PHP And SQL Driving Modernization Strategies At IBM i Shops, Zend Says
October 20, 2014 Alex Woodie
A significant percentage of IBM i professionals are adopting technologies like PHP and SQL to boost their modernization strategies, according to a recent survey conducted by Zend. The survey says that 70 percent of IBM i pros are using PHP at their shops. But perhaps more surprising was the finding that 67 percent of respondents said they were using the SQL engine in DB2 for i, nearly twice as many who reported using the old DDL approach.
Zend began the survey at the spring COMMON event and continued it through the summer from the Zend website. All in all, more than 400 IBM i professionals took the survey, which sported just nine questions. The bulk of the questions involved PHP, which is not surprising considering that Zend is “the PHP company.” Of the 416 people who took the survey, about 290 of them say they use PHP in some capacity on their IBM i server.
“That 70 percent really reflects a lot of light users out there, not heavy users,” says Amy Anderson, a longtime IBM Rochester employee who joined Zend earlier this year as director of business development. “As I go to shows and talk to different people, what I hear a lot of is, ‘Yeah we’re doing a little bit with PHP. We have a couple of things going. We’re looking around and playing with it.'”
However, about 45 percent of the survey respondents are heavier users who have five or more PHP applications running, the survey says. It’s not surprising that survey respondents reported that 96 percent of the PHP apps they do have running on IBM i are “business critical” in nature. About 25 percent of the survey respondents reported buying a new system or upgrading their existing ones to support the new PHP apps.
The fact that PHP is driving hardware revenue for IBM does not surprise Anderson. “We talk to customers all the time who say they bought a new machine or did an upgrade,” she says. “And almost invariably, it’s a PHP application that’s talking to RPG. So it’s the integration of PHP and RPG running IBM i that really becomes an integral part of the business function.”
The database portion of the survey brought some surprises. For starters, 43 percent say they’re running MySQL, the open source relational database from Oracle that is just the second database officially supported by IBM on the platform. While Oracle ceased developing MySQL running on IBM i a few years ago, Zend works with a company called Percona to do the work of ensuring MySQL continues to run on IBM i.
But even more surprising is the fact that 67 percent of survey respondents say they’re running SQL with DB2 for i, and only 37 percent say they’re using the older DDL query engine that was originally developed for RPG (survey respondents could choose multiple databases). That tells Anderson, a database expert, that IBM i shops are getting serious about modernization.
“So often you hear people say ‘Oh IBM i customers, you can’t even get them over to SQL. They’re not there yet,'” she says. “We’re seeing that they are. And not only are they using DB2 for i, but also using MySQL, and comfortably.”
Anderson, who still lives and works in Rochester, says she’s very pleased to see that the customer base is moving forward with database modernization. “We know there’s still a preponderance of RPG. So that tells us people are using RPG, they no doubt have some DDL tucked away into those RPG applications,” she says.
“But they’re moving to SQL and finding that SQL works just beautifully with RPG, and it gives you this access into newer applications, modernized applications,” she continues. “That’s really your first step in modernization, and to see this uptake on both SQL and MySQL really speaks highly of the IBM i community, that it is moving into modernization, that it is continuing to be vibrant community of people who are staying on the cutting edge.”
Getting applications accessible from a Web browser continue to be a major focus of IBM i shops, and a goal for modernization efforts. But increasingly, IBM i shops are also looking to support mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones. Anderson says customers that take a strategic approach to modernizing that starts with the core database layer and then moves up the stack will be more successful in supporting whatever devices come next than those customers who are looking for a “quick fix.”
“My core competency is around database technologies, and I really see moving from a traditional file system to a SQL method of data access as being your first step in modernizing,” she says. “You gotta do that first because you can’t get to Web interfaces and mobile interfaces if you’re not using SQL as your data access method. The fact that we’re really seeing users embrace SQL says that people are really moving down this path of modernization.”
Zend is gearing up for its annual user conference next week, when it’s expected to unveil new releases of its tools. Look for news about those announcements in future issues of Four Hundred Stuff. In the meantime, you can read more about Zend’s survey on the Zend blog.