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Zend's cloud of clouds PHP play drops first code

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ZendCon 09 The first code in a cross-vendor project to make PHP applications work on different clouds - and (kinda) avoid lock in - has been delivered.

Simple API for Cloud Application Services on Tuesday released code for a set of storage adaptors that should let applications written in PHP work across different providers clouds without rewriting them.

The storage API will work on Amazon's S3, Microsoft's Windows Azure Blob storage, Nirvanix, and your own local cloud storage system. Planned code for Rackspace and GoGrid are still pending.

Zend Technologies' Wil Sinclair, manager of Zend's advanced technologies group and working on Simple API, told The Reg the next major target is for code that will work with queue services on Amazon - SQS - Windows Azure Queue Storage and local systems.

That will be followed by a document API that works with Amazon's SimpleDB, Windows Azure Table Storage and - again - users' own cloud storage.

Simple API was announced last month by PHP tools, server, and framework specialist Zend, with IBM, Microsoft, Nirvanix, Rackspace, and GoGrid as co-founding contributors. Missing from the early work are Amazon and Google, who have been contacted by Zend. The PHP company is currently building the Amazon adaptors.

Zend's chief executive Andi Gutmans told The Reg we should prepare for rollout of Simple API during the next couple of months. He also noted this is incremental work, as so much of the cloud work is at an early phase and vendors are still figuring things out.

Zend's plan is to support Simple API adaptors in future versions of its PHP framework.

"This is where we are going strategically," Gutmans said. He said he hopes other languages also support Simple API. "That's the only way we can make sure the cloud is open and free for all."

Gutmans believes it's important for PHP to avoid lock-in as hosted services the next five give years will see PHP applications increasingly being built that are native to the cloud.

The last five years saw PHP rise as a web platform used with Linux, Apache, and MySQL. According to Gutmans, PHP has arrived as a mainstream IT standard, with major organizations like GE, BNP, and Deutsche Telekom not just using PHP and - in particular - Zend's framework but also standardizing on them or picking them over Java Enterprise Edition for web and data-driven business applications.

But the cloud requires a different architecture to take advantage of vendors' underlying storage and processing. But that way lies lock-in. "The problem with those services is once you use them you are locked into a specific cloud vendor," Gutmans said.

Interoperability is one thing. However, there's also the risk a "simple" API could be a little too generic - that the API could abstract away so much complexity that the PHP applications using it can't access features in vendors' underlying platforms that have been offered deliberately to tempt developers by juicing their cloud applications.

Sinclair told us while Simple API is still being worked out, one early goal is to let developers know at what point they are being locked in by using certain features.

"One of things we want to do with Simple Cloud API is to not just prevent lock in but to let people know when they are locking in, so it'll be really obvious when you are using the common API and when you are starting to use stuff that's unique to that cloud," Sinclair said. ®

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