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PHP Framework Begins to Take Shape

The first public baby steps of the effort to create a new framework for PHP application deployment are now live for all to see. The effort may well prove to put PHP on the same level as J2EE and .NET for application server deployments.

Version 0.1.1 of the framework is now available for download as a preview, and it has already racked up 15,000 downloads during its first weekend of existence.

Last October, Zend Technologies, one of the lead backers of PHP, announced the PHP Collaboration Project. One of the goals of the project is to build a PHP Web application development and deployment environment, now known as the Zend Framework.

The first public preview release introduces a number of framework components that will enable an enterprise-class PHP application deployment.

Zend_Search_Lucene adds the Apache Lucene search engine's capabilities to PHP and allows PHP-driven sites to take advantage of new search capabilities. The binary file format used is claimed to be fully compatible with Apache's Java version of Lucene.

Web Services are also a key focus of the framework. According to the Zend Framework Web site, the project is working on engaging more API vendors directly to make PHP the premier platform for consuming Web services.

PHP 5, which first debuted in 2004, introduced new XML capabilities to PHP. Those capabilities are being expanded in the framework with the Zend_XmlRpc module.

RSS is part of the mix thanks to Zend_Feed, which consumes and discovers RSS and Atom feed data. AJAX-enabled applications will benefit from the Json module, which enables conversions of PHP structures into the AJAX-friendly format.

E-mail is also addressed with the Mail and Mime module, which creates and sends e-mail, as well as includes support for attachments. The PDF module gives the framework the ability to generate PDFs on the fly without the need for additionally compiled PHP extensions, as is typically the case for PHP deployments.

The InputFilter module will make it clear to Zend Framework users to invoke input validation schemes to ensure that end-user data is filtered and validated.

At least one Linux distribution has already included the framework as a download.

Gentoo Linux, which just recently launched a new milestone release, now includes the Zend Framework in its Portage package repository for Gentoo users to download into their distributions.

The framework is still far from complete, though.

"There is a lot of work still to do, but after having already seen four applications build with the framework, it is clear that it already includes some very cool and useful modules," Zend co-founder Andi Gutmans wrote in a blog post.

It's an interesting time to be a PHP developer, to be sure. There are three versions of PHP in various stages of active use and development, and Yahoo has recently launched an effort to court PHP developers.