Programming - - By Kevin Yank

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

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.

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