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Thursday, October 13, 2005

What did Oracle and Zend Announce this Week?

Earlier this week, Oracle and Zend announced general availability of Zend Core for Oracle. This is exciting news, yet another sign that Oracle understands OSS and how commercial software can complement open source. Oracle is doing all it can to help developers out there with the performance, reliability and robustness they need. Let me try to shed some light on this announcement by answering some of the questions I have been getting.

Who's Zend anyway?
Zend is really the PHP company. They have Andi Gutmans and Zeev Suraski on their payroll, they are Zend's founders and also the original developers who helped PHP founder Rasmus Lerdorf rewrite a new PHP parsing engine in 1997. Andi and Zeev created the very popular open source Zend Engine. Zend's products are used by 8,000 companies worldwide including Lufthansa, Avaya, Sprint, HP and Boeing.

What's Zend Core for Oracle?
Zend Core for Oracle provides out-of-the-box IT organizations with a stable, high performance, easy-to-install and supported PHP development and production environment fully integrated with the Oracle Database. Without Zend Core for Oracle customers had to download all the pieces individually (Apache server, PHP, Oracle DB…) and cobble it all together. This was a very tedious, unpredictable experience that serious enterprises did not want to go through. Zend Core for Oracle is a one stop shop where you get one install file and you know it's going to work and if god forbid, it doesn't you get support from Zend (for PHP-related issues) and Oracle (for database-related issues). Safe feeling, isn't it?

Why should I care? LAMP is FREE!
This is the most frequent question and the answer is very simple. If free was the only criterion, then why is Geronimo not everywhere and why is Oracle still showing strong DB and application server sales, etc.? The truth is, people care deeply about more important things. We worked with Zend to do this because their customers as well as ours wanted us to deliver a solution like Zend Core for Oracle. There are 18 million websites out there written in PHP, scripting languages are too popular today for Oracle to ignore them. Zend is the leader in PHP deployments. It's also important to note that 25-30% of their customers run on Oracle (not all of them are LAMP worshipers). Oracle and Zend noticed that many already had their data in Oracle databases when they started using PHP to write web application. They enjoyed the quick turnaround and easy to deploy experience they got out of PHP. Others come from the LAMP stack and want more stability, performance, security and reliability and moved to Oracle DB. Also organizations with a significant investment in Linux and Oracle now have the option to deploy PHP apps on top of these databases and worry less about the issue of drivers then they may have seen in past. Zend Core for Oracle delivers an updated PHP OCI8 driver, which both companies have worked hard to make more reliable and stable for Oracle Database-driven Web applications.

Have you heard of OPAL? Well it's an acronym just like LAMP but it stands for [Oracle, PHP, Apache and Linux]. Believe me, it is more popular than you think. Zend Core for Oracle is an OPAL system - technically an OPA, it also runs on IBM AIX, Sun Solaris and Windows (currently still in beta).

Bottom line: The real challenge for open source software is to provide the ease of use and a clear chain of accountability that IT organizations require for mission-critical systems. Zend Core is a good answer to that.

What happened to Oracle's commitment to Java/J2EE?
Today, you cannot think ONE language. This is the SOA age. Web services don't care what flavor the portal or the back-end business or persistence logic is written in? We don't need to pick a winner, we support open standards and interoperability. Also, we make sure we keep our finger on the pulse. Scripting languages particularly PHP are very popular, our customers use them, therefore we need to provide them with a pleasant/seamless experience to their job. We are more committed to Java/J2EE than ever, our app server is the fastest growing J2EE container in the market, our tools support the latest Java and J2EE specifications as soon as they are out (and most of the times before – EJB3.0 basis or RI in Glassfish for example).
PHP is actually interoperating quite nicely with Java on various levels. First we have been supporting PHP for 2 years in the Oracle application server. One can write a PHP page and deploy the HTML file on the Oracle container and it will be parsed and rendered seamlessly. Second, PHP5 (unlike PHP4) has great support for SOAP, this means Java can call PHP-based web services and vice versa. Also using BPEL PM, users can orchestrate Web services such that PHP-based partner links can call Java-based services. Finally there is a JSR we are planning to support as soon as it’s ready. It's JSR-223, Oracle and Zend are part of the expert group. It essentially allows Java to call scripting languages and vise versa. With all this in place in the Oracle stack, people could rapidly write PHP pages (if they choose not to use JSF or they already have existing PHP code) and easily talk to back-end business logic written in Java that makes DB calls.

OK, I'm interested where do I start?
I recommend the PHP technology Center on OTN (Oracle Technology Network). In there you'll find a bunch of links to useful resources including upcoming events, installation guides, articles, blogs, best practices and last but not least a link to download Zend Core for Oracle. Zend also has a page on their website specifically for people who are interested in Zend Core for Oracle: www.zend.com/core/oracle. Finally I will be speaking at OSCON next week on this topic. So if you're planning to be there, feel free to drop by the Oracle booth and ask all the questions you want. If you are in the bay area I highly recommend attending the Zend/PHP Conference. Definitely check out Oracle's Ken Jacobs (aka Dr DBA) who will talk about Zend Core for Oracle and the relationship between Zend and Oracle.

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