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.
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.
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!