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Zend Technologies is introducing paid support along with APIs to help build and maintain business-critical applications using its integrated and certified PHP stack.

The company is expected Monday to introduce Zend Framework 1.5, adding development- and production-environment support previously available on Zend's other PHP products but not with the Framework (unless you ponied up for Zend's specialized consulting services).

Pricing has yet to be finalized although Zend promised tier-one telephone support for those who want service level agreements with their PHP software by the end of March.

Zend Framework 1.5 also features LDAP authentication designed to work with Microsoft's Active Directory and LDAP-enabled directory systems.

On the web front, Zend Framework 1.5 features the ability to implement OpenID and Microsoft's InfoCard for single sign-on. In turn, the PHP code for InfoCard will be posted to Microsoft's CodePlex site. With InfoCards Microsoft has become a committer to Zend's PHP, along with IBM and Google who signed up with version 1.0 launched nine months ago.

Also added in this version are YouTube APIs released by Google though Google's GData web services, intended to simplify the addition of YouTube video content to sites and applications written using Zend's PHP.

Zend chief technology officer Andi Gutmans told Reg Dev that GData is part of Zend's bigger strategy for more web services providers to put their APIs into the Zend Framework and thus simplify development and integration of services from the likes of Google and Yahoo!. "For business applications, I'd like to see support for Amazon S3 and more business oriented web services... and the high-volume consumer web services," Gutmans said.

Other goals for the Zend Framework include improved AJAX integration - version 1.5 features server-side support with action helpers to automate AJAX detection and responses - and the bundling of Zend Framework with operating system distributions. Version 1.5 is being made available with Ubuntu.®

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