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Zend offers PHP cure for Java bloat

Application-server speed pill

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Zend Technologies has built an application server for PHP that it hopes can slowly convert frustrated Java programmers as well as those relying on Java on the web and in the enterprise.

On Tuesday, the company is expected to unveil the Zend Server, a paid-for PHP stack that comes with service agreements and support and the free Zend Server Community Edition.

Zend's chief executive and co-founder Andi Gutmans called the servers the culmination of five years' work. It has seen creation of the Zend Framework and integration with Windows and databases from Oracle and IBM. It's also seen an Eclipse PHP plug-in project refine the runtime experience and provide developer tools plug-ins based on Eclipse.

The next phase under the recently named CEO Gutmans is the cloud. Gutmans told The Reg the Zend Frameworks would be dealing with virtualization and packaging inside and outside of the firewall to facilitate deployment in the cloud in the next year. Already, the Zend Framework features Amazon APIs and there are plans to support Microsoft's Azure.

But ahead of that, with today's application servers, Zend is not just targeting the millions of programmers building web and business applications using PHP. Gutmans hopes that Zend can convert individuals who think Java has become bloated and organizations struggling to find affordable Java Enterprise Edition (Java EE) programmers.

Companies already in the open source camp such as SpringSource, Red Hat's JBoss, and Caucho long ago recognized the frustration at the expense and inflexibility of using Java EE battle-ship application servers such as IBM's WebSphere and Oracle's WebLogic. They turned to the OSGi for a lightweight and modular Java application-server framework.

While Zend Server features a bridge to Java and OSGi, Gutmans called OSGi "too Java-centric". Instead, he's offering an application server using REST and XML over HTTP, which he believes is more accessible than Java simply because of the pervasive nature of PHP.

Like many in open source, Gutmans believes the recession will accelerate uptake of PHP and therefore Zend Server, as organizations struggle to find affordable Java developers to build or maintain web servers and those more back-office Java EE applications.

Zend is in the right place. It's just a question of whether it can successfully flip Java developers, whether Zend and PHP represents a genuinely mature alternative to Java EE.

Separately, The Reg recently spoke to global hotel chain the Intercontinental Hotels Group, which is emblematic of major organizations dumping the Java EE battleship for lightweight, open-source Java.

Bill Peer, IHG's chief enterprise architect, said his massive organization has halved its number of application servers from eight to four in a deliberate rationalization drive, dumping WebLogic. WebSphere was the only big, closed-source Java EE application server to make the final cut. Three of the organization's four preferred application servers are open-source Java: JBoss, Tomcat and Resin, with Resin the application server of choice.

It was access to the code and the ability to avoid the cost and delay of bringing in IBM, BEA, or Oracle consultants that helped drive IHG's rationalization.

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