Shield Now Distributing Easycom PHP Connector in North America
September 27, 2011 Alex Woodie
Organizations eager to connect their new PHP applications with their existing IBM i data and programs may be interested to know that Shield Advanced Solutions is the new North American distributor for the Easycom software from the French developer AURA Equipments. Easycom was previously the IBM i-to-PHP integration glue that shipped with Zend Technologies‘s PHP stack, until it was replaced with the open source XML Toolkit, creating a minor controversy.
The new XML Toolkit takes over integration tasks like making RPG program calls accessing DB2/400 data. It’s been available as a beta since Zend Server 5.1 for IBM i shipped in June, and becomes generally available with Zend Server 5.5 for IBM i, which is due to ship this December, alongside the new Zend DBi database that’s a drop-in replacement for MySQL on IBM i (see “Zend Reveals DBi, A New Version of MySQL for IBM i” in yesterday’s issue of The Four Hundred).
IBM and Zend, which co-developed the new XML Toolkit, maintain the new toolkit does a better and more transparent job of connecting new IBM i-based PHP workloads with existing IBM i data and resources. For starters, the software is open source, which lets programmers see how the product works. Zend says it will also require less coding to write program calls, perform faster, and offer more functionality than the old toolkit.
But the new toolkit’s short existence as a beta product has already stirred up some bad feelings, particularly with AURA CEO Sylvain Rubele, who has told IT Jungle that he feels his product was pushed aside in favor of an inferior product. Rubele has said that the latest version 4.0 release of Easycom holds several advantages over the new XML toolkit, including greater speed and stability, and the capability to run IBM i integration workloads on Window or Linux machines. Rubele expressed unhappiness with the way IBM and Zend decided to stop distributing his product. After all, anytime IBM is distributing your code, it feels nice. And when it ends, it hurts, and packs a financial sting to boot.
But Rubele is not alone in bad mouthing the new XML Toolkit. Shield president Chris Hird has also written about difficulties with the new toolkit in the Shield blog. Hird had difficultly getting the new kit up and running, even after taking 5.5 hours to install Zend Server for IBM i. And in a post titled “New XML Service is not what I expected,” Hird casts doubt on IBM’s and Zend’s performance claims for the new toolkit compared to the old toolkit, which is now sold as Easycom.
All of this adds up to Shield’s recent appointment to become the new North American distributor for Easycom. Last week, Hird announced that Shield will be the source of Easycom for IBM i customers in the United States and Canada. His company, which is located near Toronto, Ontario, will also resell Easycom to English IBM i shops through its office in the U.K. Shield will also provide technical support for Easycom.
“We absolutely love the product and even though we feel an IBM i-centric solution is preferable where possible, using Easycom server on the IBM i with the Web service running on a remote server (Windows or Linux–doesn’t matter) provides too many benefits to ignore,” Hird writes on his blog last week.
“We have seen the product [the new XML toolkit] improve significantly since Zend introduced the Zend Server product to replace the Zend Core product, but have always been impressed with the speed and capabilities of running Easycom server on a separate server accessing the IBM i,” he continues. “Even though Zend is easier now, it is still difficult for many, and a lack of support after the first year without considerable cost is causing many to give up before the real benefits are seen.”
Zend Server for IBM i, which is distributed as part of the IBM i operating system, is free to all IBM i shops for one year–a considerably generous arrangement that has undoubtedly contributed to the big uptake of PHP by IBM i types. After that year is up, they must purchase support contracts from Zend if they want to continue to have professional support. Customers that are comfortable with getting help and support from the community of users that has built up around the open source development language also have that available to them.
It’s worth noting that while Zend will no longer include the old AURA toolkit with Zend Server 5.5 for IBM i when it ships this December, the old toolkit will continue to work with PHP apps running under the Zend Server PHP stack, even under Zend Server 5.5. All new development done using Zend Server 5.5 for IBM i, however, must be done using the new open source toolkit, unless users purchase the Easycom product from AURA or, now Shield.
In addition to announcing the Easycom distributorship, Shield has also created a new Easycom group on the business-oriented social networking website Linked-In. Hird welcomes anybody who’s interested in Easycom and IBM i-based PHP to join the group at www.linkedin.com/groups/Easycom-PHP-4097951.