PHP


Matt Asay wrote a well received post about dynamic scripting languages such as PHP, Perl and Python ‘crashing the enterprise party’. While the Indeed.com job trends chart that Matt used is somewhat misleading, the chart isn’t central to his point. I say somewhat misleading because the chart tracks percentage growth of jobs seeking “Java”, “PHP, “Perl”, “.NET” and “Python” skills. It’s not surprising to see languages with little enterprise penetration growing faster than languages, or platforms in the case of .NET, that are virtually de facto standards for non-legacy applications. The ‘absolute’ version of the Indeed.com job trend chart is more reflective of the market demand for Java, PHP, Perl, .NET and Python skills.

In any case, Matt’s concludes:

“No, Java and .Net aren’t going away anytime soon. But then, neither are the dynamic programming languages, which are increasingly blessed “enterprise ready.””

I completely agree. Forrester’s Jeffrey Hammond’s research supports the growing enterprise interest in dynamic scripting languages:

“It’s also no surprise to see that dynamic languages such as Ruby, Python, PHP, and JavaScript are proving most popular with developers in the 45-and-under cohort. Dynamic languages are useful when it comes to assembling components into composite Web applications, especially if runtime composition is important.

The implications? As the development staff at a shop turns over, the new generation will push to adopt these dynamic languages. IT managers must ensure that processes and application life-cycle management tools can handle the changes that these new languages bring to the development shop. “

Hammond’s research also found that developers are increasingly comfortable working on multiple programming languages. Hammond writes:

“Developers used to identify themselves by the languages that they used — “I’m a COBOL programmer,” “she’s a Java developer.” But that’s changing — less than 15% of the developers we surveyed spend all their time writing in a single language. “

I started to wonder if the increase in dynamic scripting language job postings is being driven by companies seeking enterprise developers with multiple programming language skills. For instance, if a job required Java skills and another job required Java, Python, MySQL, Ruby on Rails and PHP skills, Matt’s Indeed.com job trends query would find 100 percent of jobs seek Java skills while 50 percent of jobs seek PHP skills. Clearly, the first job has an emphasis on Java development, with Java coding likely making up the majority of the work week. The second job may also be a predominately Java job, but there may be the odd PHP coding task required. As such, claiming that the second job is a “PHP” job while the first job is a “Java” job is somewhat of a difficult conclusion. This can be remedied with Boolean search operators as I’ve done, as shown in the chart below.

The overwhelming majority of jobs requiring PHP skills do not require Java or .NET related skills. My hypothesis that the growth of PHP jobs was a byproduct of companies seeking a Java or .NET platform developer who also knew PHP appears to be unsupported by the Indeed.com data. Java developers tend to be compensated at higher levels than dynamic scripting language developers. Companies may not want to pay a Java developer to work some percentage of her day on PHP coding when a PHP developer could be hired for lower cost. Makes sense, but I would have expected more overlap between Java and PHP jobs or the .NET platform and PHP jobs. You learn something new every day!

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

Microsoft announced a new “Spark” program targeted at small web development shops with fewer than 10 employees. WebsiteSpark provides the following Microsoft development and production software licenses:

  • 3 licenses of Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition
  • 1 license of Expression Studio 3 (which includes Expression Blend, Sketchflow, and Web)
  • 2 licenses of Expression Web 3
  • 4 processor licenses of Windows Web Server 2008 R2
  • 4 processor licenses of SQL Server 2008 Web Edition
  • DotNetPanel control panel (enabling easy remote/hosted management of your servers)

These licenses are provided at no cost for the first three years.  After this term, the web development company, or individual consultant for that matter, must decide whether to continue using the licenses for $999 or $199 per year.  There’s an option to stop using the licenses all together.  But after three years of building skills with the Microsoft stack, I don’t see a significant portion of participants leaving the program.

To monetize the WebsiteSpark program, Microsoft will help participants find a hosting provider for the website/web application developed for their end clients.  Hosting providers offering a Microsoft runtime stack pay software license fees to Microsoft.  Even if the web development company decides to leave the WebsiteSpark program after the three year term, their clients whose website/web application is already running will continue to pay for hosting.  As a result, Microsoft will continue collecting license fees from the hosting providers.

Additionally, since there are only 3 licenses of Visual Studio, Microsoft could also generate license revenue from the fourth through tenth employee at the web development company.

So who exactly should care about this program?  Well, early-stage web development companies or a consultant just starting out is probably the target.  This company or consultant likely has .NET skills, but would prefer to see their business take off before paying for software licenses.  In other words, they are Microsoft customers to lose.  In the past the company or consultant would have been forced to look at (L)AMP because of the upfront cost consideration.

The response on ScottGu’s blog announcing the program has been overwhelmingly positive. Again, that’s because the target are Microsoft friendly ISVs or consultants who now have one less reason to look at (L)AMP.

Follow me on twitter at: SavioRodrigues

PS: I should state: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

The PHP development team officially announced PHP 4 end of life (EoL):

The PHP development team hereby announces that support for PHP 4 will continue until the end of this year only. After 2007-12-31 there will be no more releases of PHP 4.4. We will continue to make critical security fixes available on a case-by-case basis until 2008-08-08.

PHP 4 has been around for 7 years and PHP 5 for 3 years now. The PHP development team needed to draw a line in the sand and move forward. PHP 5 offers additional capabilities, more security, and OO, to list a few reasons for a PHP developer to upgrade. The fact that PHP 5 support OO programming (i.e. scary stuff for some of us) and PHP 4 “has pretty much all I need” have been reasons for PHP users to stay with PHP 4.

I make a distinction between PHP users (i.e. me) vs. PHP developers (i.e. someone working at Yahoo/Flickr who codes in PHP for a living). A migration from PHP 4 to PHP 5 isn’t as dramatic for PHP developers, even if their current applications are heavily PHP 4 based. PHP developers have the skills to troubleshoot any migration issues and re-write components as necessary. PHP users likely started with code copied from somewhere else that they’ve modified to the best of their abilities and understanding. So, when something doesn’t migrate from PHP 4 to PHP 5, “who ‘ya gonna call”?

Could a groundswell of PHP 4 users happy enough with PHP 4 and uninterested in PHP 5 capabilities be the impetus for a community to (form and) continue supporting PHP 4 beyond 2008-08-08? Realistic or not, I think PHP 4 users would prefer this option over migrating.

Could this situation test an OSS obvious truth: “you have the source, so why worry?”

Having the source to PHP 4 doesn’t help a PHP 4 user like me too much. Arguably, countless PHP 4 users just need to find one person out there that will keep the PHP 4 development stream alive. Will that happen?

PS: I completely understand that the situation for PHP 4 users is much better than if PHP 4 was Traditional software and its EoL was announced. But hey, you could always pay to get support for a product past its EoL.

It’s based on PHP 5, limiting its use by the majority of PHP developers who don’t like/understand OO programming, or simply, are happy with PHP 4 thank you very much. But the audience seems to be enterprise developers that want to take advantage of the speed of development & productivity that PHP provides. So, PHP 5 was definitely the right choice.

Infoworld reports:

Zend Framework 1.0 will not be the only PHP development framework around as it will share the scene with frameworks like Cake and Prado. But Zend’s is the first framework with support from a corporate entity and relevant contributions from companies like IBM and Google, Zend said.

Gartner’s Mark Driver is quoted:

“The positive aspect [of the framework] is it this is exactly the kind of thing mainstream IT developers are asking for,” Driver said. But traditional PHP developers already have been satisfied with what has been available, he said.

Will the introduction of this ‘enterprisey’ framework have an impact on the adoption of PHP in the enterprise? Peter Yared, based on his previous post, likely thinks it’ll be an uphill battle. And to be honest, so do I. But hey, let the market decide!

As Stephen & Matt point out, Peter Yared of ActiveGrid fame (but now with a new startup), asks what happened to the much hyped/expected explosion of PHP usage in the enterprise.

Peter puts forward two reasons for this:

1. Java has become easier
2. New infrastructure software has hidden costs

I agree, with both points, especially #2. I am personally aware of two large customer where the IT operations team refused to put a PHP app into production because of administration, management, security and governance issues. The application development team had to rewrite the app in Java.

Two other reasons I’d add to Peter’s list:

3] Developer & IT Operations skills
4] IT Vendor backing

I’m constantly surprised with the number of developers I’ve spoken to who say “I use Java for everything because that’s what I know best and just haven’t had a chance to pick up PHP”. Learning PHP is a weekend chore at best. But, getting as proficient with PHP as you are with Java may not be worth the effort, especially when you’re already overstretched trying to meet deadlines. Also, let’s not forget the skills required to secure, administer, manage and monitor PHP apps. I suspect this is why the IT operations team said no to PHP in the customer examples above.

Major IT vendors have invested in Java and .NET technology and marketplace education. Corporate IT decision makers know about Java and .NET, so when a developer comes in talking about xyz where xyz != (Java | .NET), it’s going to be a difficult discussion.

But all is not lost for PHP in the enterprise.

I believe that PHP’s growth in the enterprise hinges on its acceptance by IT operations teams, which is related to issues #2 and #3 above. Two products that address this gap, (and I’m sure there are others):

Zend Platform helps administer, manage and monitor PHP applications, three very important functions inside an enterprise IT department. A problem that some enterprise customers have with this approach is that you now needed two sets of skills or people. One that would play the IT operations role for your enterprise PHP apps and one for your Java apps (remember we were speaking with Java customers, so insert .NET for Java as appropriate).

IBM WebSphere Extended Deployment Operations Optimization Controller, (wow 62 characters), amongst *many* other capabilities, addresses the above issue with PHP in the enterprise (See Note below). It allows IT operations to manage PHP resources in the same way they manage Java resources.

I mention WebSphere Extended Deployment because it’s a great example of OSS and traditional software being used together to deliver customer value.

We may look back and realize that traditional products like WebSphere Extended Deployments turned out to be the impetus for broader adoption of PHP in the enterprise.

NOTE: Please read more about WebSphere Extended Deployment here. I wouldn’t want you thinking that it’s mainly for PHP stuff. WebSphere Extended Deployment is about quality of service optimizations to your IT investments. Also, I’ve just discussed one feature (PHP support) of one component (Operations Optimization Controller) of WebSphere Extended Deployment. The other two components, Data Grid and Compute Grid, are incredibly powerful and have customers really excited. If you think about Grid Computing, Virtualization, or Extreme Transaction Processing, think WebSphere Extended Deployment.

Okay, not your barn (watch this to see the barn reference), but how about running PHP natively on your Mainframe?

It should surprise no one that the use of PHP is growing in enterprise environments.  I’m not suggesting that PHP is replacing other “enterprise-class” technologies.  Rather, PHP is being used as part of the enterprise IT bag of tricks.  Sometimes when you’re digging a hole, you need a shovel, other times you need a backhoe.  Let your job dictate the tools you use.

PS: James pointed out the availability of PHP for Z/OS on alphaworks.

I know that the original question was “Who are the top 5 OSS thought leaders”, and that’s been covered by several folks already. I’m going to ask a similar, but different question.

Who are the top 5 entities that have brought OSS into everyday (enterprise & commercial) use? This is less a list of Thought Leaders than it is a list of Action Leaders. I don’t usually read the blogs of “people” on this list, but their efforts have changed the IT marketplace. Although you could argue that a thought leader is someone who was preciously an Action Leader….anywho.

<drumRoll>In no specific order:</ drumRoll>

1. PHP guys (Rasmus Lerdorf, Zeev Suraski & Andi Gutmans): How many websites you use today are running PHP? PHP enabled a whole class of “non-techies” to become techie enough to throw up a website with dynamic content or modify existing templates and a legion of startups to get stuff done quickly and on the cheap.

2. IBM & HP: It’s unlikely that Linux would have received enterprise acceptance from CIOs without the backing of major IT vendors such as IBM & HP. The growth of Linux no longer relies on the blessing of major IT vendors, but without the early investments and advertising from IBM & HP, it’s hard to say we’d see Linux adoption where it is today. And both have continued to support OSS by their participation in OSS projects, contributing code, paying key OSS developers to work on their respective OSS projects, and driving revenue from hardware, support and services around OSS. (Note: I’d say IBM has done more around OSS than HP, but that’s because I’m more familiar with IBM’s efforts.) Oh yeah, IBM & HP benefited nicely from their backing of Linux & OSS….nothing wrong with that :-)

3. Stallman/Linus: Hard to have an OSS list of any kind, especially a list that deals with action & results, without Stallman & Linus on it.

4. Marc Fleury: Like him or not, he woke up the middleware market. While many vendors were happy to watch Linux eat into Solaris & Windows accounts (although the latter didn’t happen as much as it is believed), the thought of OSS moving up the stack was really an afterthought. Fleury helped change that view. He made it easier for other OSS vendors to get funding, and forced software vendors (middleware or otherwise) to build strategies that used OSS in order to increase customer choice.

5. Google & Yahoo: How much of Yahoo’s and Google’s infrastructure runs on OSS? We’ll never really know for sure (although many reports indicate it’s a lot), but millions of users get to benefit from their use of OSS to deliver useful tools like GMail, Search, Yahoo Finance, del.icio.us, etc.

[The Pic is from Flickr user powerbooktrance. It’s an “Action” figure & I’m looking forward to the Transformers movie. Oh happy childhood memories.]

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