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IBM offers free PHP-SOA integration kit

IBM wants to make it easier for PHP developers to integrate their apps into a service-oriented architecture (SOA), and it's giving them the tools to do it—free. The soon-to-be-released PHP Integration Kit for WebSphere Application Server (WAS) Community Edition is designed to move PHP into the heart of IBM's core SOA infrastructure.

PHP is now one of the most popular open-source, server-side scripting languages—it’s one of the “Ps” in the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP/Python/Perl). IBM's open-source WAS Community Edition is a lightweight, free, enterprise Java app server built on the open-source Apache Geronimo app server technology. The new dev kit will allow PHP developers to build apps that run within the app server, explains Paul Buck, director of Gluecode development at IBM. (Last year, IBM acquired Gluecode Software, a provider of software and services around Geronimo.)

"The app server has the capabilities to participate in an SOA environment," Buck tells ProgrammingTrends. "By allowing PHP to be there as well, we're making it possible for the PHP logic to present Web pages as part of the overall application."

Since it was introduced in 1995, PHP has begun making serious inroads into the enterprise, and that evolution hasn't been lost on IBM.

"We're definitely starting to see PHP pop up in the enterprise," Buck says, "mostly in departmental and line-of-business situations, where people are just organically going off and deciding to use PHP." Buck has seen it, for example, in homegrown apps reporting on human resources data, where members of the department happen to know PHP.

According to a recent survey by Internet analysts at Netcraft, there are currently more than 20 million Web sites implemented with PHP, running most often on Linux-powered Apache Web servers as a compiled Apache module.

PHP is also one of the technologies typically included in discussions of Web 2.0, a concept that has registered a big blip on Big Blue's radar. IBM has previously offered technology designed to allow customers to develop and deploy PHP-based apps on selected IBM hardware.

Speaking to developers at a PHP conference in New York last Thursday, Rod Smith, IBM's VP of emerging Internet technologies, told attendees that the technologies underpinning blogs, wikis, and Google Maps will transform the way productivity apps are developed in the future. Smith's keynote was quoted in a release:

"The embrace of open standards and Web 2.0 technologies is forcing businesses to rethink the paradigm of the proprietary, one-size-fits-all productivity application," he said. "In today's business climate, with business collaborations quickly forming and disbanding, customers are rethinking how they can enable innovation to occur."

IBM customers want to apply a "new paradigm," Smith added, "Customers I talk to are abuzz about Web 2.0 and the creation of popular Internet services that seem to quickly appear out of nowhere, becoming instant global phenomena that are enjoyed by the masses..."

Another reason technologies like PHP have taken hold, says industry analyst Neil Ward-Dutton, is that enterprise Java is still too complex for all but the most skilled developers.

"There's a very large crowd using JEE today, and the recent enhancements are good for them," Ward-Dutton says. "But JEE's challenge is to remain relevant in a world now populated by many other interesting alternatives when it comes to lightweight Web site/Web services development/integration: PHP, Ruby on Rails, 'simple' plain-old-java-objects + Spring/Hibernate."

Developers will be able to download the new PHP integration kit later this month from the alphaWorks Web site. Buck says to look for it featured on the main page. No membership is required to test drive the new toolkit. "Just download and go," Buck says. "We're looking for feedback, and we'll listen very carefully."

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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