Zend Releases New Version of Zend Framework

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This version includes a new DB2/400 adapter that makes it easier to access data on IBM i.


Developers who were adventurous enough to try to develop Web applications on IBM i using PHP and Zend Framework often ran into a few roadblocks. Those days may be behind us now that Zend has released Zend Framework 1.7 with a native DB2 adapter for DB2/400.


While Zend Core allowed PHP to run natively on IBM i and opened up Web development on the midrange platform for non-IBM i programmers, the applications that they were able to create still took a bit of finesse to actually work if they were using Zend Framework. First, not all the components in Zend Framework worked with IBM i; second, the application database connectivity had to be maintained with a higher level of effort than one would like, particularly if there were any updates from Zend.


Zend Framework is a Zend-sponsored, open-source PHP application framework known best for its support of the creation of Web applications. With the release of Zend Framework V1.7, Zend has made the DB2 adapter that was originally designed for DB2 9 work with DB2/400. This will go a long way toward making any PHP Web application easily capable of accessing data on the IBM i machine and reducing the labor and cost of doing so. While Zend announced the update, IBM's hands undoubtedly were behind the curtains tweaking and building.


Wil Sinclair, development manager of Zend Framework, says that with the release of V1.7, the last piece of the Zend application development environment for IBM i users and developers has been completed. Integrating the DB2 adapter with DB2/400 is a significant step in making PHP a viable Web application development environment for the IBM i platform. The significance of this is high when you consider that Web developers now can Web create applications on the IBM i without learning about the i itself, a benefit that was promised early on but not entirely delivered. This now should further extend the viability of the platform well into the future and should truly open up a large pool of developers to work on the i who previously might not have had the skills to do so. It also can reduce the cost of Web application development on the i platform because there will be less manual coding necessary to fix little quirks and connectivity issues, according to Sinclair.


Another step that Zend has taken to make life easier for PHP developers on the i is to unit-test Zend Framework on IBM i to ensure everything works smoothly. Even though PHP is supposed to work on a broad spectrum of platforms, including i, there is not going to be 100 percent compatibility with all components on all platforms. With Zend designating the i platform as one against which it tests, it will ensure that all the components of Zend Framework work right out of the box on the i platform. At least that is the goal, and the folks at Zend believe that testing all their code changes on the i first before they release them will go a long way to ensure they work seamlessly.


How have developers been running PHP applications on the i against DB2 to date? Some of them have written their own adapters for DB2/400. The only problem with that is that if Zend changes its code, then it's likely that a developer will have to then go in and fix his custom adapter, according to Sinclair. With the new DB2/400 adapter, that will not be necessary.


Andi Gutmans, CTO and senior vice president of R&D and alliances and a co-founder of Zend, calls the process for testing Zend Framework code against various platforms the company's "agile continuous integration process." Says Gutmans: "This means that Zend Framework on i5/OS gets unit-tested thoroughly and continuously as we make changes to the code."


Another helpful addition to the PHP/IBM i union is that, with the release of Framework V1.7, Zend now offers paid support to IBM i users, according to Sinclair, something that previously was unavailable.


So far, there have been close to 9.5 million downloads of Zend Framework since the project began, and momentum and community support continues to grow. Zend Framework V1.7 has numerous other enhancements not specifically related to the IBM i, including support for Adobe's Action Message Format (AMF)--a component that enhances rich Internet applications--and updates to the Dojo Toolkit, including a new editor dijit. The version also includes a component for the JQuery AJAX library that was contributed by members of the open-source community.


"We're particularly proud that in Zend Framework 1.7 the community contributions make up well over half of the new and improved components," said Gutmans. He cites the JQuery AJAX JavaScript library component in particular and notes that Adobe's support of the Zend Framework project has been significant.


"We're also really happy that Adobe Systems has joined the Zend Framework project as a contributor with a new AMF component supporting their Flex framework and Flash Platform, part of a larger partnership with them which also includes cooperation aimed to ensure their FlexBuilder environment works with our Zend Studio PHP development environment on the Eclipse platform," Gutmans said.


It appears that Zend is delivering on its promises and that developers who want to pursue Web applications on the IBM i using PHP open-source tools now will have a much easier time making them work.