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Zend's Gutmans: 'Step-Function Improvement' Coming to Development Thanks to Cloud

Zend Technologies CEO Andi Gutmans isn't one of Silicon Valley's most dynamic executive conference keynoters, but he's still one of my favorites. Benioff and Ellison are true showmen and fun to watch, but nobody cuts to the chase like Gutmans. He just walks onstage and tells you what his company is doing, clearly and in context. No yacht race videos. No musical tributes to our 50th state. No chats with celebs or digs at competitors. It's truly a beautiful thing.

But Gutmans slipped his Zen-like reserve yesterday during a post-ZendCon-keynote sit-down with a handful of industry reporters when the topic turned to the long-term implications of the cloud for developers

"Everyone is always talking about how developers are important, but in my opinion very few are actually doing anything about it," he said. "They're focused on their production environments and prettying them up to attract developers. We think that there really can be a step function improvement in how developers develop."

"Step function" is math geek for a big, sudden change, and it's a fair description of Zend's new phpcloud.com. Gutmans introduced his company's new platform and partner ecosystem for the development and delivery of PHP-based Web applications to attendees of the annual ZendCon PHP conference gathered in the Santa Clara, Calif., Convention Center. A key component of the new platform is the Zend Developer Cloud, a toolset designed to exploit the inherently collaborative nature of the cloud.

"I really think that companies have to think very differently about how people develop and engage in the cloud," Gutmans said. "The cloud actually gives you the opportunity to foster engagement and collaboration. It's not that it's impossible to do it on-premise, but it's very hard...Think about the Web frameworks -- Zend Framework (PHP), Rails (Ruby), Django (Python) -- they emerged about five years ago. I think there's another step function that we can add, and it's around enabling developers to better collaborate to make the life cycle smoother. Even Zend now is just scratching the surface of what is possible."

"The sheer fact that you have all these developers now in a centralized location," he added, "where you have proximity of storage and proximity of communications, and so on -- our ability to build on top of that and make it easy for them to communicate is going to make many things possible. We've been thinking about how we get these developers actually engaged in best practices, how we get them communicating. Maybe something like Twitter, where they say, 'Hey I've got a question. I've got this function that isn't working for me.' And then one of 10,000 developers online at that moment gives you an immediate answer. That's really for me the biggest piece that I'm excited about."

Forrester Research analyst Jeffrey S. Hammond was also at that meeting, and he observed that one of the most powerful current drivers of cloud adoption is mobile application development.

"The data are showing us a rapid ramp up the S curve in terms of technology adoption and the number of developers that are writing mobile apps, either web based or native," Hammond said. "When we dig into those mobile applications and look at how they're constructed, I think what we're seeing is mobile driving demand for cloud adoption. Because essentially the cloud-based scale-out services are great ways to back those mobile apps when you have no idea how quickly they're going to take off, and to do that very economically."

"It's almost like this Reese's Peanut Butter Cup thing," he added, "where the cloud makes mobile better and mobile makes the cloud better."

Hammond also compared the results of a 2010 Forrester survey of the Eclipse community, which showed that around 19 percent of respondents intended to deploy on private clouds, with a 2011 survey, which showed that about 25 percent of respondents were cloud bound.

"There's really only one reason developers are going to the cloud," Hammond said. "It's fast. They get much quicker feedback on what they're doing in a realistic environment. And they're saying, If the ops guys can't give that to me on my private cloud, I'm just going to the public space."

Gutmans said that the Zend Developer Cloud will continue to be one of his company's top initiatives "What we showcased today is a big step up," he said, "but it's just the beginning."

Posted by John K. Waters on October 19, 2011