By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2005-03-28 Print this article Print

PHP was designed from the ground up to be a scripting language for Web applications and to be easy to understand for anyone used to Perl, JavaScript or most other scripting languages. This short learning curve, along with the fact that PHP runs on any platform and installs easily with the popular Apache Web server, has helped PHP spread through the Internet and into Web-based applications (PHP also works with most other Web servers).

But in many companies, PHP is still seen either as something that runs blogs and bulletin boards or as a simple scripting language that lacks the administrative tools and development environments that businesses expect from an application server.

Zend Technologies is attempting to change all that. Throughout PHPs history, Zend has been one of the main supporters of PHP and has been dedicated to making it enterprise-ready. The releases of Zend Platform 1.1 in January and Zend Studio 4 in February go a long way toward addressing some of the perceived weaknesses of PHP in the enterprise.

Zend Platform 1.1 is designed mainly to bring greater management, configuration, clustering, and monitoring and reporting capabilities to large PHP deployments. It is priced on a yearly subscription model at $995 for one CPU per year or $1,495 for two or more CPUs per year.

Zend Platform 1.1 is fairly simple to deploy. It runs on FreeBSD, Linux, Mac OS X and Solaris and works with the Apache and Zeus Web servers. Because PHP runs on Windows servers, we would like to see a Windows deployment option as well.

Installation and deployment of Zend Platform requires essentially two steps: We performed the main install on a central management server, and then we ran the node installation on our PHP servers. The latter provides agentlike management and monitoring features for Zend Platform.

All management and monitoring of the Zend Platform is done through a very clean and attractive browser-based interface. In the initial console interface, administrators can quickly see if there are any problems in their servers and can view a graph showing overall server health.

The main tabbed components of the interface are PHP Intelligence, Performance, Studio Server and Java Bridge. In the PHP Intelligence tab, we could view and configure alert rules for specific events on our servers or groups of servers. The Performance tab, essentially the old Zend Performance Suite, makes it possible to use caching and compression to improve server and application performance.

The Java Bridge, one of the most interesting features in the Zend Platform, makes it possible to easily integrate PHP and Java server applications. To use this feature, we made sure our Platform server had the proper JVM (Java virtual machine) installed, and then we were basically up and running.

Using standard code snippets, the Java Bridge made it possible to easily pass calls between PHP and Java applications and to monitor these connections through the Zend Platform.

The Studio Server is the server-based testing and debugging component of the Zend Studio 4 PHP development environment. From the Studio Server tab, we could access the configuration options of the Studio Server.

Studio and Zend Platform integration also works the other way, with the new communication tunnel feature in Studio 4. Using the communication tunnel, we could connect to the Zend Platform through firewalls and VPNs.

Zend Studio 4 provides all the debugging, syntax feedback and code management features that developers expect from any authoring environment. Version 4 also now has strong native SQL database support—always a problem in PHP.

Click here to read Labs review of Macromedias ColdFusion MX 7. We liked the new Code Snippets feature, which gave us access to a regularly updated collection of precreated PHP code for a whole number of common tasks.

Most of the provided snippets were created by regular developers in the PHP community, and the quality varied. But because it was just a snippet, we could easily edit it after inserting it into our code.

Zend Studio 4 also includes PHPDoc support. Like JavaDoc, PHPDoc makes it possible to quickly create documentation directly from source code.

The Zend Studio client runs on Linux, Mac OS X and Windows systems. Zend Studio 4 is priced at $299 for the Professional Edition (which we tested) and $99 for the Standard Edition, which lacks the remote profiling and debugging, native database support, and PHPDoc support found in the professional version.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

Jim Rapoza, Chief Technology Analyst, eWEEK.For nearly fifteen years, Jim Rapoza has evaluated products and technologies in almost every technology category for eWEEK. Mr RapozaÔÇÖs current technology focus is on all categories of emerging information technology though he continues to focus on core technology areas that include: content management systems, portal applications, Web publishing tools and security. Mr. Rapoza has coordinated several evaluations at enterprise organizations, including USA Today and The Prudential, to measure the capability of products and services under real-world conditions and against real-world criteria. Jim Rapoza's award-winning weekly column, Tech Directions, delves into all areas of technologies and the challenges of managing and deploying technology today.

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