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PHP 5 ready for the enterprise

Since it was introduced in 1997, the enormously popular open-source, server-side scripting language PHP has been gaining momentum, winning fans and burrowing into the enterprise. Consequently, many of the new features in the just-released PHP 5 are designed to improve interoperability.

'We are seeing a change in PHP usage,' says Andi Gutmans, who co-wrote the original core of PHP with Zeev Suraski. 'PHP is being adopted by larger and larger companies in heterogeneous environments with other technologies such as COM, .NET, Java and so on,' he says. 'The more it goes into large organizations, the more interoperability becomes an issue.'

According to a recent survey by Netcraft, about 16 million domains rely on PHP, which often runs on Linux-powered Apache Web servers as a compiled Apache module. The advent of Linux in the enterprise has played a significant role in the spread of PHP, Gutmans says. 'Linux adoption in the enterprise opened the door for other open-source projects,' he notes. 'Once the CIO lets in one open-source project, he's made the mental shift. Bringing in another one is going to be much easier.'

However, what's driving the adoption of PHP is its ease of use, Gutmans says. 'Anyone who has developed in any language is going to be able to write his first PHP script in a day, become a developer within a week and an expert within a month,' he claims.

Updates in PHP 5 include a major new version of the Zend Engine (its core scripting engine), support for object-oriented development, XML processing advancements and the addition of cutting-edge Web services support.

The Zend Engine was first introduced in PHP 4, although earlier versions contained the basic technology, Gutmans says. PHP 5 comes with the Zend Engine II, which has been revamped to support the object-oriented paradigm.

'As PHP is being adopted more and more in enterprise-grade projects, object-oriented methodologies are becoming more and more important for PHP applications,' Gutmans says. 'Larger applications usually have a more structured development process for which developers usually choose object-oriented programming.'

Gutmans and his PHP co-author Suraski have been leaders in the PHP open-source project from its beginning. The two founded Israel-based Zend Technologies, now headquartered in Cupertino, Calif. The company builds products designed to help PHP developers deploy and manage their applications.

Shortly after the Apache Project's PHP development team released PHP 5, Zend launched the latest versions of its flagship Zend Studio and Zend Performance Suite products. Zend Studio 3.5 is an enterprise-grade IDE with advanced PHP 5.0 support. The new release comes with an updated debugger, code analyzer, code templates, code completion and highlighting tools. Zend's new Performance Suite 4.0 provides a combination of file compression, content caching and code acceleration to improve PHP application performance for business-critical environments.

The changes in PHP 5 received the stamp of approval from one of its biggest fans, technology luminary Adam Bosworth, the former SVP of BEA Systems who recently joined Google. 'I'm a longtime PHP proponent and am pleased to see that this significant update further extends the language's development productivity benefits,' Bosworth says in a statement. 'The inclusion of advanced XML processing and Web services functionalities represents a great leap forward for PHP 5. These market-driven enhancements are proof that PHP's creators and vibrant community are committed to evolving the language in step with the changing demands of the Web application market.'

PHP is a project of the Apache Software Foundation. For more information, please visit http://www.php.net or http://www.zend.com .

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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