Congratulations, PHP: You Are Legacy Now
February 17, 2014 Alex Woodie
Zend Technology is figuring out what IBM figured out a long time ago: that success is a double-edge sword. With an estimated 240 million Web applications powered by PHP and widespread adoption by the Fortune 500, it was just a matter of time before Zend relented to its customers and eased up on the oh-so-hurried three-year upgrade cycle. As of today, Zend is supporting the PHP language and its PHP runtime for a minimum of five years, with the possibility of longer support.
The shift from a three-year support policy to a five-year support policy for PHP and the Zend Server runtime was made directly in response to customer requests, says Ido Benmoshe, Zend’s vice president of global services. “PHP has matured. We’re seeing major adoption in enterprise on IBM i and Linux and Windows,” he says. “Many of these applications have a longer lifespan. Not all of them can keep up with PHP.”
Things were coming to a head with the coming end of support for PHP 5.2 and 5.3, which accounts for 60 to 70 percent of PHP use in the wild, according to surveys referenced by Zend. Those PHP releases–and the older version 5.x releases of the Zend Server PHP runtime that they are loosely tied too–were nearing the end of support by the open source community, which just finished work on PHP 5.5 and is now moving on to work on PHP 5.6.
It’s a simple matter that the quick development pace of the open source community was too fast for enterprises, Benmoshe says. In response, Zend is stepping up to assure customers that it will fix any security flaws or bugs discovered in the older releases that the open source community has long since moved past. The additional years have been added to Zend’s standard support policies for the Professional and Enterprise editions of its PHP runtime.
The time and expense associated with opening up the “legacy” PHP applications to upgrade them to newer release of PHP is too great for many customers to justify Benmoshe says. “We are working with the open source community to release cutting-edge technology to address new market needs,” he tells IT Jungle. “But at the same time, there are many applications out there where the cost of migration is just too heavy. We have healthcare and insurance applications that are regulated and can’t keep up with the releases. We have applications that are highly distributed in manufacturing plants in the automotive industry. And it’s very difficult to keep up with upgrades. There’s a large cost associated with it.”
The company put the new support policy into action with last week’s release of Zend Server version 6.3 for all supported platforms–IBM i, Windows, and Linux. The new release of the PHP runtime adds support for the new PHP 5.5 release. But it also supports PHP versions 5.4 and 5.3, and Zend is pledging to support this combination of PHP language and runtime at least until February 2017.
For IBM i shops running applications written in PHP version 5.2, Zend will continue to provide support through Zend Server for IBM i version 5.6. That is the “long term support vehicle,” as Zend puts it, for those legacy PHP applications written four years ago.
The term “legacy” is obviously loaded in the IT world and is typically used in a pejorative way to call something old and not-worthy. Of course, those in the IBM i community realize that just because something is old, that doesn’t mean it has lost all value. It is interesting to see that Zend is experiencing this phenomenon first-hand, considering the pain and consternation the “legacy” label causes so many IBM i professionals who are forced to defend the IBM i platform to unknowledgeable IT and business types on a regular basis.
In other news, Zend announced that it has streamlined the process for enabling developers to access the features of the IBM i XML Toolkit from a Windows machine. The implementation has been streamlined greatly, says Zend’s Joshua Solomin.
“Before it was more complicated than it needed to be, to be perfectly honest,” he says. “It took a little bit of hacking. Now that is much more streamlined and easier, it allows developer organizations who are writing for the IBM i to say, ‘here’s your Windows version, deploy this library, and you’re off and running.'”