Thursday, February 28, 2008

Zend Framework to be part of Ubuntu!

We got some great news from Stephan Hermann. Stephan is one of the chosen few MOTUs in the Ubuntu community and has spearheaded the process for getting Zend Framework included in Hardy Heron aka Ubuntu 8.04. Hardy Heron is slated for release in April 2008 and going forward we will work closely with Stephan and other MOTUs to make sure we always have the right bits in Ubuntu.

For those who aren't too familiar with Ubuntu's success (unlikely) the following Google Trends graph is a proof point for its extraordinary growth.


We are very proud to be an integral part of the Ubuntu distribution going forward. This is an important step towards making Zend Framework accessible to a broader audience and by working closely with the MOTUs we are able to ensure a positive end-user experience.

This comes at a time where we have had over 4M downloads of Zend Framework, 500K of them unique. From the minute Ubuntu hits the streets we will be reporting minimum downloads only :)

Thanks again to Stephan and all the MOTUs for the support and to Canonical for sponsoring such a great project.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Zend Framework 1.0.4 and 1.5 RC 1 Available

Today we released Zend Framework 1.0.4. This will be the last maintenance release of the 1.0.x tree and includes over 100 bug fixes. This release is geared towards users who are running Zend Framework in production and wish to upgrade to the next stable release.

In parallel to 1.0.4 we have released 1.5 Release Candidate 1. After several months of work we believe we are now getting close to a final release of Zend Framework 1.5. This new version includes a large amount of new features, enhancements and bug fixes and will be a significant upgrade from 1.0.

New features include:

* New Zend_Form component with support for AJAX-enabled form elements

* New action and view helpers for automating and facilitating AJAX requests and alternate response formats

* New Zend_Layout component for automating and facilitating site layouts

* Partial, Placeholder, Action, and Header view helpers for advanced view composition and rendering

* Information Card and OpenID authentication adapters

* Support for complex Lucene searches, including fuzzy, date-range, and wildcard queries

* Support for Lucene 2.1 index file format

* UTF-8 support for PDF documents

* New Technorati and SlideShare web services

and lots more...

I urge everyone in the community to test the release candidate and let us know if you encounter problems. Also, we are aiming at making 1.5 backwards compatible with 1.0.4 so please make sure to let us know if you encounter breakages.

Please remember this release candidate is still not labeled as production ready so use at your own risk.

Thanks to everyone from the community and the team who have made this happen especially getting two big releases out in parallel. It reflects our commitment to ongoing support while working towards a better and brighter future :)

Happy ZF'ing!

Monday, February 25, 2008

The RIA Battle Heats Up

I just got back from Adobe Engage, the launch event for Adobe AIR 1.0. Engage was a one day event which was hosted by Adobe's new CTO, Kevin Lynch. I've been seeing more of the Adobe guys over the past few months both at various conferences and in other settings. I've really been pleasantly surprised at how Adobe seems to be using Macromedia to change the more conservative culture of Adobe, as opposed to trying to enforce Adobe culture onto the acquired company. Promoting Kevin Lynch from Macromedia into the CTO role as well as promoting a variety of Macromedia folks within the organization seems to really be working for them. Sure change doesn't happen overnight but they seem to be doing quite well.

What I liked about this event was that it was a true mash-up of solid customer case studies, insight on how Adobe sees this space, and a good opportunity to catch up with a lot of interesting people including finally meeting some people like Michael Cote who I've been in touch with over the years but have never had a chance to meet in person.

Overall the AIR folks have really done a good job. I think their vision of allowing the use of Web technologies for building desktop applications will definitely resonate with a large audience. Also, while Flex itself is an Adobe controlled technology, AIR will also support Ajax-based toolkits meaning that users will have the freedom to mix and match Flex and Ajax in their desktop RIAs. Before you correct me, in Adobe's mind "desktop" and "RIAs" are not mutually exclusive :)

While Adobe still intends to keep control of the Flex & AIR technologies they have made a huge amount of progress in figuring out that an open-source strategy is not mutually exclusive to running a viable commercial business. Yesterday, Adobe launched a new Web site dedicated to their open source activities. The Web site doesn't only highlight Adobe open-source projects like BlazeDS And Flex SDK but also real contributions they are making to third party projects like Tamarin to Mozilla and enhancements they made to WebKit which they are planning on contributing back.

I think the timing of this day was not incidental. It comes 10 days before Microsoft's mix08 event where among other things Microsoft is expected to announce Silverlight 2.0, the biggest competitor to Flex (Sun's JavaFX seems to be pretty much dead on arrival). The AIR announcement is likely a nuisance for Microsoft. Due to its cross-platform nature (the company really supports Linux) it offers a compelling story to its users while significantly reducing the value of the underlying operating system as it works identically on them all. Today the support for OSes includes Windows, MAC OS X and Linux. The success of AIR can therefore generally be seen as a bad thing for Windows.

On the flip side, never count Microsoft out of the game. While they still have very limited adoption they do have some things going for them including the flexible programming model which supports multiple languages and what appears to be a very efficient runtime as opposed to Flex which bets on JavaScript. And of course, Microsoft has always been pretty good with developers.

All in all seeing the two companies battle it out is going to be interesting especially in today's day and age where Microsoft has to be more careful about the tactics they employ. While that is happening, Ajax which is still by far the #1 technology for building RIAs will also continue to make progress and while I don't think it'll deliver all the capabilities of Flex and Silverlight those vendors are unlikely to penetrate the market without a good Ajax co-existence strategy (which AIR seems to tout).

Last but not least, many ask me where PHP fits into the picture. Now that the browser will have storage (SQLite, Gears) and a strong programming model will the business logic move into the client? The answer to that question was repeated a few dozen times today. Almost everyone was talking about how these desktop RIAs interacted with the "cloud". The cloud represented business processes, information assets, social graphs and business logic. Well guess what, PHP is the cloud and the cloud is going nowhere. On the contrary, as the world's desktop applications migrate to RIAs either on the Web or on the desktop, PHP will only become more critical to the Web. In fact a recent survey the did showed that PHP was the most dominant server-side technology among their RIA community.

Next week I'll be on a couple of panels at mix08. I'm looking forward to discovering what Microsoft has in stock for us.

In the meanwhile, if you have any thoughts regarding these technologies and how you'd like Zend to think about them please feel free to drop me a note either on this blog or to my email andi at zend.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Microsoft to extend Windows eco-system!

Today Microsoft announced a significant initiative which aims to provide the developer community with access to a large number of Microsoft protocols and file formats.

Many of the specifications will be made available under the Microsoft Open Specification Promise (OSP) which enables both open-source and commercial companies to build implementations of the said specifications.

While OSP has existed for a while until today it has covered mostly marginally interesting specifications. However, on Feb 15th, 2008 things started getting interesting when Microsoft somewhat silently published the much sought after Microsoft Office File Formats. I was very excited when I saw those specifications published under the OSP.

I have always had a soft spot for Web-based document management systems. As a result we have invested a significant amount of resources in delivering PDF and Lucene support in Zend Framework. With this support it was possible to develop a lightweight document management system which would allow users to upload their PDFs, which would then be read by ZF's PDF component, indexed with ZF's Lucene component and then made searchable. But this idea would never be complete without supporting the most popular document formats including doc, ppt and xls. I hesitated to encourage the community to build readers for these formats as it was unclear what the restrictions were on such implementations. Apache has had the POI project for a long time but it was never great (partially due to the closed Microsoft specs) and I was never quite sure whether it was completely kosher from a Microsoft licensing point of view.

This is just an example of how today's announcement is significant. With Microsoft opening up their specifications under the OSP, open-source communities like Zend Framework are now able to build such solutions without fear of litigation. There are many other areas where it will benefit open-source projects including Samba (SMB), FreeTDS (SQL Server), Mono (.NET), and others...

So who are the winners?

- Foremost Microsoft. I have no doubt Microsoft is doing the right thing for their business. I believe Microsoft has finally understood that their closed nature has significantly hindered the growth of their eco-system. In many ways the threat of Linux has by many been interpreted as a threat of open-source (wrongly so in my opinion). Microsoft has started understanding that and is now making it easier for open-source projects and commercial companies to extend their platform and add value to it. I have long been a believer that nothing is as strong as a vibrant eco-system. Microsoft has had a strong Microsoft-centric eco-system but going down this path they are able to extend their applicable market beyond today's reach.

- The open-source community is also a potential winner. The uncertainty and lack of information around Microsoft specifications has hindered the development of open-source solutions which leverage that technology. There are cases where projects have been very successful despite the lack of specifications, for example Samba, but others like FreeTDS have had quality issues as a result. Microsoft is now enabling the open-source community to grow its contributor base around such technologies and significantly improve the delivered quality. As most open-source developers and users live in heterogeneous environments this will benefit many.

- Small and large ISVs benefit from the open specifications by making it easier and in many instances cheaper to develop solutions which interoperate with and leverage the Windows platform.

Who are the losers?

- Microsoft's competitors definitely lose from this initiative. Whether it's IBM who have always held the closed nature of Microsoft's solutions against them will have a harder time convincing customers and legislature that this is an issue; the DB vendors including Oracle and IBM who have benefited from Microsoft's resistance to opening up their TDS protocol to the broad open-source community; and many others who have managed to benefit from Microsoft's mistaken strategies.

- Linux and OpenSolaris - Microsoft's all or nothing approach has been an accelerator for the adoption of open-source operating systems. While I am a big fan of Linux I do believe that this is going to put an increasing amount of pressure on the Linux/UNIX backers to deliver innovation and value on top of these systems. The additional competition will be good for the end user and I think will help Linux thrive (for the same reason the OpenSolaris vs. Linux competition is good for us).

What does this mean for the PHP Community?

I believe the PHP community can only benefit from this move. With PHP being a heterogeneous solution which works on pretty much any operating system, any database and any Web Server; the more interoperability capabilities it has with all open-source and proprietary solutions the better. PHP users just want to get the job done and this will help them do just that.

So is this all good?

I believe it will take time for both the developer communities, the end users and for Microsoft to figure out the exact rules of engagement. There are going to be situations where Microsoft's promise may not go far enough which could create tensions.

In addition, there are going to be certain pieces of the specifications which may require a royalty payment to Microsoft when used in commercial distributions. This is common practice in the industry so it's going to really depend on the specifics whether this becomes an issue. For example, if this puts a requirement on Redhat to pay royalties for distributing Samba it could become a problem as a significant amount of the open-source community uses commercial Linux distributions. The devil's in the details so we will need to wait and see.

All in all I think this is a positive move but we will have to see over the next few months how this pans out.



This is merely an initial interpretation of the news. I don't have any inside information regarding Microsoft's goals nor any insight into how Microsoft's competitors view this move.