BCD Cranks Up Its PHP Engine
May 6, 2015 Alex Woodie
It’s no secret that BCD Software likes PHP. The company, owned by Quadrant Software since February 2014, has supported the Web application programming language since it rolled out a special PHP version of WebSmart back in 2007. But with the recent launches of two new PHP bundles aimed at IBM i shops, as well as support for Zend‘s Z-Ray functionality, the company is taking its affinity for PHP to a whole new level.
BCD used last week’s COMMON conference as a springboard to launch two new software bundles that combine the WebSmart development tools and Zend’s PHP software for IBM i, along with training.
The first bundle, called DevSmart, gets you the WebSmart integrated development environment (IDE) for PHP along with Zend Server Basic, the low-end PHP package that includes a PHP runtime and not much else. Through a deal that Zend has with IBM, all IBM i shops are eligible to get Zend Sever Basic free of charge for 12 months. DevSmart also includes BCD’s jumpstart services, such as WebSmart configuration and training videos.
The second bundle, called ProSmart, includes the WebSmart IDE and BCD jumpstart services, along with Zend Server Professional, a more feature rich PHP runtime for IBM i (and other platforms). Zend Server Pro includes more advanced features–such as support for Zend’s Z-Ray debugger, code-tracing, and application monitoring capabilities–designed to help companies running PHP applications in production situations. (By comparison, Basic Edition is best suited for organizations just starting their PHP journey.)
BCD, which is now a reseller for Zend, can also sell the Zend Server Professional edition to its IBM i customers. The two key benefits of the enterprise edition over the professional edition are 24/7 technical support and a full audit trail of changes made to the PHP application, says Quadrant vice president of corporate marketing Marcel Sarrasin.
No matter which package they select–professional or enterprise–BCD’s bundle buyers will be getting Zend’s Z-Ray tool. The tool, which Zend co-founder Zeev Suraski likened to “X-ray goggles” for coders, is included with every Zend PHP runtime except for Basic Edition.
As Sarrasin explains, Z-Ray makes debugging a PHP app a pleasant experience. “What we’ve done is integrated Z-Ray into WebSmart PHP, so when you go to work with a PHP script within the WebSmart IDE, you can now see all the information that Z-Ray provides, right within the IDE itself,” he says. “You’ll actually see the historical snapshot of the request for that application–Were there any performance issues? Were there any errors?–and you get all the information right in the script you’re developing at that time.”
One area where Z-Ray will really shine is debugging SQL statements, Sarrasin says. “When you’re coding PHP applications, your SQL statements are often dynamic, and you don’t always know at runtime what the SQL statement was, what parameters were passed,” he tells IT Jungle. “So another thing that Z-Ray does is it shows you the exact SQL statement that was run. Prior to that, most of our customers would probably have just dumped out the SQL statements onto the screen to see what that was. So it saves them a step every time.”
Among its IBM i customers, BCD is seeing a mix of different PHP usage patterns. At the bottom of the spectrum are tire-kickers who are experimenting with using open source PHP to develop Web apps on the IBM i server; they typically spend no money. Above them are a fair number of shops who have adopted Zend Server Basic Edition (which, as we mentioned, is free for a year for all IBM i shops). At the top of the pyramid are a handful of IBM i shops using PHP in critical applications that must be protected with professional support contracts and tuned for performance.
Sarrasin sees more customers moving up the support ladder as they become more comfortable with (and reliant on) PHP on IBM i. “The people we’re talking to are just getting started,” he says. “They should be going for one of the supported editions. Right now it’s not everybody, but more people should be using them.”
The reseller partnership with Zend almost didn’t happen, by the way. While BCD has been helping customers develop in PHP for the past eight years, Zend viewed BCD as more of a competitor than a partner for most of them. (Zend also sells a development tool, called Zend Studio, that does the same stuff WebSmart PHP does.) Thanks to a leadership change at Zend, the two companies are now cozied up and tackling the PHP-on-IBM i market together. In recognition of BCD’s commitment to PHP, last week at COMMON the company hosted a cocktail party for the IBM i community’s PHP devotees.
One final word about money: Organizations that buy one of BCD’s bundles will get special promotional pricing. We’re not quite sure what the discount is, but we do know that it’s good for 90 days.
BCD/Quadrant made a number of other announcements at last week’s COMMON show, including enhancements to its Presto modernization tool. We’ll cover those in a separate story in a future issue of The Four Hundred.