Volume 12, Number 25 -- September 18, 2012

Zend Expects Biggest PHP Confab Yet with ZendCon '12

Published: September 18, 2012

by Alex Woodie

The PHP world will descend upon Santa Clara, California, next month for the eigth annual ZendCon conference, hosted by Zend Technologies. Zend anticipates its biggest show yet, with close to 1,000 attendees expected to hear about the latest enhancements to the language by PHP gurus, and to learn about the latest product updates, such as Zend Framework 2. There will also be a strong IBM i contingent at the show, with separate sessions and events.

Zend officials recently briefed IT Jungle on what the show will hold for all attendees, and also what's in store for the 200 or so IBM i professionals expected to attend.

Any session that covers Zend Framework 2.0, which became generally available two weeks ago, is expected to be heavily attended. The Zend Framework implements a model-view-controller (MVC) foundation upon which to build and run PHP Web applications with a lot of coding, and handles important application tasks such as security and authorization, database access, session management, data logging, and so forth.

ZF 2 is expected to bring greater modularity, with greater reuse of modules among different ZF applications. Workflow has also been improved with the launch of ServiceManager and EventManager components, which give developers the capability to build more sophisticated processes that trigger and execute automatically. Security has also been enhanced with ZF 2, thanks to new encryption capabilities and bolstered defenses against today's blended Web attacks.

ZF 2 is available now, but IBM i customers will want to wait for ZF 2.1, which should be released between now and ZendCon in late October, says Zend IBM i guru Mike Pavlak. "The framework itself runs fine in its current state. However the database adapter still needs work, and that will be officially released in version 2.1 of Zend Framework, which we're hoping to have before ZendCon," Pavlak says. "It's a great time to kick the tires and play around with [ZF2] it and then right around ZendCon time they'll have a database adapter that's ready to rock."

ZendCon doesn't have an IBM i track per se, but there are five specific sessions that are geared toward the IBM i audience. The big IBM i day at ZendCon is Tuesday, October 23, when four of those five IBM i sessions are scheduled.

One of the highly anticipated IBM i-specific sessions at ZendCon is Alan Seiden's session on the new open source XML Toolkit that debuted with the launch of Zend Server for IBM i version 5.6 in January. Seiden, who helped develop the toolkit (and who just started his new IBM i-PHP consulting company, Alan Seiden Consulting this summer), will provide an insider's perspective on the toolkit's capabilities and ways it can be used to hook existing IBM i assets into new PHP applications.

Most of ZendCon's sessions are platform agnostic and appeal to a wide audience and developers, but Seiden's class is not one of them. "Linux developers aren't interested in how to call an RPG program, but IBM i shops are very interested in that, and they're going to come to that XML Toolkit session because we're going to have all the latest updates on the toolkit that were just released about three weeks ago, a major update to the distribution," Pavlak says.

John Valance, another IBM i on-PHP consultant, will present two IBM i-specific sessions, including "PHP--Beyond the Basics" and case study on an IBM i-based work order management system written in PHP. Chris Tankersley will round out the IBM i-PHP lineup with "A Tale of Two Applications," which compares how he led two projects to develop similar applications on the IBM i server--one in Java and the other in PHP. (To find out which platform was better, you should attend the show.)

ZendCon's big IBM i day on October 23 will wind down with an evening get-together specifically for IBM i professionals. "Sometimes at a large event like ZendCon, where there's so many different people with so many different perspectives on PHP--the Linux folks, the Windows folks, the open source folks, the proprietary folks--it's nice for the IBM i folks to get together and see what each other is up to," Pavlak says. "We started doing this four years ago and the attendees really like it."

One of the sessions that should draw a big crowd from all platforms is Ilia Alshanetsky's October 23 presentation on PHP 5.4, the current release of the language. Alshanetsky is one of the core developers of PHP, and sits on the Zend Education Advisory Board. When he talks about the language, PHP developers listen.

Zend is also instituting a new Partner Summit at this year's show that's designed to help Zend's business partners prepare for what's coming down the pike. "The target will be Zend business partners, such as BCD, and we'll be doing a preview of what's coming in 2013," says Elaine Lennox, Zend's chief marketing officer. "We're going to be showing them all the new stuff that isn't released, with the goal to build a more constructive relationship and to provide partners with networking opportunities." The event is by invitation only.

PHP is no longer a new language on the IBM i platform. Pavlak says he had so many good case studies to showcase at this year's show (including maybe some legacy IBM i-PHP apps) that he had a tough time picking. And with one out of five attendees at the upcoming show expected to be an IBM i professional, it's safe to say that PHP has firmly established itself as a regular at the IBM i table.

But that doesn't mean it's always easy to sell IBM i shops on PHP, which makes events like ZendCon critical for Zend. "When it comes to new technology, I don't think we're any different than anybody else on the block. We have to prove ourselves and show management that there's an ROI," Pavlak says.

"Now I think we are all aware that folks in IBM i community are dreadfully conservative, and that's not a bad thing," he continues. "But they really, really want to be sure before they come down this road. We have a lot of folks who are in the early adoption, can-you-explain-to-me-what-PHP-is-again, phase. But once they make that commitment, they are in with both feet."

The early bird registration deadline for ZendCon has expired, but that shouldn't discourage the information-hungry PHP developer from attending the show--especially considering the amount of education they can get for a donation of $1,395 (or $1,145 without the tutorials). For more information or to register, visit the show's website at www.zendcon.com.


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