Zend Technologies Inc., maker of PHP open source software for creating do-it-yourself dynamic Web sites, released a major upgrade Monday of its prime product, Zend Platform.
Zend Platform 2 now handles higher-end workloads in business-critical applications, the company said, due to the addition of session clustering.
Session clustering is a process that synchronizes session data across a server cluster, thus adding speed and scalability to PHP applications.
"This announcement is significant in that it allows PHP to play credibly at workloads and in markets that were regarded as out of its realm," RedMonk open-source industry analyst Stephen OGrady told Ziff Davis Internet.
"PHP has had tremendous success with departmental-type workloads, as well as mission-critical tasks in certain arenas, but IT is often reluctant to employ such technologies for high-end workloads if they dont offer features like clustering and provisioning," OGrady said.
PHP has been a popular choice among SMBs (small and midsize businesses) and nonprofits for building Web sites, due to its relative simplicity of configuration and lack of licensing fees.
But larger enterprises had shied away from using PHP and its applications in heavy user environments—such as online business transactions and internal sales channel record-keeping—because it was ineffective at handling a high number of user sessions.
The addition of session clustering changes the whole way PHP will be viewed from now on, said Bret Kelly, CTO at Marktplaats.nl, an online classified marketplace in The Netherlands that was recently acquired by eBay.com.
"The new manageability and performance features of Zend Platform 2 helps to ensure that the Marktplaats.nl Web site is available at all times," Kelly said. "With Zend Platform 2, we can address critical issues related to slow response time or execution failures before they can affect our customers."
Many Zend customers run business-critical, heavy-duty PHP applications, which are frequently put under heavy user load, the company said.
These applications are usually serviced by multiserver Web clusters running identical PHP applications.
This includes a load balancer between servers in a cluster, allowing applications to scale as usage increases.
Web cluster operators have experienced performance degradation when adding more servers to their cluster to address increased user load, Zend said.
With session clustering, session data is stored on the server where sessions are established and subsequently are delivered to other servers in the cluster by requesting the session data from the original server.
"Session clustering significantly improves the scalability of our Web cluster," said Stephan Esch, CTO and management member at FreeNet, one of the most popular Internet providers and the largest PHP cluster in Germany.
"With the always increasing number of FreeNet users, it is crucial to maintain our sites availability and ensure its response time for continued user satisfaction. The Zend session clustering is far superior to other existing mechanisms —easier to operate and more fail-safe."
Pricing is set at $995 and $1495 for a two-(or more) processor server.
Zend Platform 2 is available for Linux today and will support SPARC Solaris, FreeBSD and Mac OS later in the month, the company said.
Zend said it will offer unlimited free support for Zend Platform 2 during the evaluation period.