Zend Offers Application X-Ray with 'Z-Ray'

Zend Technologies' recent release of Zend Server 7, the latest version of its PHP-based Web application platform, includes a new set of embedded facilities designed to give developers "in-context visibility" inside their applications. Dubbed Z-Ray, it provides a kind of app X-ray with a real-time look into an application's inner workings.

The company says it sees it as a "shift left" capability, which allows for testing and validation sooner in the software lifecycle. "We were trying to figure out if there was something we could do as part of this left-shift movement to enable continuous delivery at an even earlier stage," Zend CEO Andi Gutmans told ADTmag. "One of the biggest challenges developers face is getting visibility into their code, seeing what's happening with it and how it's executing, as they develop it. We know, of course, that developers work in a certain way: They write code, they hit save, and they hit refresh in the browser, and they do it 300 times a day. Anything you ask them to do outside that workflow is a distraction. So our challenge was to give them something that would fit into that workflow while providing visibility."

Z-Ray is embedded in Zend Server 7 and provides developers with access to a tool bar that allows them to see, for example, how much memory a piece of code is consuming and how much time a process is taking to execute, Gutmans explained. He said he sees Z-Ray as a game-changing tool from a DevOps perspective.

"If you can improve the quality of your code earlier on in the process, you can be more productive, and you're removing a lot of friction later on in the release cycle," he commented.

This particular upgrade was also the most "customer-centric" development in the company's history, Gutmans said, thanks to early customer involvement. "They helped to make a good idea a great idea," he said.

Z-Ray was the latest response by the company to emerging market requirements for faster and more agile app delivery, Gutmans said, and the resulting focus on continuous delivery practices. Zend defines continuous delivery as "collaborative, iterative approaches that apply automation to all steps of moving an application from development to production." In October the company published its first Blueprints for Continuous Delivery. Build on Zend Server, the Blueprints are a codification of best practices for each step of the software delivery cycle designed to organize them into a single, iterative process.

"Continuous delivery promises to deliver on what used to be the three conflicting elements of speed, cost, and quality," Gutmans said. "We want Zend Server to become a conveyor belt for full automation, end-to-end."

Zend Technologies is the Cupertino, CA-based commercial maintainer of the PHP dynamic scripting language. The company was co-founded by Gutmans and CTO Zeev Suraski, who are key contributors to PHP and the creators of the core PHP scripting engine.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].