Zend Puts Out New Release of Commercial-Grade PHP
Published: October 15, 2007
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
The third annual ZendCon conference for PHP programmers and vendors of PHP-related products was held in Cupertino, California, last week, and Zend Technology, the creator and maintainer of the open source PHP language and runtime tools, is using the event as a springboard for its new Zend Core 2.5 product, which includes development tools and runtime environments for specific platforms. Zend also announced the "Neon" beta release of Zend Studio for Eclipse as well as various integrations with products from IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle.
Zend Core 2.5 is an incremental release of the commercial-grade PHP environment from Zend, and it is initially available as a generic program for Linux and Windows operating systems, including the beta Windows 2008 Server, code-named "Longhorn." Over time, Zend will create variants of the Core platform, one for integrating with Oracle databases on Windows, Unix, and Linux platforms--Zend Core for Oracle--one for integrating with IBM's i5/OS proprietary platform and its DB2/400 database--Zend Core for i5/OS--and one for developers using IBM's Cloudscape databases (known now as DB2 Express-C) and running on Power-based machines using AIX or Linux--Zend Core for IBM.
Zend Core 2.5 includes the PHP 5.2 language and interpreter, which supports XML and Web services and employs object-oriented programming techniques (as opposed to PHP 4.X from two years ago, which did not). With the new Zend Core 2.5, Zend has simplified the way the full PHP application stack is installed, which includes the Apache or Internet Information Services (IIS) Web server; DB2, MySQL, Oracle, or SQL Server databases; and the Zend Studio 5 integrated development environment. The latest release supports unattended deployment of the Zend stack using popular systems management and provisioning tools. The Zend tools have also been updated to make it easier to patch and maintain the elements of the Core stack from the same console rather than doing it individually for each program.
Zend also announced last week that it is now able to bundle and directly support IBM's DB2 Express-C database for Core customers, and furthermore says that it has become a distributor of IBM's DB2 Connect middleware, which allows PHP applications to talk to DB2 databases running on i5/OS (that's DB2/400) and z/OS (that's the mainframe version, called just DB2). Zend is charging $3,000 per database server plus a per client connect fee for DB2 Connect.
Microsoft and Zend are also making a bunch of announcements relating to Zend Core 2.5. A year ago at ZendCon, Microsoft and Zend announced their partnership to make PHP work better on Windows, and this year the first fruits of their alliance are starting to ripen. Microsoft will announce a beta of an add-on component for its IIS Web server called FastCGI, which is a new interface between IIS and PHP that transforms the multithreaded access model of IIS to the multiprocess model favored by Apache. In essence, FastCGI makes PHP think it is talking to Apache when IIS is doing the talking. The code is in beta today for Windows Server 2003 and IE 6 or Windows Server 2008 and IIS 7, and it can yield a 200 percent to 300 percent performance improvement for PHP applications running atop Windows and IIS--basically on par with Linux and Apache.
Zend and Microsoft have also announced that Zend Core will be available as a variant of the Windows Server Core platform, a stripped-down implementation of Windows Server 2008 that just has the barebones Windows services necessary to run specific stacks of software. For the Windows Core Server for Zend, everything that is not necessary to running PHP will be removed from the distribution, reducing the Windows footprint down to about 1 GB, according to Andi Gutmans, co-founder and co-chief technology officer at Zend. It is interesting to note that the .NET Framework and related Common Language Runtime are not going to be included in the Windows Server Core for Zend distribution.
Microsoft is also going to announce that it is contributing some PHP code that it developed itself to integrate Zend with the Information Card identity management feature of Windows Vista. (Yes, Microsofties wrote open source code, and they did it in PHP.) Information Card is a single sign-on feature of Windows XP and Mac OS X as well. This support is being woven into Zend Framework, which has seen 2.2 million downloads, according to Gutmans.
On the Oracle front, Zend will announce that it is working to add support for database resident connection pooling, a new feature of the Oracle 11g database, in the upcoming release of Zend Core for Oracle, which is based on the Zend Core 2.5 code base.
As Zend and the Eclipse Foundation announced four weeks ago, Zend Studio is being remade in the image of the open source Eclipse integrated development environment, through a project code-named Neon. IBM has contributed heavily to this effort, as has Zend, because both know that programmers do not just code with one language even if they do want to code with an IDE that presents various languages with the same look and feel inside that IDE. Zend Studio for Eclipse is the commercialized version of the Eclipse PHP Development Tools (PDT) project, which will undoubtedly also make its way in some form into IBM's WebSphere and Rational development tools. Zend expects the commercial release of Neon in early 2008. According to Gutmans, IBMers are snapping PDT components into WebSphere Development Studio Client now, but the features have not been certified yet.
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