Adobe Joins PHP in Zend Framework

Adobe is jumping into the PHP world in a bid to further the use of its Flex rich Internet application (RIA) technologies. The graphics and Web development software giant is partnering with Zend, the lead commercial backer behind PHP, to extend Flex support in the Zend Framework for PHP application deployment as well as the Zend Studio IDE for development.

As a result, PHP developers will be able to build Flex applications that run in the browser or Adobe’s AIR runtime environment, while Adobe potentially gains new converts to its technologies.

The Adobe Zend partnership comes as Zend continues to ramp up its RIA credentials in a bid to become a dominant platform as it battles Java and .NET.

“It’s all part of Zend’s overall strategy,” Andi Gutmans, CTO and co-founder of Zend, told “In the same way as we look at PHP and want it to be heterogeneous across platforms, we want to be heterogeneous across RIA players. We already have support for Dojo [an open source Ajax toolkit] and now are complementing that with Adobe Flex.”

Gutmans added that while both Dojo and Flex have their respective strengths, Flex has proven itself to be the leader in enterprise RIA deployments.

“Today, the main market for Flex has been Java, and PHP is the other market where they want to be successful in,” Gutmans commented.

Adobe Flex is Adobe’s RIA development suite and it has been available under an open source license since 2007. Dojo, on the other hand, is an open source Ajax toolkit and it was just recently integrated into the Zend Framework.

As part of the collaboration between Zend and Adobe, support for Flex’s Action Message Format (AMF) will be integrated into Zend Framework. AMF is the protocol that Flex uses to talk to the back end enabling both Flex and Flash based applications to exchange data with servers.

Gutmans also noted that Adobe’s Flex Builder will now be supported by Zend Studio for Eclipse to further make development of Flex for PHP applications a reality. Flex Builder is Adobe’s visual tooling suite and it also offers a bridge to the desktop and development of Adobe AIR applications.

Zend Studio for Eclipse itself is getting a refresh to version 6.1, which will be based on Eclipse 3.4. Zend moved to Eclipse as the basis for its PHP IDE with its first release earlier this year. Gutmans noted that the move to Eclipse has been successful and resulted in a 50 percent increase in sales over the previous non-Eclipse version of Zend Studio.

Additionally, owing to the fact that Zend Studio is now Eclipse-based, the company is able to more easily integrate it with others that are part of the Eclipse ecosystem, like Adobe. The Eclipse 3.4 base also provides for more JavaScript support as well as enhancements around SQL query building.

While PHP is gaining support for Adobe Flex, the core PHP language itself is also in the process of evolution. PHP 4 has now hit its end of life and work is ongoing for PHP 6. Though don’t expect to see PHP 6 hit its final version anytime soon.

“The big push now is around PHP 5.3,” Gutmans said. “PHP 6 is full-Unicode, and migration won’t be easy. We’ve decided to take a middle step and not make the mistake of Perl 6, where they are trying to do too much. We’ve decided that we don’t want to take that risk. So we’re taking 50 percent of the feature set from PHP 6 and we’re putting it into PHP 5.3.”

Gutmans added that he plans to first get PHP 5.3 out the door and ensure that it is successful before focusing on a release date for PHP 6. At the same time, however, PHP 6 development is still pushing forward toward a currently unknown release date.

“We continue to develop both branches,” Gutmans said.

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