Web & PHP talks to one of the founding fathers of modern PHP

The Interview: Zeev Suraski
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Zeev Suraski is co-founder and CTO at Zend Technologies. Along with Andi Gutmans, he was instrumental in the creation of PHP 3. In the first half of a two-part interview, we discuss Zend Studio and Zend Server (packaged together as Zend Developer Cloud), as well as progress with Zend Framework 2 and the company’s partnership with Amazon Web Services.

Q. What’s going on at Zend at the moment?

We’re doing quite a lot of different things, all related to PHP, obviously. Most recently, about half a year ago, we launched the Zend Developer Cloud, which essentially combines our two key products – Zend Studio and Zend Server – and packages them up in such a way that, as a developer, you can have a very centralised experience. It’s quite an unusual scenario today, but we think it has a lot of potential.

I’ll take a step back and explain the two key ingredients of the Zend Developer Cloud. The first is Zend Studio, which is our key development tool and IDE for developing PHP, and is currently at version 9. It’s based on Eclipse, which is a very, very powerful IDE. It’s no different when used in the context of the Zend Developer Cloud, but we’ve added support and tightly integrated cloud workflows, allowing you to use Zend Studio both for developing in the conventional way, on your own desktop or your own virtual machine or whatever, but also remotely. You can be working on a project that is not located on one of your servers, but is located in the Zend Developer Cloud.

That’s Ingredient #1. Ingredient #2 is Zend Server, which is our application server for PHP – it’s essentially a PHP server that we’ve built and fully tested with something like 80 different extensions, so you get a very smooth experience of installing and getting everything you need out of the box. It’s also complemented by a lot of value-added components that bring all sorts of additional capabilities on top of what’s available in stock PHP – performance, scalability, root cause analysis and more.

We took all that and we created a free offering on Zend Developer Cloud – you can go there and, with the click of a button, get an instance which for all intents and purposes is a full-fledged virtual machine running Zend Server. It’s running Apache, it’s running the latest version of Zend Server, you get the choice of PHP 5.3 or 5.4, and within something like a minute (the marketing material says a few seconds, but realistically it’s more like 50 or 60) you have your own Zend box. As I mentioned, Zend Studio can be easily configured to integrate with that, so you’d be developing your project and testing it and using all the tools and capabilities of Zend Server without actually having to install it.

Q. Is this an Amazon Web Services instance that you’re booting up? Is this part of the AWS Marketplace partnership?

No. Our cloud strategy is comprised of several components, and I’ll focus on two. The first is the one that I just mentioned: as the name “Zend Developer Cloud” implies, it’s really geared towards development. When you actually want to deploy, the Zend Developer Cloud is not really a choice – because of configuration, it’s really geared towards development scenarios, for developing by yourself or in a team, but in terms of performance and throughput it’s just not designed to handle production use.

The second part of our strategy, which is where AWS Marketplace comes in, is the production capabilities. We actually don’t have one official, Zend-branded cloud, but we’re partnering with several cloud providers – at this point, there’s AWS, there’s RightScale, there’s SmartCloud from IBM, and we’re working on partnering with several others. As a company that wants to deploy production workloads, you essentially get the choice of which cloud provider you’d like to use – with all of them, you get a very similar experience, because you have this one, unified Zend Server.

There’s another thing that might be interesting to mention for the European audience. Because we haven’t pointed users to one specific cloud that you have to use with our stuff, we’re also working on partnering with local cloud providers. In Europe in particular, it’s often an issue to take data out of the EU, so we’re working with companies in France, in Germany, in Italy, and potentially elsewhere – we’re going to be providing the same experience to those local cloud providers so that users have the choice.


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