IBM Brings Freebie PHP to the Mainframe
Published: June 12, 2007
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
Mainframe maker IBM has announced that it has created a variant of the PHP programming language that runs on its mainframe systems equipped with several of the most recent releases of its z/OS operating system. PHP is, of course, one of the most popular scripting languages out there on the Internet, and is increasingly in the programmer toolbox at all data centers--whether or not they use mainframes.
As is the case with its System i proprietary midrange platform, which runs the OS/400 and i5/OS operating system, IBM is using the Unix runtime environment that is embedded in its mainframes to provide the PHP functionality. On the System i machines, Zend Core for i5/OS runs within an AIX runtime environment called the Portable Application Solution Environment (PASE). IBM has worked with Zend Technologies, the creator of the open source PHP programming language, to provide hooks into the System i's integrated database management system, commonly called DB2/400 but actually a program with no name, as well as data queues and other system files. Zend is offering this Zend Core for i5/OS program for free to customers who download it, but IBM is actually paying for it behind the scenes though a partnership relationship with Zend.
On the mainframe, PHP is a free feature of the Ported Tools for z/OS, and it is being delivered in a similar manner as on the System i platform. In this case, the PHP engine is running in the z/OS Unix System Services environment within z/OS, which is analogous to PASE. (It is funny to think that z/OS and its predecessor, OS/390, had enough embedded Unix APIs that it could have actually been branded a Unix platform in its own right. Uni/z or z/Unix, anyone?) As was the case on the System i platform, PHP for z/OS V1.1.2 has hooks into the DB2 for z/OS database--in this case, using the ODBC protocol. This program is a port of the PHP 5.1.2 engine created by Zend.
Ported Tools for z/OS includes the Perl scripting language--also popular out there on the Web--as well as the OpenSSH secure shell. The xvfb X server, which emulates window-style environments on Unix and Linux machines, is also part of the toolset and is necessary since there is no native graphical windowing environment for mainframes. For PHP, mainframe shops have to have z/OS V1.6 or z/OS.e V1/6 or higher. PHP scripts can run in command lines or using Common Gateway Interface (CGI ) links between Web pages and other programs.
If you want to get your hands on these freebie tools, you can do so on this IBM site. Big Blue will also ship it to you on 3480 formatted tape drives if you ask nice.
By supporting PHP on the mainframe in a mostly native way, IBM has allowed mainframe shops to plunk untold numbers of PHP-based scripts and programs onto their big iron boxes, rather than having to make this PHP code run on an outboard machine and then link to a mainframe through the corporate network. This is all a good thing for IBM's main marketing message for the mainframe, which is that it runs legacy applications very efficiently and that it is a suitable platform for consolidating workloads that might otherwise run on Linux, Unix, or Windows servers.
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