By Kevin Yank

Zend and IBM to co-develop new PHP IDE and framework

By Kevin Yank

Word on the street is that Zend and IBM are cooking up a big open source initiative called the PHP Collaboration Project. The project will be based on PHP and Eclipse, and will aim to compete with Microsoft’s .NET platform in small and medium enterprises (SMEs), whose needs aren’t great enough to warrant adopting the Java platform for Web development.

I’m sure that the timing of these rumours, with the Zend/PHP Conference 2005 just getting underway in San Francisco, is more than coincidental. An official announcement is doubtless just around the corner.

From what I can tell, we’re looking at two related projects, here:

  • a new PHP IDE built on Eclipse, the most popular development environment for Java developers
  • a new framework that standardizes the architecture of enterprise-class PHP Web applications

Presumably, the IDE will be built with the framework in mind, providing specialized tools to work within that prescribed architecture (in much the same way as Visual Studio does for Microsoft’s .NET).

Is this the shot in the arm that PHP needs to further penetrate the enterprise space? Or is PHP simply “me too”-ing Java when it should really be capitalizing on its own strengths with a unique direction?

All I know is that if we end up with a rich framework that blindly enforces MVC architecture and jumps through all sorts of hoops to provide conveniences like persistent application state and background processes, developers might as well just switch to Java today and avoid the wait. If, on the other hand, Zend and IBM can generate something unique–a standard Web application structure that avoids reinventing the wheel while taking full advantage of PHP’s nimble, stateless and dynamic nature–then this could be bigger than the introduction of object orientation in PHP 4.0.

Don’t get me wrong, I think object oriented programming and proven design patterns like MVC are great, and there are certainly lessons that PHP can take from these to make large-scale development more practical. But it’s vitally important that PHP not blindly follow the platforms that came before it. There’s a reason PHP today is far more appropriate than Java for a great many projects, and to risk losing that uniqueness is to risk the future of PHP itself.

  • Ben

    Well, a new free IDE would be nice. If you were to do a roundup of the IDE’s for PHP as you did for Java, you would find Zend Studio and Zend Studio. Pretty much everything else just can’t compete. Sure, there are other IDE’s, but they don’t offer the polish and features that Zend Studio currently has.

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  • JaredWhite

    This is very exciting news — especially the framework part. It could be the start of some real standardization around more advanced PHP 5 OOP (I’m assuming 5!) paradigms in Web application architecture. I too hope it remains simple and community-oriented and seeks to avoid the over-designed and overly-complex Java frameworks that are driving folks away from that platform. PHP needs to keep its FAST, nimble, dead-simple, and FUN attributes which are the hallmarks of this language.


  • Fenrir2

    Is this because of Rails? I hope they’ll try to do something better than Rails, and not copy it.

  • WebDevGuy

    What’s the reason, “PHP today is far more appropriate than Java for a great many projects”?

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  • Will be interesting to watch. This could be big for PHP if it turns out to be something people agree on. Likewise think trying to reinvent struts is a bad idea but in a more loose defition of framework there’s room to do a lot of good, without getting into “ActionMappings”. For example, considering things like this there’s a chance here to either eliminate the need for code everyone is reproducing or help beginners avoid gotchas. Somehow expecting something more in the direction of ASP.NET with an emphasis on “taglibs” / “rich web components” – that’s a good direction to go if you’re an IDE vendor. Also think there are people at IBM have “got the point” of what PHP is – looking at what they’ve done with the SDO extension you see remarks like this;

    SDOs add some interesting capabilities for working with data in PHP, whilst maintaining the simple, easy-to-use interfaces PHP developers expect.

    Personally, even if this framework is not the most elegant design, would be happy to make sacrifices in that direction if I know it is going to be well supported and maintained. Some popular PHP eggs may get broken along the way though.

    Is this because of Rails?

    I doubt it – the need for something like this has been around for a long time. It almost surprising that no other big players have spotted the business opportunity here – PHP is, after all, everywhere.

  • materix

    This is great news! In my humble opion, Eclipse is by far the best IDE out there. (At least the best I have tried)

  • Dr Livingston

    I have the feeling, that if IBM get their way, they are going to shoehorn PHP into the mould that they’ve shoehorned Java into.

    I am also under the impression that IBM being what they are – a giant – that Zend will proberly have little say in the matter of how it unfolds.

    I’m not saying this is a bad idea, IBM have done some cool stuff but I agree that PHP is unique and that uniqueness will as I see it, be glossed over.

    Also, I don’t use Eclipse, so what are the option for me and other developers who don’t use that said IDE? Are we going to be left out in the cold :eek:

    Then again, let’s wait and see if Zend make a complete a*** of it first ;)

  • willthiswork

    Likewise think trying to reinvent struts is a bad idea but in a more loose defition of framework there’s room to do a lot of good, without getting into “ActionMappings”

    mmmh…..if find “ActionMappings” ala CakePHP quite interesting.
    What’s wrong with it anyway?

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  • rougy

    I, too, am very skeptical of the benefits to an open source project when a for-profit entity as big as IBM steps into the picture.

    Recall that in the 60’s, GM stepped in to “help” the city of L.A. fix its public transportation system.

    Of course, the system was ruined which, coincidentally enough, caused people to buy more cars.

  • john

    Well I personally got tired of waiting and went and made my own framework PHP on Trax. It is by far the best thing I have used for creating web applications. It works similar to ruby on rails. I hope zend gets it together and comes out with something good.

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