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Zend Core for IBM adds database, Web services support

The open source, server-side scripting language is moving from the lab to the mainstream.

IBM gave another nod to the PHP open source, server-side scripting language with last month's announcement of Zend Core for IBM, developed jointly with Zend Technology Inc., Cupertino, Calif.

Based on PHP 5, Zend Core for IBM integrates IBM's DB2 Universal Database (UDB) and the Cloudscape open source database server with Zend's open source PHP environment. It includes native support for XML and Web services.

At the same time, Zend unveiled the Zend Network, subscription-based service and support for PHP developers.

When you consume in PHP, you can do a lot in just two lines of code. It's very easy, and you don't even have to understand the Web services standards.
Andi Gutmans
Vice President of TechnologyZend

"We recognize the compelling growth of the PHP developer community and the use of PHP among our clients and potential clients," said Bernie Spang, director of DB2 strategy for IBM. "PHP applications increasingly need to tap into corporate data housed in a DB2 database or Informix, and clients are asking, 'What are you doing to make that easier?'"

Spang acknowledged that boosting the use of Cloudscape is one of IBM's goals. "We are already seeing positive feedback from clients; they're seeing it's the right tool for certain jobs. It's a piece of the puzzle for us."

Zend Core for IBM is one of several recent collaborative efforts from the two vendors. According to Andi Gutmans, Zend co-founder and vice president of technology and co-architect of PHP, Zend has been focusing on the Web services space and "working with the emerging technologies team at IBM to further PHP." One fruit of that work has been the SOAP extension for PHP. Zend also worked with IBM around the definition and implementation of Service Data Objects (SDOs) for PHP. SDOs for PHP currently has support for relational and XML data sources, as well as a service provider interface.

The IBM/Zend relationship is "smart," said John Andrews, chief operating officer and director of Evans Data Corp., a market research firm in Santa Cruz, Calif. "PHP is a very open language. IBM has been totally embracing the open concept; the more they can embrace open strategies, the better."

Andrews said PHP is moving from the lab and small projects to more mainstream use. "In the past, people weren't using it on the front lines in a big way, but there is movement to try to do that now. There is a high level of interest from the vendors."

PHP's ease of use is an advantage, Gutmans said. "You can take any developer and within days you're writing PHP code." Another advantage, he said, is that PHP was designed to be a Web development language. "I wouldn't recommend PHP as a general-purpose language, but for the Web request/response paradigm, PHP is powerful."

Spang said PHP is the right tool for certain jobs. "With Java or C# an application programmer can do a lot of powerful things, but it comes with a level of complexity and education. A scripting language is less powerful and complex, but more streamlined and intuitive. [The decision often comes down to] what level of skills do you have available or want to pay for? What level of complexity do you want? JSP [Java Server Page] makes sense when you're tied into a Java server environment. If you don't have a Java server, PHP might make more sense."

Scripting languages are being used in production by 37% of organizations surveyed, according to a recent study on strategic languages by Forrester Research Inc., Cambridge, Mass. And according to Evans Data's recent North American Development Survey, PHP is used by 33% to 37% of commercial, custom/value-added resellers, and corporate workgroup segments. However, use of PHP among North American developers (29.3%) still trails significantly behind JavaScript (66.4%), and ASP/ASP.NET (51.2%), according to Evans Data.

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Gutmans said PHP will be best used for the consumption of Web services. "When you consume in PHP, you can do a lot in just two lines of code. It's very easy, and you don't even have to understand the Web services standards."

PHP can play a roll in a service-oriented architecture, but it won't dominate, Andrews said. "It's the first survey period where we've heard people using it in heavy-duty implementations, but that doesn't make it a trend yet."

Zend Core for IBM is available as a free download from both vendors' Web sites. IBM has also announced that Zend Core for IBM will support the latest version of Informix Dynamic Server v10 later this year.

Oracle is also working with Zend. Gutmans expects to announce general availability of Zend Core for Oracle in September.

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