Microsoft Aligns With Open Source Vendor Zend, PHP

Microsoft announced Tuesday a close technical collaboration with Zend, the programming language vendor that currently dominates Web-based scripting with the open source PHP language.

Microsoft and Zend said their collaboration would provide a production-level PHP runtime environment for the next rev of Windows Server (Longhorn), Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Vista.

“This is a good fit,” Interarbor Solutions Principal Analyst Dana Gardner told LinuxInsider. “It’s an area where Microsoft can embrace open standards. This is the way developers prefer to work.”

Open Source on Windows

Outlining improved PHP and Windows interoperability, integration, functionality and performance, Microsoft and Zend said the partnership is a product of customer demand.

“Interoperability continues to be an important requirement for our customers, particularly when it comes to open source applications that run on Windows,” said Microsoft General Manager of Technical Platform Strategy Bill Hilf.

The collaboration should improve the experience of PHP-with-Windows users, according to Zend co-founder and CTO Andi Gutmans, who indicated that a majority of PHP developers work on Windows, though until now the solution has been tuned mainly for Linux.

Microsoft has embraced more open source solutions — including Xen virtualization technology, SugarCRM and now PHP — and seems to be seeking a peaceful co-existence of its proprietary platforms with open source software.

In the process, both users and developers are getting more choices, said Gardner.

Dwarfing All Others

Microsoft’s alliance with Zend emphasizes that PHP is the most widely used scripting language for the Web, according to Burton Group Senior Analyst Richard Monson-Haefel.

“If you look at all of the external-facing Web sites and PHP sites, they absolutely dwarf everything,” he said, referring to Java, Cold Fusion, and .Net programming tools. “It makes a huge amount of sense for Microsoft.”

Monson-Haefel added that Microsoft realized its operating system must support more than .Net if it is to remain popular among Internet users and developers.

Night and Day

Although there is always skepticism over Microsoft’s moves in regards to Linux and open source, the software giant is simply responding to present market and software development realities.

“This is night and day from what we saw 10 or 12 years ago, or even five years ago,” said Yankee Group Senior Analyst Laura DiDio.

In the past, Microsoft may have attempted to buy-out or overpower its industry peers, but Redmond is reacting to what users want, the analyst added.

“It’s a pragmatic move,” she said. “Users are demanding this. It’s about customer satisfaction.”

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