Zend Server for IBM i Now 64-Bit, Available Via RPM
January 20, 2021 Alex Woodie
IBM i shops can now get Zend Server for IBM i via RPM, which has become the standard method for obtaining and installing open source software on the IBM i platform. The enterprise-grade PHP runtime for IBM i also now runs in 64-bit mode, according to Perforce, the owner of the Zend PHP products.
According to the release notes for Zend Server 2020 for IBM i, the new release brings a host of new features, changes, and fixes to the product. Among the biggest changes is the adoption of RPM packaging for all components, including the IBM i specific ones and any other required PECL extensions.
The IBM i open source community has embraced RPM and YUM as the standard methods for installing open source products, so adhering to this standard should make it easier for Zend Server for IBM i customers to get access to the software.
Using RPM will help IBM i customers migrate to newer versions of PHP, says Erwin Earley, a senior solutions consultant for Zend with Perforce.
“Like other versions of Zend Server, Zend Server 2020 can be installed alongside other versions of Zend Server, which enables side-by-side migration of applications to new versions of PHP,” Earley tells IT Jungle via email.
Zend Server 2020 for IBM i also runs now as a 64-bit application, compared to running in 32-bit mode in previous releases. Earley says benchmark tests show the 64-bit version runs about 5 percent faster than the 32-bit version. But the real benefit of having 64-bits of addressable memory is stability and compatibility, he says.
“The 32-bit versions of PHP were starting to show their age and some support issues were being seen that were difficult to impossible to resolve in 32-bit,” Earley explains. “64-bit will resolve that issue. From a compatibility viewpoint, having 64-bit PHP enables the use of ODBC as a database connector. That’s not to say that ibm_db2 is going away (it’s not); however, ODBC is IBM’s stated direction/preference for connection between Open Source languages and Db2.”
This release also adds support for PHP version 7.4, which is one release behind the current version 8.0 release. It also eliminated support for PHP 7.1, although support for that release will be added back with Zend Server 2021, which Earley says will be the next “long term release” of Zend Server.
According to Perforce’s release notes, there is also a new MongoDB extension for IBM i (support for running the big document-oriented NoSQL database on IBM i was added in 2020), as well as an update to the ZMail extension.
Zend Server 2020 users will also benefit from the addition of new functions for suspending job queues and resuming job queues to the Job Queue API, according the release notes. There is also a new installation program to install Zend Server management programs and XMLSERVICE, the company says.
Perforce also added new API authorization methods with this release, and is now supporting “idempotent” WebAPI access with tokens. Earley says that the idempotent WebAPI access with tokens “is a new way to use the WebAPI (used for performing admin actions on a ZendServer instance),” he says. “Previously, we used API credentials (a user/pass pair); we now allow generating tokens, which can be expired, for use with the WebAPI. There’s also now some API result caching based on the credentials used, which improves performance.”
The company made about 20 other changes and fixed 34 problems with older releases of Zend Server for IBM i, including broken JobQueue API commands and broken ZRay plugins.
Perforce also recently updated the community edition of PHP for IBM i that it introduced at the end of 2019. Zend PHP, as the community edition is called, has also been updated with 64-bit support, which should provide for the same type of performance and compatibility enhancements that Earley described above for Zend Server 2020. Zend PHP has used the RPM delivery method since it launched.
The new release of Zend PHP also includes support for PHP version 8.0, the latest iteration of the popular scripting language. IBM i shops can run PHP versions 7.3, 7.4, and 8.0 on Zend PHP without a support contract and by leveraging community support. The Zend PHP runtime can be expanded to run PHP version 5.6, 7.1, and 7.2 with the addition of a paid support contract, Earley says.
With so many versions of PHP for IBM i flying around, Earley provided this clarifying statement:
“Zend Server remains the preeminent offering of a certified PHP stack bundled with cutting edge application server functions such as monitoring and application performance management as well as 5250-based management functions,” he says. “ZendPHP is Zend’s build and delivery of community PHP. While these are different products, they both enjoy the same integration points (i.e., setup of Apache, the ibm_db2 database driver, and the ILE Toolkit).”
Perforce offers two versions of Zend Server 2020 for IBM i, including Zend Server Professional and Zend Server Enterprise. The primary difference between those two offerings is the Enterprise version offers 24×7 support, while the professional version offers 9×5 support, Earley says.
Perforce is still encouraging IBM i customers to take advantage of free access to the Zend Server for IBM i product. Last May, IBM announced that it would stop providing 12 months of free support for starting in June 2020, which means customers have until June 2021 to wrap up any free support with Perforce.
All of the Zend PHP properties, including the PHP runtime for IBM i, are now owned by Perforce, which acquired Rogue Wave Software in 2019. Rogue Wave, of course, acquired Zend back in 2015 (not in 2016, as we had previously reported).
The IBM i software may not account for a huge part of Perforce’s revenue, which totaled $300 million in 2019 following the Rogue Wave acquisition and was projected to reach $600 million in 2021 as a result of its active M&A strategy, according to a 2019 profile of the Minneapolis, Minnesota-based company in the Star Tribune, the state’s largest newspaper.
But Perforce, which is owned by the private equity firms Clearlake Capital and Francisco Partners and counts former HelpSystems CEO Janet Dryer as its chairwoman, is still maintaining and developing the PHP software for IBM i, which it boasts is used by Prada, DHL, and Starbucks, among other companies. “We also help companies that still run legacy platforms such as IBM i, build modern solutions using PHP,” the company says on its website.
You can read the release notes for Zend Server 2020 for IBM i here.