Zend To Integrate Its PHP IDE With Eclipse

Zend Technologies today issued a number of announcements at its third annual Zend/PHP Conference. Perhaps the most interesting one, for PHP coders, was the company's plans to integrate its PHP integrated development environment (IDE) with Eclipse. It's part of the company's emphasis on serving the enterprise segment.

Zend's new commercial IDE was developed on top of the PHP Development Tools portion of the open source Eclipse Project. Code-named Neon, the IDE is currently available at the beta release level, and Zend is providing it to attendees at the conference. General availability of the Zend Studio for Eclipse product is expected in early 2008.

Eclipse is a popular open source Java development environment, and Zend's PHP IDE integration with Eclipse makes for an interesting mix since PHP is a widely used for Web site development. The integration represents a meeting of communities, according to Mark de Visser, Zend's chief marketing officer.

"To give you a bit of perspective, there are about four to five million PHP developers out there," de Visser said. "And there are about three million Eclipse developers. They are not mutually exclusive; there is overlap. But two very large communities come together here."

The integration with Eclipse will give developers a number of additional tools as well.

"In the PHP world, all of a sudden we have access to a whole range of utilities that are available as part of the Eclipse ecosystem," he added. "There are about 1,200 plug-ins in the Eclipse system that are useful for PHP people."

Zend currently offers a commercial IDE for PHP developers, but the company has seen the light of the Eclipse. It's a lesson that IDE-maker Borland might take, suggested de Visser, who formerly worked for that company.

"I am myself an ex-Borland employee," de Visser said. "The problem that Borland had at some point is that Eclipse took over the Java space and it made it very hard for them to make a living off JBuilder. So the world is converging on two IDEs, and it's Eclipse and Visual Studio, and it's very hard to make a living outside of that. So Zend was visionary enough…to make that transition to Eclipse."

Zend's current IDE is the leading one used for the PHP space, according to de Visser, but it was made on the Swing UI.

"And that made it so we don't have access to the whole ecosystem of the Eclipse world," he explained. "So we took the decision about three years ago to make the switch."

The company will continue to maintain its current Zend Studio product but won't add much new functionality, which will go in the Eclipse version, de Visser said.

As for the other dominant IDE, Visual Studio, Microsoft currently doesn't have support for PHP in its product. However, de Visser suggested that the situation is starting to shift.

In fact, cooperation with Microsoft was part of Zend's news at the conference. The two companies have been working on a FastCGI interface between PHP and Microsoft's IIS Web server. A GoLive version of the technology, in beta release, is available for free at Microsoft's PHP site.

The new CGI tooling significantly enhances the performance and reliability of PHP such that PHP now works two and three times faster on the Windows platform, according to Andi Gutmans, Zend's cofounder and co-CTO. The improvements are part of PHP and work with the forthcoming Windows Server 2008 and the older Windows Server 2003.

Zend's collaboration with Microsoft started about a year ago and focused on improving the performance and reliability of PHP on Windows, de Visser said. Microsoft's work with an open source company like Zend has been pragmatic, he added, and the fixes to PHP have been donated back to the PHP community and are part of PHP 5.2.4.

PHP use has been gaining traction, especially with those deploying the open source LAMP solution stack. LAMP is an acronym for Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP, and de Visser said that LAMP is becoming a "more prospective kind of setup."

That sort of traction has made Microsoft one of the companies that is keen to have better relations with the PHP ecosystem, he added.

"At some level, obviously, PHP is a competitor with Microsoft with its .NET structure," de Visser said. "But the team we work with at Microsoft is the Windows team primarily, and those teams are very pragmatic about this."

PHP development is typically done 80 percent of the time on Windows, de Visser said. However, when it comes to deployment, that happens about 80 percent of the time on Linux.

"Microsoft seems pretty bullish that they can win some market share there if they come out with the right product," he added.

Microsoft is also providing support for an identity management infrastructure via Cardspace. PHP developers can now create Web sites that can understand authentication and identification data from people surfing the Web using information cards, which includes everyone on the Microsoft Windows infrastructure, de Visser said. It makes it very simple to create Web sites with single sign-on infrastructure.

Also announced at the conference was the company's Zend Core 2.5 solution, which supports Web sites and business-critical applications. Zend Core is a Zend-certified PHP stack containing components for developers, enabling companies to run PHP in professional settings.

IBM and Zend created a version of Zend Core that's tailored for the IBM world, de Visser said. It comes with the core driver for IBM's DB2 database and has support for the AIX open Unix operating system -- things that are important for the IBM ecosystem. Zend is providing the whole stack plus the DB2 database, as well as support for any part of the stack, he added.

Last but not least among the conference announcements, Zend has been working with Oracle on a connection pooling technology for Oracle's new 11g database that improves the scalability of PHP applications operating with high volumes of traffic. This sort of problem can arise when a Web site's database tries to handle queries from thousands of people. Under such conditions, the Web connection has to remain open, which can cause scalability problems. Zend and Oracle are making the new tooling available to the open source PHP community. Oracle posted the new PHP OCI driver supporting the 11g database at the PHP Extension Community Library (PECL) repository.

PHP became an enterprise play about three years ago after Zend released its Zend Framework, de Visser said. Since the Framework was released, there have been about a million downloads of it.

"And we are aware of hundreds of commercial applications that are running on this -- it's really taking off," he added.

While there's been much talk about the Ruby programming language, it's still too early for enterprise deployment.

"There's a lot of momentum behind Ruby, but Ruby is still relatively young at the moment," de Visser said. "Ruby doesn't have the scalability and reliability yet."

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor, Enterprise Group, at 1105 Media Inc.