Feeds

Facebook re-write takes PHP to an enterprise past

Remember C++? They do

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

Facebook's re-written PHP to transform the dynamic language for fast performance on web-scale server farms without adding additional hardware.

The site's engineers have announced HipHop, which turns the popular and dynamic PHP code into highly optimized but static C++ and then compiles it using the GNU C++ compiler, g++. The change has been released to the community under the PHP license, and you can read more here.

It's quite a change for a social network site that's a posterchild for the Web 2.0 revolution and online services, built on the new generation of scripting languages such as PHP and Agile development methodology of hacking code for short project cycles.

C++ is traditionally associated with the reliable - but relatively unexciting - world of enterprise and server-side computing.

And, while Facebook announced HipHop on Tuesday, the truth is it's already completely committed to the architecture: HipHop's been running on Facebook's thousands of servers for the last six months, with 90 per cent of the site's traffic now running through the transformed PHP.

The company claimed it's cut the CPU use on its servers by up to 50 per cent, depending on the page thanks to HipHop's transformation of PHP.

David Recordon, Facebook's senior open programs manager, told The Reg this translates into cost savings as the company can manage its existing server farms while also adding additional traffic to its service. "We can scale the site in active users and face views and can get more from current hardware without buying more servers," Recordon said.

HipHop started as a skunkworks project two years ago as Facebook realized in 2007 it needed to make some fundamental change to its server architecture if it was to keep growing while avoiding the cost - and systems management pain - of simply adding more servers to its already large server farm. Among the options under discussion were re-writing the site in a completely different language, optimize the Zend PHP engine it uses from Zend Technologies, or work on PHP caching in the applications server

Facebook ruled out a language re-write as it would never be able to keep up while engineers did submit changes to the Zend engine, but the changes didn't go far enough Recordon said.

The plan for HipHop now is to support PHP 5.3 in the next few months - it's currently on version 5.2. Aside from that, Recordon said Facebook wants community feedback.

He noted HipHop would not create a fork in the PHP community, as HipHop would only be of interest to a narrow section of users - those, like Facebook, running very large sites. He said Facebook wanted to "minimize" the differences between PHP and HipHop.

"HipHop makes sense at our scale, but not for everyone," Recordon said. "Most people will continue using PHP today." ®

Reducing security risks from open source software

More from The Register

next story
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Do YOU work at Microsoft? Um. Are you SURE about that?
Nokia and marketing types first to get the bullet, says report
Microsoft takes on Chromebook with low-cost Windows laptops
Redmond's chief salesman: We're taking 'hard' decisions
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.