Zend Plans Treats, Tricks for System i Programmers
October 30, 2007 Alex Woodie
Halloween is tomorrow night, and for all you System i types planning on dressing up as something really frightening this year–such as a ghost, a goblin, or a PHP programmer–Zend Technologies has a few tricks and treats in store for you. For starters, you’ll get new features around the MySQL and SQL Server databases, and WYSIWYG functionality. You also gain the capability to install Zend Core for i5/OS directly from Windows. Now if that doesn’t scare you, nothing will.
For some time now, Zend has been working on the upcoming version 2.5 release of Zend Core, as well as the version of that environment designed specifically for the System i, called Zend Core for i5/OS. At the ZendCon user conference three weeks ago, Zend discussed some of the general new features coming to the new release of Zend Core. More recently, Zend shared with us some of the new features coming to Zend Core for i5/OS version 2.5, which the company expects to ship in November.
For starters, if you’re using the MySQL database with Zend Core for i5/OS, you will no longer need to install MySQL separately, as the database will be installed at the same time as Core for i5/OS, making installation more straightforward for System i users. Simplified installation of MySQL with Core for i5/OS will be a welcome change for any System i users who have struggled to install and deploy MySQL, which usually runs under the i5 operating system’s AIX PASE runtime environment. Official support for MySQL on System i didn’t exist until August, when IBM and MySQL started shipping MySQL Enterprise for i5/OS, a new package of software and support services that System i customers can purchase through standard sales channels.
Also, System i users will, for the first time, be able to connect their PHP applications running on System i servers to a SQL Server database running under Windows (which is the only operating system SQL Server runs on, of course). This feature has been in high-demand among System i shops, which tend to also be big users of Windows applications and, therefore, the SQL Server databases that serve them data. It will be at least one more release before support for SQL Server with Zend Core for i5/OS will be a regularly supported offering. With the upcoming 2.5 release, SQL Server support will be available as a feature or a preview, according to Jim Dillard, the Zend executive who manages the alliance with IBM.
System i-Windows integrations will also be boosted thanks to the new capability to install Core for i5/OS on System i servers using their Windows application deployment tools. This new capability is part of a broader push by Zend to improve the deployment and ongoing management (i.e., patching) of PHP applications and the underlying stack, including databases and Web servers.
There is also some news regarding Zend Platform for System i. Zend Platform, you will remember, builds on the basic PHP development and runtime capabilities already delivered with Zend Core and Zend Studio by giving System i developers access to additional tools to fine-tune their PHP applications for maximum performance, such as the detection and resolution of performance problems and runtime errors. Following the recent user conference, Zend decided that it would be best to extend the evaluation period for Zend Platform for System i 3.X until December 25. This was the recommendation offered by the joint Zend-COMMON advisory panel that was formed recently. Testers whose Zend Platform 3.X evaluation period has already expired are encouraged to ask for an extension by contacting Zend at www.zend.com/helpdesk/newticket.php?pid=196&redirect_http=1.
Zend is also working on an update to Zend Studio that will eventually make PHP a supported language inside the Eclipse development framework. Support for Zend Studio as an Eclipse plug-in (via a new product called Zend Studio for Eclipse) will further simplify life for System i programmers who already do most of their development in WebSphere Development Studio Client (WDSc). Zend Studio for Eclipse will also simplify development of HTML by introducing support for drag-and-drop development of HTML. Developers will benefit by gaining what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) functionality.
A beta release of Zend Studio for Eclipse that supports i5/OS is available now. The beta doesn’t plug in to Eclipse, and can only be used as a stand-alone tool at the moment. However, it will function as an Eclipse plug-in when the product becomes generally availability during the first quarter of 2008, according to Dillard.