core, Zend Framework, and the Zend Platform) to simplify deployment for small-midsize businesses.
It also announced that Rackspace, a managed hosting provider, would be the first to offer ZendBox. According to de Visser, for now, while Zend’s strategy is to work with hosting infrastructure providers, he did not rule out working with hosted application providers like SugarCRM (which is a Zend customer) in the future.
Zend announced also a new cross-licensing agreement with MySQL to facilitate closer integration with the popular open source web database. Evidently, both firms share many joint customers. When a show of hands asked for during the keynote, according to de Visser, at least 70% of the room showed they were MySQL customers.
Rounding matters out, version 5.5 of Zend Studio was announced, featuring tighter integration with Java. Zend also release Zend Core for IBM, updating support for the latest version of DB2 (Informix Dynamic Server was also added), which could serve PHP pages to over 30,000 concurrent users from a single Lintel (Linux/Intel) box. Zend Studio 5.5 and Zend Core for IBM are available now.