New York - "Have we missed the PHP boat entirely?" That was the question posed by IBM senior developer Mike Burr at the New York PHP Conference and Expo 2006 held last week. The concern remains as to whether PHP can be made to better fit in an enterprise community aggressively pursuing service-oriented architecture. IBM would like to believe that they have found some answers.
IBM has focused attention primarily on long-term applications in the past. The concentration has been on efficiency, ROI, performance and stability. The software has been packaged for and generally purchased by senior IT executives.
On the other hand, PHP is considered a situational application. It is constantly changing, focused on effectiveness, processed faster and meant for quick, sometimes temporary deployment. PHP is almost always written from scratch, which can be problematic.
"Any non-trivial PHP application cannot be installed without human intervention and we want to change that," said Burr. He said IBM wants to re-invent PHP in order to accommodate businesses that are getting too fast for heavyweight processes.
The challenge is to maintain the idiosyncratic strengths of PHP. "We cannot destroy the things that make PHP interesting…It has a long, unique history," Burr said.
Christopher Jones, a technical consultant at Oracle Corp., has similar issues with PHP. "Installation is the biggest problem of all…We need to make sure PHP is easier to adopt," he said. The key to the future of PHP, according to Jones, is "Integration, integration, integration."
For this, IBM has proposed using Service Data Objects (SDO) and Service Component Architecture (SCA). The goal being to "make it simple for you to do what the big guys can do," said Burr.
SDO can work with data regardless of the source, unifies it within the context of an SOA and integrates it with XML. SCA simplifies the creation of services, simplifies writing components and automatically updates WSDL definitions. These two proposed standards could be brought to bear in PHP application development.
Last week, Big Blue also announced a PHP integration kit for it WebSphere Application Server Community Edition, based on the Apache Geronimo project. The kit will allow developers to use PHP in combination with Java in developing services inside an SOA.
Another technology IBM has suggested using is a private virtual server deployed through an ISP. The intention is to give LAMP stack development enterprise-level backup and a more stable security system. This way, the service is hosted by a formal IT infrastructure while still being personalized.
The ideal is for these technologies to help create enterprise-class PHP that can be utilized by businesses in more than just situational instances. It would allow for simpler deployment in a governed environment.
PHP could then be used universally, as Jones said, "We could install PHP in a small case, in which a big case can come in and understand it."