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Zend Technologies is turning to application server vendors in the next phase of its work fine-tuning PHP for enterprise development.

Self-appointed PHP steward Zend has had talks with unnamed middleware partners with a view to improving the performance of its favorite scripting language on their application servers, by putting PHP inside the application server.

The thinking is that the current PHP bridge that's used to instantiate Java objects and that currently connects PHP to the Java Virtual Machine (JVM), might - instead - connect to the Enterprise Java Bean (EJB) container.

A direct connection would boost performance of PHP and Java applications by eliminating the delay that currently exists between the JVM and the EJB container.

"We are looking at the ability to be hosted in the application server itself," Zend co-founder and co-chief technology officer Andi Gutmans told The Register.

Work fine-tuning PHP to the application server follows recent years' activities optimizing PHP to another part of the software infrastructure - the database. Zend has worked to tune its Zend Core stack to databases from IBM, Oracle, MySQL and - as of this week - Microsoft. PHP is getting a boost with the release of a native SQL driver from Microsoft that's being put into the main Zend Core product, rather than into development of a fresh Zend Core SQL Server package.

The work on application servers feeds in to Zend's support for Eclipse. The company believes its Zend Studio for Eclipse, due in the first quarter of 2008, will pave the way to integration between its development environment and other vendors' Java-based Eclipse tools, enabling developers to potentially merge their favorite Java and PHP tools and to more easily build applications that combine Java and PHP code. Zend claims 55 per cent of developers are building "hybrid" applications.

"The Java community has realized Java is overkill for building certain applications. They have been looking to dynamic languages... we have seen the community is looking to Zend and PHP," Gutmans said. "But Java has 13 years of investment in applications and business logic they don't want to re-write."

Gutmans said Eclipse gives Zend the "tooling story" to the application server work.®

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