Microsoft-Zend pact bears PHP fruit

Cooperating with open-source Zend, Microsoft starts releasing software to let programmers build better PHP-powered Web sites that use Microsoft software.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read

Update: I added more detail about Microsoft's schedule for SQL Server 2005 support for PHP and about the use of PHP on Windows vs. Linux.

BURLINGAME, Calif.--Microsoft may make a habit of attacking open-source programming, but don't make the mistake of assuming the company has a monolithic loathing for the collaborative programming movement.

On Tuesday, Microsoft revealed some fruits of a partnership that that was announced a year ago with Zend, which develops and commercializes the open-source PHP scripting language for creating dynamic Web pages. Bill Staples, a Microsoft product unit manager, announced four moves at the ZendCon conference here:

• Microsoft has released its FastCGI software, which improves the speed of PHP on Microsoft's Internet Information Server (IIS) software for hosting Web pages. FastCGI can be distributed royalty-free, Staples said.

• Microsoft is releasing a preview version of a software connector that lets PHP run atop the SQL Server 2005 database. "This is a Microsoft-developed and supported PHP driver for accessing SQL Server data from within a PHP application," Staples said.

In a later interview, Staples said he believes the SQL Server driver should be done in the first half of 2008, depending on the feedback Microsoft receives and other factors.

• PHP will work with Microsoft's stripped-down version of Windows Server 2008, called Server Core. The philosophy behind this install-only-what-you-need Windows version is to ease management and reduce security vulnerabilities that come with installing lots of programs.

• Microsoft will support the Zend Framework's identity management technology, called Information Card, in an effort to reduce the hassle of username-password proliferation for Web site users.

Overall, the efforts are important parts of Microsoft's attempt to offer an alternative to the LAMP software stack--Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP--widely used to power Web sites. Microsoft's alternative, sometimes called WISP, uses Windows, IIS, SQL Server and PHP.

That Micrsoft is working with Zend and PHP is intriguing. On the one hand, such work could expand the pool of developers and high-powered Web sites using Windows and other Microsoft software. On the other, PHP directly competes with other Microsoft software.

Even Microsoft is surprised. "I'd never thought I'd see the day when a PHP logo was on a Microsoft community portal, but there it is," Staples said of the PHP-specific portion of Microsoft's IIS site. "We're very excited about that collaboration."

The Zend collaboration was a response to customer demand, Staples said in the interview. Programmers were using Windows for PHP development, but then would switch to another operating system when it came to running the actual Web site, and Microsoft didn't want to lose those potential customers.

About 70 percent of PHP developers use Windows, said Andi Gutmans, who along with Zeev Suraski are Zend's co-founders and co-CTOs. But when it comes to deploying the applications for use, customers use Linux in about 80 percent to 90 percent of cases, Suraski said.