BCD And Zend Aim For Expanded PHP Development
October 12, 2015 Dan Burger
PHP brings multi-platform capabilities, but for many IT Jungle readers it’s all about the IBM i and the RPG green-screen applications that are being lined up and converted to browser-based apps using open source PHP. The popularity of PHP in the IBM midrange community continues to grow. It’s undeniably the most successful open source story in the community. Along with that is the partnership between Zend Technologies and BCD Software. It continues to grow as well.
BCD and Zend last week announced a stronger bond in their business relationship, which has been in place for three years. For BCD, the result of becoming a premier partner is expected to bring a tighter integration of its application development environment with the Zend PHP framework. It also opens the door for BCD to expand its PHP services business.
Product integration efforts have included Zend’s Z-Ray debugging tool for PHP and BCD’s WebSmart and, before that, WebSmart templates with Zend Framework 2.
“We are now looking at Zend Framework 3 with WebSmart templates in mind,” says Marcel Sarrasin, vice president of corporate marketing at Quadrant Software, the parent company of BCD. The BCD partnership with Zend, which dates back to 2012, combines a rapid development tool, WebSmart, with the Zend Server.
Zend works with multiple application tool vendors to deliver PHP options to the widest audience it can. BCD adds to that objective. BCD benefits by gaining the ability to move more quickly on all levels of PHP development, marketing, and build initiatives.
“Our strength is developing templates that create the base application for people in a couple of minutes,” Sarrasin says.
With the approaching availability of PHP 7, Sarrasin sees opportunities for the BCD-Zend partnership to thrive. Perhaps the best opportunity is in the services sector–helping companies upgrade to PHP 7.
“We have a segment of customers that lack the time and/or the experience to do an upgrade,” Sarrasin says. He describes the BCD services team as “one of the biggest in the i community” and estimates it to be “10 times bigger than anyone else doing PHP services.”
For companies eager to move to PHP 7, primarily for the anticipated performance upgrade, BCD services will audit code to determine functions that may be deprecated and assist with the transition. Zend will be doing the same thing with the same tools, but BCD has the coding expertise that will be valuable to companies that aren’t in a position to do the coding themselves. Zend is content to stay clear of any coding work.
Although the PHP oriented portion of the BCD customer base will take note of this, the services department build up goes beyond the BCD customer base and it goes beyond IBM i shops.
“We can help shops regardless of the IDE being used,” Sarrasin says. “It’s all PHP code. It doesn’t look any different from one IDE to another.”
BCD’s services staff is made up of mostly full-time BCD employees, with some business partners also assisting in services. The staff continues to expand, Sarrasin says. However, the size of the services department and the percentage of contract employees was not revealed.
While we’ve seen IBM i shops become more willing to invest in modernization projects, a great majority of them are unable to do the projects on their own. That’s why we’re seeing BCD and many other vendors building up the services side of their businesses.
Another partnership benefit for BCD came earlier this year when BCD started selling Zend Server. Previously BCD referred those business deals to Zend. BCD says it has exceeded Zend Server sales expectations without saying what those expectations were. But having Zend Server to sell puts them in a better customer/vendor relationship and builds technical skills for the BCD internal staff.
BCD is not the exclusive seller of Zend Server. But it is a preferred service provider for custom coding projects, which gives them a value add when taking with customers.
“We are working with companies that are willing to invest in IBM i,” Sarrasin says. “It is still a strategic platform for them. They’ve decided that they are committed to the platform and they are looking to take advantage of their data and existing applications. Many are making B2B e-commerce sites. That’s a pretty significant investment. And now they are bringing in orders from the Web from either partners or customers, which makes a big difference.”
In terms of learning PHP, a roadblock for many companies, Sarrasin says BCD provides an advantage with its template-oriented alternative to learning PHP from square one.
“When developers see applications built over their own database files, they can understand it really well. When they walk through the code that we created for the templates, they really learn about PHP. They see how we connected to DB2, where the SQL statements are, and how the PHP functions that do what’s needed,” Sarrasin says.
“We have templates for all levels of development. Some are more procedural and are easier for an RPG programmer to understand. We have some that are object oriented. In either case, our templates make it easier to understand the flow of the application as opposed to learning PHP from scratch.”
Stephen Woodard, CEO of the Quadrant Group, says the future looks bright for BCD, Zend, and the IBM i community.
“We’re proud to be acknowledged as a Zend Premier Partner and will continue to invest in our partnership,” Woodard says. “BCD is committed to helping organizations succeed with PHP on IBM i and we’re looking forward to adding even more value to our collective offerings. With BCD and Zend, organizations have a proven PHP-on-IBM i resource, from development and professional services to deployment.”