Dynamic delivery

As the movement in open-source development continues to mature, a little-known yet popular scripting language named PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) has been excluded from the limelight.

          As the movement in open-source development continues to mature, a little-known yet popular scripting language named PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) has been excluded from the limelight.

          But within the open-source community, the popularity of PHP has never been greater.

          Comparable to the dynamic web-page functionality of Microsoft's Active Server Pages, PHP enables server-side programming to be embedded within HTML code.

          The syntax of the language bears a strong resemblance to C with the functionality of Perl, and includes strong string-processing capabilities, database hooks, and integration support for Java method invocation and XML parsing.

          Distributed under the GNU public licence, PHP has built its following within the open-source community, where it is found bundled in distributions such as Red Hat's Linux. PHP can be used on Unix/Linux and Windows platforms, with SQL and non-SQL databases, and on Microsoft IIS, AOLserver, and Apache web servers.

          But you must consider more than mere functionality and the upfront affordability of open source when tallying the total cost of ownership for enterprise adoption of PHP.

          For more advanced projects, PHP does not offer private declaration of variables or functions, allow function overloading, or provide object destructors for garbage collection -- essential tenets of good object-oriented programming. And, although there are a number of modular extensions for database and XML parsing, this variety of homegrown APIs can present inconsistencies that might increase the expense of future portability.

          PHP can produce some great results for complicated tasks but, on the downside, may also require a level of technical expertise for code management and maintenance that may not be readily available to you. Compared to ASP and JSP (Java Server Pages), the IDE (integrated development environment) market for PHP remains very immature.

          Caveats aside, I keep PHP well-separated from any general business logic, making for easier code management by staff programmers.

          If you are looking to deploy PHP for enterprise purposes, I would recommend the use of an optimizer to improve performance in highly iterative computations and complex code structures. The Israeli company Zend Technologies Ltd., founded by Zeev Suraski and Andi Gutmans (rewriters of the PHP3 parser in 1997), are releasing Accelerator 2.0, which is well-suited to the task of caching and optimizing PHP4.

          If you're looking for more information and the latest developments in PHP, some good starting points include www.php.net and www.zend.com.

          What solutions are you exploring to help streamline development?

          Borck is managing analyst in the InfoWorld Test Centre. Send email to James Borck.

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