Microsoft arms half-wit developers with PHP handgun
PHP is legal. But it shouldn't be
The Perfect Fail
The great draw of PHP is that it allows less experienced programmers to solve small problems quickly, which is great for people who aren't in the business of making web applications. But when Microsoft starts telling people that they don't have to worry about scalability anymore, there is the potential for a Perfect Fail.
This will occur when both Microsoft and a team of PHP developers believe they are on the track to win, but the developers birth unto the world a social network for cats, a Twitter clone, or yet another content management system. The PHP developers have failed, well, because they're PHP developers. Microsoft has failed because they're acting as that unscrupulous dealer who provides PHP to people that probably shouldn't have access to it. Neither realize they've failed, which means they both fail at failing.
It's mathematically complete.
The most bizarre part of this whole circus is that Microsoft is warming up to open source. They are providing FastCGI on the Azure platform, which means that they are setting up to allow a wealth of different languages, provided they can get the runtimes working. If you've ever had to build C extensions to Python on Windows, you can join me in a feeling of satisfaction that someone at Microsoft is going to have to figure this out. Let's call it retribution for Internet Explorer 6.
Anyway, if you think about FastCGI on Azure, it's not too far of a leap. After all, it's an unnecessary protocol that could just as easily been replaced by persistent HTTP connections and requires a programmer to code his way around its model. It's about as much a pain in the balls as anything Microsoft could have come up with, so I'm glad to see them not reinventing the wheel.
What makes it even more Microsofty is that PHP's support for FastCGI is a comedy act of its own. FastCGI requires that you write your web handlers inside of a connection accept loop, allowing you to initialize any resources only once. This is clearly too hard for your average PHP professional, so FastCGI only keeps the interpreter running so you don't have to execute it every time there's a web request.
For those of you that aren't web developers, this is a bit like trying to kill a person with a rifle by clubbing them in the foot with it, hoping that the blunt end of the weapon will break the skin somehow, and your victim will die of an infection because he's in a place so remote that there's no access to antibiotics.
Microsoft has recognized a quality catastrophe in the open source world, and embraced it. It's a sick twist on collaboration, but at least it's a start.
This is an interesting affront to Google, who so far is only supporting programming languages for grown ups on App Engine. Much like an Englishman debating an American, Google is trying to keep the level of discourse high and sophisticated. Our American Microsoft, on the other hand, has just sucker-punched the Englishman in the mouth and yelled "YEAH WHERE'S YOUR VOCABULARY NOW?"
Like it or not, supporting PHP does attract a lot of developers. Microsoft is sure to see heavier adoption as development teams realize it's a waste of time for them to support everything from the website to the metal on the hardware. I'm going to watch this with trepidation.
But hey, it could be worse. They could be hosting MySQL. ®
Ted Dziuba is a co-founder at Milo.com You can read his regular Reg column, Fail and You, every other Monday.