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PHP: Cozy With Windows Server 2008

For much of the last decade, running PHP on a server meant running the open source scripting language on the Linux operating system. No longer. As a result of a multiyear deal between PHP's lead commercial sponsor Zend and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), PHP is now a first class citizen on Microsoft's new Windows Server 2008.

Zend Core, which is a certified distribution of PHP, is now officially certified on Windows Server 2008. The certification comes as the result of a multi-year effort between Zend and Microsoft to make PHP run well on Windows platforms.

"The metrics we're getting are really comparable to Linux; you can get great PHP performance on Windows," Andi Gutmans, Zend's CTO, told InternetNews.com. "I'm pretty sure we're the first open source language that has been certified on Windows Server 2008."

Gutmans noted that he was very pleased with the cooperative development that Zend engaged in with Microsoft and that the process went smoothly. A very key part of making PHP run well on Windows is making sure that the Windows Web server IIS (Internet Information Server) is optimized for PHP. On Linux machines, PHP often runs along the open source Apache Web server as part of the LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP) stack. Apache can run on Windows, but for Server 2008 IIS is the default setup.

"We're getting good performance for FastCGI on Windows," Gutmans said.

FastCGI is an essential component on IIS for providing quick PHP response times. Zend had previously developed its own FastCGI implementation for Windows Servers, though Gutmans admitted that the joint Microsoft-developed FastCGI version was superior.

That's not to say, however, that running PHP on IIS is better or worse than running it on Apache.

"I don't want to get into an Apache versus IIS discussion; it really depends on what your goals are," Gutmans said. "But there are defiantly some good features in IIS that give great performance. You'll see advantages and disadvantages to both of them and IIS has some areas where it is very, very strong."

While the official Windows Server 2008 certification is for the Zend Core product, Gutmans noted that, by extension, PHP is certified as well. He explained that while Zend Core is the commercially supported version of PHP, it includes the open source PHP version. As such a user could get their actual PHP download from any source and still get the same performance benefits on Windows Server 2008.

Support for Windows Server 2008 does not in any way imply less support for Zend's Linux user base. Gutmans argued that the certification would grow the overall pie for Zend as well as the broader PHP community.

"Zend's strategy is to be a heterogeneous player," Gutmans explained. "What we see in our big accounts is they are running a bit of everything. The advantage they see in PHP is the fact we can run on every system. This only opens up more opportunity and more accounts for Zend. It's a good thing for Zend and I think the PHP community."

While the PHP certification on Windows Server 2008 is a major milestone for Zend, there is still much work to be done as part of the joint Zend Microsoft relationship. Among the items still on the development table is an effort to improve how PHP works with Microsoft's SQL server. As well Zend is working on certifying its entire product portfolio on Windows Server 2008, including its Zend Platform deployment solution.

"Both companies are really committed to building a really good business out of this relationship," Gutmans said. "It's a long ago term relationship and we're just getting going now because the technology is only out now."