BCD and Zend Forge PHP Market Alliance

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Two companies that see app modernization as the future of the IBM i join hands to facilitate that goal.


Business Computer Design International and Zend Technologies have formed a market partnership that aims to promote use of each others' PHP-related development tools for modernization of IBM i applications.


Most immediately, the partnership seeks to take advantage of a complementary relationship between BCD's WebSmart PHP, a template-based app development and modernization tool set that generates PHP code, and Zend's Zend Server for IBM i, a PHP runtime environment. However, the companies have scheduled further talks at the development-team level in mid-September with an eye toward exploring integration of WebSmart PHP with Zend APIs, as well as other as-yet-unplanned product-integration options.


"There's no absolute direction on that yet," reveals Marcel Sarrasin, a BCD product manager, "but there'll be discussion of options there."


PHP is a server-based scripting language designed to produce application Web pages. WebSmart PHP and Zend Server for IBM i are not currently integrated, however  a synergy is possible today because "WebSmart PHP generates a PHP file that Zend Server can analyze," Sarrasin points out. The two products support sequential steps in the process of developing and running PHP applications on the IBM i.


WebSmart PHP provides a PHP interactive development environment, PHP extensions, a Visual HTML editor, and DB2/400, MySQL, and Oracle program templates and wizards to help developers modify or build apps. Zend Server for IBM i is a Web application server for deploying, running, and managing PHP applications that includes features such as PHP code acceleration, caching for data objects and full Web pages, and code-tracing tools for problem diagnosis.


Informal References Become Something More

According to Sarrasin, the two companies have always had a good relationship, pointing their customers to the other's products to handle those parts of creating a PHP environment that best fits a customer’s needs.'


"The installation instructions for WebSmart PHP already recommend mention that you need to install Zend Server CE for IBM i" to promote ease-of-use for WebSmart PHP, Sarrasin notes, "and Zend has often recommended WebSmart PHP to their customers." But what was an informal system of mutual referrals turned more serious recently.


"At the last COMMON, BCD and Zend sat down to come to a closer understanding of each others' business models," Sarrasin recalls, which led to a realization that the companies should work more closely together on a formal basis.

App Modernization as a Key Motivator

One of the driving forces for the deeper level of cooperation between the two companies is a mutual recognition that the key to longevity for the i platform is application modernization. Putting green-screen apps on the Web is the most straightforward, if not the simplest, way to do that.


"Green-screen apps need to be taken to the Web," Sarrasin observes, "but not everyone has the time and skills to do that." BCD's Presto then becomes part of the equation. It's BCD's tool for making legacy green-screens available as Web pages. "As long as you're talking modular RPG, it's easy to interface such code with PHP apps via such solutions as Zend's PHP tool kit," Sarrasin notes, "although if you're talking code that's not modular, say 10 years old or older, you can't easily extract business logic or routines. In that case, you need to totally rewrite or modernize those apps."


For now, the two companies want to send a clear message that they agree that the PHP stack is designed for the IBM i market and that their products make PHP accessible to developers with extensive RPG backgrounds but little or no PHP experience.


"We want to overcome confusion on the part of people jumping into PHP by recommending a complete PHP application and development stack." Sarrasin emphasizes. It's about being able to create something in a short time while avoiding the task of modernization being given to another IT team or outsourced. It's about saving programmers time, both in developing apps and pinpointing errors."