Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Zend and Microsoft Azure Announce Strategic Partnership: Additional Context, Background and Views on the Announcement

Today, Zend and Microsoft announced a strategic partnership that will transform developer productivity in the cloud. Before I share the details of this news, I’d like to cover some background on Zend and Microsoft’s past collaboration to provide additional context on why today’s announcement is significant for both Zend and Microsoft!

Early Stealth Relationship
In 2001, a small Microsoft SWAT team focused on winning more Web share for Windows Server reached out to the PHP Group. They invited us for a few days to Redmond with the goal of boosting PHP support for Windows. Their motivation was simple: PHP on Linux had already dominated a major part of Web share and they were interested in selling more Windows Servers into that market. Hence, PHP needed to run well on Windows Server. We made some significant improvements during the few days in Redmond, but that forward-looking team met some internal opposition for collaborating with PHP. At the time, PHP was viewed as a key competitor to ASP and much aligned with the competitive open-source Apache web server and Linux operating system. As a result, this effort remained largely incognito and was never officially announced although favorable changes to the code base were incorporated into PHP.net.

From “Stealth” to “Technical Collaboration”
Five years later, in 2006, Microsoft started to carefully open up to open source and the PHP market. We announced a technical collaboration, which was focused on improving interoperability of PHP and the Windows Server platform. This collaboration was extremely successful at the technical level. We were successful in making PHP on Windows rock solid. Microsoft changed its Windows Server “Longhorn” roadmap late in the game, and, based on our feedback, added FastCGI support to IIS 7 to better run PHP. We also worked on a number of additional interoperability initiatives. While there was good Microsoft-supported public exposure to this collaboration and great technical success, there was still some bumpiness in the joint go-to-market approach. In my view, Zend was focused on getting deeper into Enterprise (depth market), while Microsoft preferred to focus their PHP efforts where it was less likely to compete with Enterprise ASP (the breadth market). That said, technical collaboration continued to work well for years to come and we jointly supported some significant joint customers. However, balancing breadth and depth in the partnership was always a bit of a challenge.

Strategic Partnership
Today, in 2015, we are excited to announce a strategic partnership with Microsoft focused on transforming the developer experience and productivity in the cloud. While we’re building on past technical synergies, the big difference is that we are now fully aligned on the market opportunity.

In past years, Microsoft has evolved into a cloud platform player focused on delivering the best platform for developers across any language, database or operating system, whether open source or proprietary. Instead of limiting its open source efforts to specific target audiences, Microsoft has embraced an open approach to the market. Microsoft continues to make significant investments in differentiating Windows and .NET, while also working to personalize and differentiate the Microsoft experience for open source developers. And PHP, needless to say, is the biggest Web development community, driven by both custom application development and the accelerating adoption of leading applications by businesses such as WordPress, Drupal and Magento. So it makes a lot of sense to do something “special” on this front.

Z-Ray – The Technology
Last July, we released a new technology called Z-Ray focused on transforming the development experience. Microsoft quickly recognized the potential of this groundbreaking technology. Z-Ray’s vision is simple: expose all necessary information developers need to increase their productivity and code quality while they are developing without changing how they work. This information could include deep insight into their code performance and quality, environmental information (cloud storage), tool chain (package management), and more.
While Z-Ray has received a lot of interest, our larger vision was bolstered by the January GA of a new version of Z-Ray, which extended visibility to specific applications and frameworks including WordPress, Drupal and Magento while adding strong mobile/API capabilities. Z-Ray to-date has solely been available via a Zend Server subscription, our professional, complete, value-add PHP stack. Now, with this partnership, we will also make Z-Ray available as a standalone capability within the Microsoft Azure cloud which will benefit cloud developers.

Zend and Microsoft’s Shared Developer Vision: Our Latest Partnership
Zend and Microsoft have a shared vision of transforming the developer experience in the cloud. The initial focus of this latest partnership is to combine the strong developer experience of Azure App Service (a PaaS) with the innovative developer experience Z-Ray delivers. In order to optimize the experience for both existing and new Azure App Service customers, we decided to integrate a standalone specifically tailored version of Z-Ray directly into the Azure App Service experience. Ultimately, with an application platform like Azure App Service, you really shouldn’t have to care about any of the plumbing – you should be able to go from code to cloud within seconds. Z-Ray will be pre-integrated and provisioned into PHP-based Web sites, meaning developers can enable it with the click of a button both for development and production. This tightly integrated and optimized experience will ensure the broadest set of developers can access this technology, including casual developers of popular applications such as WordPress and Drupal as well as mobile/API developers.

What’s Next?
We will be demoing this capability at the Microsoft Build conference (April 29th – May 1st) and we plan to launch a public preview shortly thereafter. Most of the heavy lifting is already complete, but there is some polish and testing left. We want to ensure we are delivering a great product offering.

We have unveiled a Z-Ray on Azure page, which we will update on an ongoing basis. You can register for Z-Ray on Azure product updates to be kept informed every step of the way. If you have any feedback and/or wishes, please feel free to send me a note directly at andi @ zend . youknowwhat.


And while we focus on rolling out this exciting new capability, we are already starting to cook up more Zend and Microsoft Azure news…. Stay tuned!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

After over 20 years on Windows I am moving to Mac (and why it isn’t a good sign for Microsoft)

I have been active in open source for a good 17 years. At the same time, I have always been loyal to Windows on the desktop while making use of Linux on the server.

On the desktop, I have been a hardcore Microsoft power user for at least 26 years. My very early development experiences started on Microsoft with Basic on MS-DOS 3.3. I embraced Windows 3.1 (remember Trumpet Winsock?) and was likely one of the first people in Israel to get their hands on the final version (RTM) of Windows 95.

Even with my heavy involvement in PHP, which in those days was primarily targeting Linux, I leveraged the Windows platform for my day-to-day desktop use and, in many cases, Visual Studio for advanced debugging, which at the time was still a lot more powerful than the alternatives on Linux.

As I moved from software developer to technical management and then general management roles, I continued to embrace Windows on the desktop. I am an Excel power user. Mastering Word and Powerpoint only proved to me that OpenOffice would never catch up, and many years ago I moved from Eudora Pro to Outlook, which I am very productive in. In addition to that, I know my way around Windows extremely well. Typically, I am able to tackle the most complex problems myself, having had a reasonable Windows system administration and programming background.

Today, everything changed. A few hours ago, I ordered an 11-inch Macbook Air. I am both very excited about the decision and concerned about starting fresh and throwing away 26 years of hard-earned expertise.

I did not make the decision because I am an Apple groupie. This has been a pragmatic decision in the works for a couple of years. I think this decision is not unique to me, but reflects the bigger problem for Microsoft, one which I doubt they will be able to reverse. In fact, I think some of this is outside their control. I do not envy Steve Ballmer who needs to figure this mess out.

The trigger for the decision to move is my laptop, which is reaching the end of its life. It is starting to fail on me, which accelerated my decision regarding what my next laptop was going to be.

Key drivers and enablers for this decision:

- Timing: I had very specific hardware requirements – very lightweight, 12” or smaller screen, very long battery life (Intel Haswell) & powerful CPU, a.k.a. Core i7 (I have very large and complex Excel spreadsheets). I checked out Lenovo, Dell, ASUS and a number of other manufacturers. While there are a number of laptops which almost match those requirements it’s actually surprising how fast to market Apple was on this one. So timing and hardware availability did play a factor, but as you’ll see below, it is not the only reason.

- Software/hardware compatibility issues: Increasing frustration with software/hardware issues. Microsoft is not to blame for this, and it has become a lot better in recent years, but the iPad and iPhone definitely prove the value of a vertically integrated system. In a vertically integrated system, the software and hardware are tightly integrated. It just works! And if it doesn’t, then the problems impact everyone and are resolved faster and more effectively. In the Windows ecosystem, this heavily depends on the hardware OEMs, which has its challenges.

- Email and calendaring moving to the Web: A year ago, I mandated the company to move to Google Apps. The key business driver for that move was to improve our agility and enable IT to contribute more to adding value to the business vs. maintaining the existing infrastructure. The move was successful and, as a byproduct, reduced our dependence on the Windows platform.

- Applications moving to SaaS: Outside of Outlook and Excel, the browser has increasingly become the focus point, due to the move to SaaS-based application delivery. Salesforce.com, which is critical to me, is in the browser. Even Tweetdeck, which to-date was on my desktop, now has a great Web UI that actually works better for me than the desktop version. This is a change in application consumption that really is outside of Microsoft’s control. It will continue to erode the Windows value proposition. And as Microsoft has already lost the browser war, there’s no longer any dependency on Internet Explorer.

- Developers embracing the Mac: Mac OS X has become the Web developer’s OS. We live in a world that is increasingly dominated by open-source software and the cloud. That software is primarily targeted at Linux (& UNIX), and only after that at the Windows platform. Over the years, we have seen at the PHP conferences that the average PHP developer has moved from Windows to Mac. We literally see a change every year. Today, it seems that a majority of developers showing up at our conferences are on the Mac. I like the idea of being on the same page as a big part of our developer community. An added benefit is access to a native UNIX-like shell, as opposed to the grizzly cygwin Windows UNIX compatibility layer.

That summarizes some of the key reasons and enablers for moving from Microsoft to Apple. While you may or may not agree with some of these points, I think it’s clear that Microsoft is no longer solely in control of its own destiny. The adoption of SaaS, and the fact that we are becoming increasingly comfortable with other environments such as mobile devices and tables, reduces the angst and friction associated with moving away from Windows.

I don’t think I am unique and I don’t have any real good advice for Microsoft. However, I do think its cause for concern if your best technical users are leaving you – although I am not an investor guru – I would give it some serious thought if I were still a Microsoft shareholder.

Andi

This blog post should not be used as a basis for trading in the securities or loans of the companies named herein or for any other investment decision.