In-Depth

ADT's Programmers Report: PHP prowls the edge

Gartner Inc.'s Yefim Natis does not offer much encouragement for young players in the application server market: "I think it's too late; the market is spoken for at this point. I think even for Oracle -- who's trying to get in[to the] market and be the number three player -- it is very hard."

If it is hard for the likes of Oracle, what chances do young companies in the open-source space have? "I think those companies will change direction or focus on professional services," said Natis. "They may look at Web services as a new potential," although he said he is not recommending that.

That is exactly the plan of NuSphere Corp., a company created by Progress Software in June 2000, which initially focused on providing packaged products and support services around MySQL, the leading open-source database. NuSphere today markets an Internet Application Platform (IAP) based on open-source components, including PHP, Apache, Perl and MySQL. And there are indications that a NuSphere Apache/Tomcat product may be due. PHP is a general-purpose scripting language and a project of the Apache Software Foundation.

"It's pretty common for people to build Web sites using Apache and PHP, or Apache and Perl. Now we're allowing Java programmers to have the same kind of experience by incorporating an application server function into our platform and breaking into the Java space," said Britt Johnston, NuSphere's CTO.

"This is something we've discussed with NuSphere from the beginning," said Mark Karaman, president of Solvepoint Corp., a management and technology consulting company in West Chester, Pa. "It will take the benefits NuSphere bestowed in the PHP/MySQL space and make them available in the Java space. It's a sensible next step for somebody that has used scripting languages and wants to implement what Java has to offer, and doesn't want to go all [the] way with the J2EE/EJB framework. The servlet is an adorable little thing Tomcat does very well; you could be a PHP programmer and understand exactly what this is."

In addition, NuSphere is touting PHP as a cost-effective way to build and run Web services applications. "A lot of customers out there are under the false impression that you can't build Web services with PHP, but [you] can pretty much build Web services with any language; it's not rocket science," said NuSphere's Johnston.

"Some vendors in the pure proprietary space would have the market believe that Web services are revolutionary, but they're more evolutionary, building on standards that have driven the Web itself," said Mark Lorion, NuSphere VP of business development. "We're saying [our solution] is a viable alternative that will get you there and not lock you in."

For more information, read the article "Open-source servers today."

About the Author

Colleen Frye is a freelance writer based in Bridgewater, Mass.

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