The next-generation PHP stack for Windows and Linux gives IBM i developers a way to run new applications easily in-house or on a laptop without charge.
For anyone who has yet to get started developing in PHP, Zend Technologies made it easy to get your feet wet in this increasingly popular language when it released Zend Server Community Edition this week, a free and easy-to-deploy stack of PHP tools intended to give users a way to manage their newly minted PHP applications running in-house.
While IBM is bundling Zend Core for IBM i now with all new i servers being shipped, Zend Server Community Edition runs on Linux and Windows as well as Max OS X. While we like to tell readers about free software that is available to them for trial, we should point out that Zend Server Community Edition is a companion release to the new Zend Server regular edition that Zend Technologies released at the same time, which is sold on subscription. Also for running PHP applications on Windows and various flavors of Linux (but not OS X), Zend Server comes with support and has a number of monitoring and diagnostic tools (as well as page caching) that Zend Server CE does not include.
Zend Server CE is by no means a crippled product, however, and can be deployed for in-house, non-business-critical applications. It has its own built-in opcode cache solution that can dramatically reduce the time it takes for a page to load and reduce hardware requirements as your site grows in popularity. There are a number of external opcode caching solutions of course that users could employ, but having a good one built into the stack eases installation.
"Easy" is what Zend Server and Zend Server CE are all about, and installing the new PHP stack in a Windows or Linux environment can be done in a matter of minutes.
"The real goals of the community edition were to have a really simple out-of-the-box experience, less than five minutes to install--a couple of clicks and you're there," said Brad Cottel, communications director at Zend Technologies. "Zend Server CE comes with PHP itself and also Zend Framework and a Web server, either Apache or Windows IIS, and you can install MySQL right in the same package as Zend Server. It comes with all those things." Zend Server CE also comes with connectivity to a number of major databases, including DB2 for Windows and Linux, Oracle, SQL Server, and MySQL.
While RPG developers may not be as proficient in Windows or Linux environments as they are on the IBM i, loading Zend Core CE on their desktop or laptop will be child's play since there is no tweaking of Apache or manual adjustment of other settings. The actual Web server that PHP uses is a function of the operating system, and Zend uses Apache on Linux and Internet Information Server (IIS) on Windows. If you're planning on loading Zend Core on your IBM i server in order to get started running PHP Web applications, you can try Zend Server CE on a Windows or Linux machine first and get a feel for what PHP could do for you.
What's the difference between the traditional Zend Core and Zend Server? While Zend Core for IBM i is a different product from the traditional Zend Core for Windows or Linux due to the connectivity issues of running PHP on the IBM i, the new Zend Server for Windows and Linux is the next generation PHP stack from Zend. It is easier to deploy, runs faster, and is easier to update with security patches.
"Zend Server is our next-generation Web application server," says Cottel. "It includes the capabilities found in Zend Core, and for some customers, it will replace the need to use it, but we will continue to provide support and updates for Zend Core into the future."
Jim Dillard, Zend's IBM alliance manager, says that with the new release of Zend Server, the stack is "finally catching up to our implementation of Zend Core for i5," which already had the easy-install features that are just now being included in Zend Server for Linux and Windows.
What are the significant differences between the free Zend Server CE and the enterprise version of Zend Server, which starts at $1,195 for an annual product subscription? Here are the major features of Zend Server not included in the community edition:
• Application Monitoring--Administrators can set up alerts that let them know by email, for instance, if queries are starting to run a little slow, long before users would notice anything wrong and well before they sounded the bell about poor response time. Alerts can be set up so that if there is an error in the application code that may not have appeared in testing, there's a pointer to the exact line of PHP code where the error occurred so the problem can be addressed quickly.
• Diagnostics--The enterprise edition of Zend Server has diagnostic tools that allow a developer to isolate a problem by capturing all the events that led up to it. The tool captures all the "sends" and "gets" to the Web server that the user encountered, holding them in a logging system that the developer can put back into, say, Zend Studio, and replay them as they lead up to the error condition. You don't just see the code but actually can replay all of the events in order to diagnose exactly what happened.
• Page Caching--The enterprise edition of Zend Server includes page-caching technology that makes PHP applications run even faster than they will under the community edition. The solution allows an administrator to go directly into the application and look through all the URLs that the application normally hits and decide which pages to cache. This requires no coding, and the idea is that an administrator can dramatically increase the performance of the site in a few clicks.
• Updates, Hot Fixes, and Security Patches--Should the PHP community uncover a security flaw, Zend jumps on it and will roll out a patch to its subscription customers within a short period of time, sometimes as soon as 72 hours, the company says.
• Support--If a company is running a business-critical PHP application where being down is costing the firm money, having expert support can be crucial. Subscription customers are given a single phone number for support from Zend technicians.
It's clear that Zend is committed to PHP, and the company has support from not only IBM, but Microsoft, Oracle, Adobe, and other big-name players who want to make PHP the Web application language of choice for developers around the world. The company's social networking site already has 80 million users. And as they say in Cupertino, 80 million people can't be wrong.
To download Zend Server CE, click here.