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Zend Expands PHP Development and Deployment

For Zend Technologies, PHP is a lot more than just an open source programming language. Zend, the lead commercial backer behind PHP, is pushing its vision of PHP as a prominent platform for development and deployment of mission-critical applications with a pair of new products.

Zend Studio for Eclipse is Zend's new PHP IDE, and Zend Platform 3.6 is the latest release of the company's enterprise-deployment platform for PHP.

The new releases are part of the PHP vendor's strategy to move from point products to a complete suite for the application life cycle, as PHP continues to makes inroads against both Java and .NET.

"When our customers build mission applications they take the whole Zend solution, since we deal with the whole life cycle from development to staging to production," Andi Gutmans, Zend's CTO, told InternetNews.com.

"So they use Zend Core for their certified PHP, they use Zend Platform for getting performance, scalability and reliability for their production servers and then they use Zend Framework across the board to get the right methodology and best practices," Gutmans added.

The Zend Platform got under way in 2005 with the last major release version 3.0 in February 2007. In the new version, 3.6, Zend has focused on further improving the performance of PHP deployments.

"Performance management starts when a user clicks on a URL and until they get what they're looking for," Gutmans noted. "So we mapped that whole process and looked at where we could improve."

One of the key improvements in Platform 3.6 is the ability to cache model view controller–based applications, which are increasingly popular in framework deployments.

Gutmans explained that with the new MVC caching capabilities, instead of caching on a file basis Zend Platform can now cache on a URL basis.

Additionally, Zend Platform allowed for high-performance sites to cache in shared memory, which further improves PHP delivery performance.

While Zend Platform is available for both Linux and Windows Servers, Gutmans commented that the 3.6 release is geared toward Linux.

"We're now working with Microsoft toward Windows Server 2008 and working on a road map for how to work with it," Gutmans said.

Zend and Microsoft have a working partnership to make PHP run well on Windows platforms.

On the development side, Zend's IDE version of Zend Studio has long been primarily used on Windows, and that's not expected to change with the new release of Zend Studio for Eclipse.

The new Zend Studio for Eclipse is the first official release from Zend of its IDE based on the Eclipse PHP Development Tools (PHT) project.

Gutmans noted that Zend had more than 15,000 beta testers for Zend Studio for Eclipse, and the feedback received helped to make the final release a more stable product.

Because the new Zend Studio is based on Eclipse, developers can now leverage the full Eclipse ecosystem of plug-ins to further expand the capabilities of the IDE.

While Zend is pushing its new Eclipse-based IDE, it's not abandoning its non-Eclipse Zend Studio 5.5 customers. Zend has not officially set an end-of-life date yet for the non-Eclipse Zend Studio and has pledged to keep it current for minor fixes in a maintenance mode.

"I think right now we have a very solid story for business-critical applications," Gutmans said. "What we're seeing today at Zend is that it's changing the way we work with customers," he added. According to Gutmans, the company set out on this path two years when it began working with Eclipse and Framework. "It's a strategy we've been seeing the benefit of," Gutmans noted.

That's not to say there still isn't work for Zend to do to further improve PHP development and deployment.

"I'm the CTO, so I always think there should be more that we should be doing," Gutmans said. "I want to do more around RIA (Rich internet applications), methodologies and more around business critical deployments. There is always a lot of work for Zend."