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Zend and Rightscale Partner for PHP PaaS

Zend Technologies and Rightscale announced this week a jointly-developed platform-as-a-service (PaaS) architecture for PHP developers. The announcement was kind of overshadowed by the big VMware PaaS news, but this is a dynamic duo you should keep an eye on.

Zend, of course, is the Cupertino, Calif.-based creator and commercial maintainer of the PHP dynamic scripting language. Zend is run by Andi Gutmans and Zeev Suraski, who are key contributors to PHP and the creators of the core PHP scripting engine. RightScale is a Santa Barbara-based provider of an automated, Web-based (and eponymous) cloud management platform.

The heart of RightScale's management platform is a set of pre-built ServerTemplates for common server configurations. "It's a way to assemble a machine configuration out of building blocks," RightScale's CTO and co-founder Dr. Thorsten von Eicken explained to me last year, when his company first partnered with Zend to release a set of RightScale ServerTemplates for deploying Apache with PHP. Working together, the two companies made it possible to deploy Zend-based PHP apps across multiple clouds via the RightScale management platform.

Now they've released the RightScale Zend PHP Solution Pack, which is designed to provide massive scalability and high availability for PHP apps running in the cloud. The solution combines the RightScale management platform with the Zend Server Web app server. 

Rightscale CEO and co-founder Michael Crandel told me that the new product was a direct response to customer demand.

"We've seen a real movement toward platform-as-a-service and ease-of-use for developers, who really don't want to mess with these ugly things called servers and storage volumes, but just want to upload their code and run it," Crandel said.

"Both companies wanted to create a PHP PaaS, with the characteristic elasticity of a cloud platform, but also one that would be customizable," said Kent Mitchell, Zend's director of product management. "We've combined the best practices of Zend with the best practices of RightScale to create a reference PHP architecture that you can launch basically the push of a button."

A big selling point for this solution is likely to be its flexibility -- Mitchell calls it "open PaaS" or "customizable PaaS." A platform for PHP from Zend's perspective, he said, shouldn't be tied to single cloud provider, should be application-centric, and should handle the app whole lifecycle.

"If a customer wants to move from Amazon to Rackspace, they should be able to do that," he said. "And as we move forward, people aren't going to be monitoring servers anymore; they're going to be monitoring applications. They'll want to know things like, I'm having a problem with my e-commerce application, not that server XYZ is heavily loaded. And though lots of PaaS companies handle just the deployment or test or just one part of the lifecycle, we believe that it's important to the full lifecycle: development tooling, test and QA, staging, and production deployment."

"Because of the way RightScale works, and the way Zend is very flexible," Mitchell added, "what we've got here is a solution that's a PaaS, where you can sort of lift the hood of the car, tweak the engine a little bit if you want, slam the hood back down, and now you've got your PaaS. If you don't like MySQL as the database and you want to use, say, Oracle, you just lift the hood, pull out MySQL and put in Oracle, and close the hood. Now every developer that fires it up will start with an Oracle instance."

The RightScale Zend PHP Solution Pack comes with a bunch of tools and features, including a production-ready, cloud-based environment that includes the Zend Server, the Zend Server Cluster Manager, and RightScale's Premium Onboarding, which is a step-by-step path to deploying on the cloud using best practices from the two companies.

Stephen O'Grady, Principal Analyst with RedMonk, contributed a comment for the press release that I thought was worth passing on: "Considering PHP's ubiquity on the web, it wasn't a question of if it embraced the cloud, but when," he said. "With the recently announced RightScale/Zend partnership, the two companies are offering PHP users the best of both worlds, with the time to market of Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and the flexibility of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)."

More details about the solution pack are available on the Web site, where you can also sign up for an intro Webinar scheduled for April 28 at 11:00 am PDT.

Posted by John K. Waters on April 21, 2011