IBM's recent decision to preload Zend Technologies' PHP Web software on its System i operating system could help IT shops refurbish legacy applications' front ends.
The companies say that more than 12,000 IBM i customers have already downloaded Zend Technologies Ltd.'s products on System i server platforms, but now IBM will bundle Zend Core, the company's Web solution stack featuring the Web programming language PHP, with every shipment of version 5.4 and 6.1 of the IBM System i operating system.
"I think it's an outstanding move," said Brian May, a project manager at Garan Inc., a children's clothing company. "I think PHP offers a great opportunity for shops to redo the front end of their applications and a great way to interact with RPG apps on the back end."
May speaks from experience. He is a member of the Young i Professionals, a social group for younger IBM System i enthusiasts. May was put in charge of the website, and after drawing up a quick site on a hosted server, the group decided that it wanted to host the site on a System i server. Gradually, May learned about the ability to run open source applications and PHP on System i.
"To be perfectly honest, I didn't even know it was possible. I never even considered it," he said. "I didn't even realize PHP was available on the box before I started doing research. Once I found out PHP and MySQL were there, it kind of made sense."Reducing management challenges
May said that RPG programmers can easily learn PHP and cited the simplification of having front-end Web apps and back-end business apps on the same box rather than having PHP apps on an x86 Windows or Linux box interacting across the network with back-end System i programs.
"Having you entire stack on one box cuts down on your management headaches," he said. "You don't have to worry about scaling it, you don't have to worry about beefing up security. The box just handles it. We've always integrated everything into one box, why not PHP?"
Jim Dillard, the IBM Alliance manager for Zend, said there were four reasons why most people decide to run PHP on System i: to help consolidate servers, when developing new applications, when modernizing older applications with a fresh front end and to take advantage of open source software.
IBM Power Systems Product Manager Craig Johnson said there are hundreds of thousands of System i servers in the field, and so some of them may take advantage of the Zend software. Others may choose to stick with Websphere and Java, while still others might use a mix of both depending on their needs.
The Zend software will come pre-loaded, but not pre-installed, on the IBM i operating system. Users will still have to install the image and accept the Zend license. That leaves users with flexibility to use, or ignore, the software. But those who want the functionality no longer have to download it from an external source.
May said that could be a benefit for some IT shops.
"If someone is considering it, it's one less thing they have to do," he said. "They don't have to go out and get an admin to install it. All they have to do is go in there and fire it up. Anything you can do to ease a person's move is always going to help its adoption."
Let us know what you think about the story; email Mark Fontecchio, News Writer.