Zend Brings Microsoft Into the PHP Fold

PHP vendor Zend is set to kick off its annual ZendCon conference today with a number of announcements that will make the open source development language more attractive to Microsoft Windows platform users.

The improvement of PHP’s performance on Windows is a result of a joint effort between Zend and Microsoft. “Both sides are making the investment to make sure that PHP is a first-class citizen on Windows,” Zend co-founder Andi Gutmans told InternetNews.com. “ASP and PHP compete, but it is a win for both sides to make sure that interoperability is there.”

Included in the features Zend and Microsoft have improved upon in PHP is a FastCGI module of Microsoft’s IIS Web server, which will accelerate PHP’s performance. The module is freely available for both II6 and II7 users and will run on Windows Server 2003 and will be included as part of the upcoming Windows Server 2008 release.

Prior to Microsoft’s development of FastCGI, Zend had built its own
FastCGI module for Windows, which Gutmans noted will be discontinued for
IIS users in favor of Microsoft’s version. That said, Zend will continue to
develop FastCGI for the open source Apache HTTP Web server for Windows that
competes with Microsoft’s IIS.

Zend also worked with Microsoft to build a new SQLServer 2005 Extension for
PHP, which Gutmans said was overdue. “SQL Server is in a lot of companies and until today it has not had very good connectivity so this is a welcome commitment on their side.”

Database connectivity for PHP is an important item as most enterprise
applications rely on a database for their content stores. As such, Zend
already has worked with IBM’s DB2, Oracle and the open source MySQL
database to try and make sure that PHP works well with all of those vendors.

As part of its collaboration with Microsoft, Zend is also working on
integrating Microsoft’s CardSpace (formerly known as InfoCard) identity-management framework into the Zend Framework. The Zend Framework, which recently hit its 1.0 release, is PHP’s answer to .NET and Java EE.

Gutmans said that he hasn’t looked closely yet at the open source alternative to InfoCard/CardSpace, which is Eclipse’s Project Higgins, though it can still be integrated.

“In general in Zend Framework we’re building a Web services ecosystem, and
we’re going to expand our ecosystem,” Gutmans said. “I’m very proud of the
fact that IBM, Google, and Microsoft are all contributing to the framework.”

ZendCon won’t all be about Microsoft. The company is set to announce Zend Studio for Eclipse, which evolved from the PHP Development Tools (PDT) project.

“What we’re doing with Zend Studio for Eclipse is providing support for the
whole lifecycle, which includes things like re-factoring, unit testing,
profiling and integration with the Zend Framework,” Gutmans said. “We’re
going to include everything that a professional PHP developer needs.”

The Zend Studio for Eclipse, formerly Zend Studio PHP, is a break from the existing Zend Studio 5.5 with the shift to the PDT code base. “When we looked strategically into the future a lot of the important technology bits that we need to deliver to our customers is going to be done on Eclipse,” Gutmans said.

There is still one key announcement that Zend will not make at its conference, and that is the next major version of the language PHP 6. Gutmans explained that some of the features of the language would benefit PHP 5.x users, among which are namespace and internationalization support that are both intended to be key features for PHP 6.

“We’re continuing to work on both PHP 5 and PHP 6 in parallel,” Gutmans
said. “We expect that PHP 5.3 will be available in Q1 of 2008. PHP 6 will
take longer to mature as there are some deep changes to PHP.”

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