Grassroots computing languages hit the big time

Oracle deal shows that PHP and other scripting languages--once considered toys by serious programmers--are going corporate.

Once considered simple toys by serious programmers, scripting languages are becoming first-class citizens in the world of corporate software development.

Database giant Oracle is expected to announce on Monday a partnership to make it easier for businesses to create custom applications for its products using PHP tools from a company called Zend Technologies. PHP is an open-source scripting language used to build Web pages.

The upped commitment to PHP from Oracle is the latest of several moves by large software vendors, including IBM, Sun Microsystems and Microsoft, to capitalize on the growing popularity of scripting, or "dynamic" languages.


What's new:
Scripting languages have not been widely used for corporate development, but businesses and IT pros are now looking to these simple tools to streamline the creation of custom in-house programs and thus avoid late or overbudget applications.

Bottom line:
Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and others have taken note. These big software makers hope to tap into the growing interest in scripting and also broaden their customer base by attracting smaller companies--which may not have IT departments well-versed in Java, C++ and other relatively complex programming languages typically used to build custom business applications.

More stories on PHP

Scripting languages have been used to build millions of applications on the Web, but in general have not been adopted widely by corporate developers. But more and more businesses and IT professionals are looking to these languages as a way to simplify and speed the creation of custom in-house programs, thus avoiding the now all-too-common logjam of late or overbudget applications.

"Scripting (languages are) just getting more popular and powerful simply because they're easy to use," said Tim Huckaby, CEO of consulting firm and Microsoft partner InterKnowlogy. "It's all about time to market and money, not about how elegant it is underneath."

By teaming with Zend, Oracle can tap into the growing interest in PHP and encourage use of its namesake database. Currently, more than 20 percent of Zend customers use Oracle databases, according to Pamela Roussos, vice president of marketing at Zend.

Oracle could also broaden its customer base by attracting smaller companies, which don't necessarily have high-powered IT departments well-versed in the type of programming languages typically used to build custom large-scale business applications. Java, C, C++ and Visual Basic are relatively complex. In contrast, scripting languages can be wielded by people without a computer science degree or a lot of training.

Oracle's own line of development tools and the associated "middleware" to run custom business applications are based on Java. Similarly, IBM, BEA Systems, Sun and others continue to invest in Java standards. Microsoft tools, meanwhile, are based on its proprietary .Net software.

Zend takes the open-source PHP software and builds development tools specifically aimed at corporate developers.

Bulking up
PHP is one of several scripting languages designed for rapidly building Web applications that's getting more attention from industry
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