A recent Gartner Research study found that 10 percent of the PHP community are corporate IT developers, and predicted that during the next five years, that number will grow to 40 percent. That’s good news for PHP developers looking for corporate gigs–and very good news for PHP tools maker Zend Technologies, which cited the Gartner finding at the Zend/PHP Conference last week as evidence of widespread, more strategic adoption of PHP in enterprises.
Zend is trying to position its products, the PHP development framework Zend Framework and the PHP IDE Zend Studio for Eclipse, as the de facto standards for enterprise PHP web development as the language becomes more mainstream. If Zend is judged by the company it keeps, then it has chosen its allies well, forging relationships with IT heavyweights such as IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, and most recently, Adobe.
Zend co-founder and CTO Andi Gutmans told me the products resulting from these partnerships position Zend to deliver interoperability in an enterprise environment. He added that its move to Eclipse with Zend Studio will get the tool into traditional enterprises where Eclipse is a standard, and developers are familiar with it. The main product announcements Zend made at the conference were:
The collaboration with Adobe, in which Action Message Format (AMF) support will be integrated into the Zend Framework: AMF support enables data integration between Zend’s server-side PHP and Adobe’s client-side Flex data and logic components. The companies will also enable their respective IDEs (Flex Builder and Zend Studio for Eclipse) to work as one.
General availability of Zend Core for i5/OS 2.6: This Zend-certified PHP stack is designed for IBM i5/OS, with extensions for PHP to access native i5 resources.
Zend Certified Engineer (ZCE) for Zend Framework: This is a new Zend certification to go along with the existing ZCE for PHP certification.
Zend’s efforts seem to be paying off. Gutmans and (during his opening keynote) Zend CEO Harold Goldberg shared customer success stories from organizations including Bell Canada, Magento, and Fox Interactive Media. But the growth of the PHP language is a credit to the work of the entire PHP community, which includes not only Zend, but also alternatives such as CakePHP and projects like the PHP Extension Community Library (PECL) and the PHP Extension and Application Repository (PEAR) as well. Members of the PHP community, who already may be uneasy with media types (like me) conflating PHP (the open source language and community) and Zend (the PHP product vendor), may not be as supportive of Zend’s relationships with the likes of Microsoft–anathema to the most virulent open source advocates in the PHP community.
Still, Microsoft had a clear presence at the conference, stepping up as a Platinum sponsor via its open source community web site, Port25, and hosting a session titled, “Microsoft’s PHP Community Involvement.” Presented by the Director of Microsoft’s Open Source Technology Center Tom Hanrahan, a more accurate title of the session would have been “How Microsoft Plans to Support Open Source Software on the Windows Platform.” Hanrahan devoted most of the hour to Microsoft’s open source efforts on all fronts. The PHP-specific news saved for the end included:
- An ADOdb patch contributed under the LGPL
- A SQL Server PHP Driver
- An IIS7 + Fast CGI module, which fixes IIS (Internet Information Services) compatibility problems with several popular PHP applications
- A new site, windows.php.net, dedicated specifically to Windows support for PHP
One representative from the PHP community who attended the Microsoft session was Paul Reinheimer, the host of a popular radio-style PHP podcast called P3 (php|architect’s PHP Podcast). Reinheimer began his career as a Java developer, but discovered PHP eight years ago when he grew frustrated with the rigors of “Java casting.” He, for one, took a pragmatic view toward both Microsoft’s open source pitch and Zend’s PHP drive into the enterprise.
Reinheimer acknowledged that some of his peers in the PHP community would not have stepped foot into a Microsoft session, but praised Redmond for “doing a lot of good work.” He also views enterprise adoption as “good news for PHP.” Reinheimer said, “More eyes looking at the problems makes the language better.”
He explained that the larger companies have the resources to allow their engineers who make fixes to contribute them back to the community, whereas smaller organizations may not have the bandwidth to do so.