Zeev Suraski comments on PHP and Zend

IBM i Goes Web: Zend’s Zeev Suraski on PHP and IBM i

Since we started cooperating with IBM to bring the Zend stack over to the IBM i platform, we’ve seen a variety of exciting changes and opportunities.  I would like to take a few minutes and explore a little about where PHP has come on IBM i and where we see it going.

What is PHP and who is Zend?

As you might know, PHP is an open source scripting language used to build dynamic web pages. Over more than 10 years, PHP has gained massive following, and is now powering a third(!) of all web applications, including facebook and Wikipedia. Simply put, Zend is the PHP company. It was founded in 1997 by Andi Gutmans (today Zend’s CEO) and myself (today Zend’s CTO). Together, we rewrote the parsing engine for version 3 of PHP, a project that helped boost the popularity PHP. We later spearheaded the development of PHP 4 and 5, and continue to contribute to a number of open source projects, including PHP itself, Zend Framework – a highly successful web application framework, and Eclipse PHP Development Tools project – a popular free PHP code editor. Zend also delivers commercial products and services to thousands of companies that rely on PHP for their business-critical applications:

  • Zend Studio is our Integrated Development Environment (IDE), which is used by thousands of professional PHP developers
  • Zend Server is a an enterprise-grade PHP runtime environment that includes a full web application stack as well as various management capabilities, such as application monitoring, problem diagnostics and performance optimization
  • Zend’s services team provides technical support, training on PHP and Zend’s products, and consulting 

What is the Zend Solution for IBM i?

The Zend solution for IBM includes Zend Server for IBM i and Zend Studio for IBM i.  These two products comprise the best environment for PHP developers who are looking to grow beyond RPG, COBOL and CL.   For the rest of the article I’d like to focus on Zend Server for IBM i and the interesting opportunities it brings to the i platform.

Zend Server for IBM i enables deployment and management of PHP applications – both off-the-shelf and custom developed.  It belongs to the latest generation of runtime environments from Zend, and supersedes two previous generation products – Zend Core for i5/OS and Zend Platform for i5/OS.  A Community Edition (CE) version of Zend Server is available free of charge, and comes with one year of free support, courtesy of IBM.

At the heart of Zend Server CE for IBM i we find PHP itself, surrounded by a rich selection of extension modules, performance-boosting components and the PHP Toolkit for IBM i.  The toolkit allows direct access to IBM i-specific features such as calling RPG programs, reading from data queues and retrieving spooled files.  Zend Server for IBM i unlocks the power of PHP, with its rich ecosystem of thousands of free applications and millions of developers – onto the IBM i platform.

The commercial edition of Zend Server includes all of the capabilities of Zend Server CE, while adding a plethora of features for improved performance, application monitoring and root cause analysis.

Zend Server is designed to improve PHP’s performance in a variety of ways, including optimizing and caching bytecode, caching data and caching output.  Some of it will work out of the box, improving performance without requiring modifications of any kind to the PHP application.  Other parts require configuration or minor code changes.  All in all, Zend Server’s performance boosting components typically yield between 2x and 10x performance gains, depending on the situation.  Thanks to focused optimization work done in Zend Server for the IBM i, it is much, much faster than Zend Core and Zend Platform, typically as much as 3x.

On the management front, Zend Server includes setting management of your PHP-based server, application monitoring and code tracing.   You can think of Zend Server’s monitoring as the PHP equivalent of the QSYSOPR message queue for PHP applications.  It is your extra pair of eyes that is constantly watching over your applications and capturing diagnostic data when issues arise.  Code tracing takes monitoring to the next level by providing the software equivalent of a black box flight recorder – showing not only what happened when the error occurred, but also the entire execution path that lead to it.  Unlike RPG applications where you have to respond with a “D” to capture the important dump information when an escape message is thrown, Zend Server captures all of the information every time! This means that developers and well as system administrators can access a lot of detail about the issue, thus making the resolution process much quicker.  Best of all – monitoring and code tracing have been designed with performance in mind, and can work in a live production environment, where reproducing problems is challenging and sometimes just impossible. Pinpointing and fixing application issues has never been easier, in PHP or in any other language.

Finally – Zend Server includes a 5250 Bridge, enabling communications between PHP and green-screen applications.  The bridge allows developers to web-enable their green-screen applications while using PHP, create different workflows, merge several screens into one HTML form, and more.  The possibilities are truly endless.

Zend Server CE and Zend Studio for IBM i are both still included as part of your IBM maintenance.  When IBM releases the new version of IBM i, Zend Server CE will be pre-loaded on the machine with all of the other products that IBM ships.  This makes it even easier for IBM i shops to experiment with and adopt PHP while continuing to demonstrate IBM’s commitment to PHP as a strategic solution for all IBM i customers.

For those of you who have experienced with Zend Core – you’ll be happy to hear that thanks to the combined efforts of IBM and Zend, Zend Server no longer requires two separate Apache instances in order to operate.  Zend Server implements PHP via a FastCGI which negates the need for a PASE Apache server.  All Apache configuration work is done exclusively in the IBM Apache instance using IBM’s well built and powerful administration tools.   This simplifies the administration of Apache servers and greatly improves performance, as there is no longer a relay between the Apache servers before content is delivered to the browser.

Another welcome change is that unlocking the full potential of the commercial edition of Zend Server and all of its features only involves punching in a license key – no installations or setup are necessary.

I am truly enthusiastic about the release of Zend Server for IBM i.  With highly increased performance, simpler architecture, Code Tracing and simplified installation – PHP on IBM i has never been better and it’s never been easier.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed working on it.

Happy PHPing!

Zeev Suraski, CTO and co-founder, Zend


4 Responses

  1. […] Suraski, co-founder and CTO of Zend, has been interviewed on the TEC 2010 conference’s blog about the involvement of Zend with the IBM i operating […]

  2. Hello my name is Bob Foster i am a system adminstrator for a couple of iseries boxes at my location. How can I get some exposure to the whole field of ZEND – PHP Zend Core for i5/OS and Zend Platform for i5/OS. A Community Edition (CE) version of Zend Server is available free of charge, I would very much like some directions introduction books to this fantastic product. or any online schools that may be teaching about this product.

    Warm Regards
    Robert Foster

  3. The website created by vivek srivastava and saurabh chaurasia , http://www.friendlane.com an open express service has been designed completely in php and zend framework utilizing some zend functions has efficiently used php as it’s most important platform.Thanx zend

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