RealTime IT News

PHP Speeds to the Cloud With Zend Framework 1.8

Cloud computing and Zend Framework for PHP

PHP developers will have new ways to easily connect their PHP applications to the cloud, thanks to the latest version of the open source Zend Framework.

Zend Framework 1.8 expands the PHP framework to work with Amazon's EC2 cloud computing service. Zend Framework has also added new rapid application development (RAD) features to accelerate PHP development.

The Zend Framework is the PHP competitor to .NET, JavaEE and Ruby on Rails (RoR) development frameworks. With the new release, Zend Technologies, the lead commercial sponsor behind PHP, is aiming to build on its enterprise momentum for PHP, after releasing its Zend Server PHP middleware play last month.

"The timing for the release of Zend 1.8 could not be better as we just announced Zend Server and the two play very nicely together," Zeev Suraski, co-founder and CTO at Zend Technologies, told InternetNews.com. "Now I think we really have a complete stack available for users. We have the Zend Studio IDE [Integrated development environment] that has Zend Framework support, and Zend Server comes bundles with it, making it a good development and deployment stack for PHP."

The 1.8 release of Zend Framework is the first update of the framework this year. The 1.7 release introduced Adobe AMF (Action Message Format) support and came out in November.

With 1.8, Suraski explained that the release's rapid application development (RAD) features give developers the ability to manage and modify applications quickly. The new RAD tools enable developers to create new projects and controls and, in general, develop all sorts of code skeletons for a project.

A new module in Zend Framework for RAD, called Zend_application, further expedites PHP development. Matt Weier O'Phinney, Zend Framework's project lead, told InternetNews.com that Zend_application helps when it comes to bootstrapping apps. Prior to the 1.8 release, developers needed to create a bootstrap script where all the various resources needed are injected into the framework objects.

"It has been a fairly complex process and people had to do manually," O'Phinney said. "What we've done with Zend_application is a standardized way of doing it in order to build up bootstrapping routines."

Cloud support

With Zend Framework 1.8, Zend is looking to the cloud by providing support for Amazon's (NASDAQ: AMZN) EC2 services and its S3 cloud storage offering.

"In the S3 classes, we give developers access to the practically infinitely scalable Amazon storage server," Suraski explained. "As part of the EC2 classes, we give developers the ability to manage EC2 instances -- to create, stop and start instances."

Suraski added that without the new cloud support, it was hard for developers to take advantage of the Amazon cloud infrastructure using Zend Framework. Now he claimed that the Amazon access can be managed programmatically from within the Zend Framework.

Though Zend is now supporting Amazon's cloud, it does not yet have support for Google's AppEngine. That's despite the fact that Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has been a past contributor to the Zend Framework with Google Data API support.

Both Suraski and O'Phinney noted that there are no formal proposals at this stage for Google AppEngine support, though O'Phinney said there have been some rudimentary experiments. Google launched its AppEngine with support for the Python language and recently began testing Java support.

Another item that is not yet in Zend Framework is support for Oauth authentication. The Oauth standard is now being implemented or tested on numerous sites as a easy way to do secure Web authentication.

O'Phinney said that while Oauth is not in Zend Framework 1.8, there is a proposal pending for its inclusion, so it could be in as early as the 1.9 release of the framework, coming later this year.

PHP 5.3 and PHP 6

While Zend Framework 1.8 represents an important step forward for PHP developers, another big step is just around the corner thanks to a new release of the PHP language, with PHP 5.3 currently in the release candidate stage and PHP 6 under active development.

"PHP 5.3 is an important step, since PHP 6 is always just around the corner -- but the corner keeps running away from us at the same pace we are running toward it," Suraski said.

He added that the PHP community decided that rather than waiting for PHP 6 to be finalized, some of the ideas originally planned for it could land earlier in PHP 5.3.

One such feature is namespaces, which is a way to encapsulate classes and other PHP items more easily.

"Once it's out, it will be a very good step for the PHP community as a whole," Suraski said.

As for when PHP 5.3 will be out, that's a more difficult question.

"I would not bet on a release date," Suraski said. "It may be in the next few weeks, but if it is delayed for a few months, it won't shock me."