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Mike's IBM i PHP blog and more... › Developing PHP with Zend Server 8 for IBM i

January 19th, 2015 Comments off

Developing PHP with Zend Server 8 for IBM i


A lot of announcements from Zend last week and most important is the release of Zend Server 8 which includes the updated distribution for IBM i!  Zend Server 8 has quite a few new features you can read up more about on our web site like Z-Ray and URL Contexts.  I would like to focus this discussion here on the latest versions of PHP and installation questions.

The Zend website went through some changes last year and some folks have had trouble finding things.  As always, please do not suffer in silence.  Let us help you.  First question that tends to come up: “Is Zend Server still free?”  And the answer is yes, the Basic Edition comes at no charge via our partnership with IBM.  Now the license to enable the Admin GUI is available through the team at Zend.  So please get in touch with us if you need an updated key after your initial support window has expired.  

The download page has several options including the full install and updates.  If you have Zend Server 5 or lower, you will install Zend Server 8 side-by-side and migrate the applications to the new environment.  If you have Zend Server 6 or later, there is a single PTF to update the server AND PHP version!  Yes, that’s right, you can update the PHP version while updating Zend Server.  Just LODPTF and APYPTF and you’re all set. 
We only support one instance of Zend Server per LPAR so if you’d like to test things out we’d strongly recommend a development LPAR.  If you do not have a development LPAR and we can refer you to some folks who do a GREAT job helping companies implementing these solutions so the production environment remains safe and unchanged until you are ready to move forward.  

Development LPAR?

Folks often ask me: “why do I need a development LPAR when we’ve been running on IBM i and its ancestors for years without a problem?”  For that question I have many responses and I’ll focus on two here.  First you have more workload on your IBM i today than you did even 5 years ago.  I have many customers running their green screen ERP along with EDI, web services, web pages and much more.  So the resources are being taxed and there are more moving parts to worry about than just flipping a library list.  Second, you have more developers on your IBM i today than in previous years.  Again, I run into many IBM i shops with PHP developers who have not grown up on IBM i and are accustomed to having their on sandbox where things can break.   Putting them on a production LPAR can prove disastrous!

IBM has made it much more cost effective to have a development LPAR as of POWER 7 and IBM i 7.1 so if you are in need then now is a great time to look into this feature. 

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Mike's IBM i PHP blog and more... › We got a new site!

June 18th, 2014 Comments off
After months of planning and tireless execution the Zend team has delivered a new website with even more content than before.  Dedicated to the themes of PHP, Agile, Continuous Delivery and more, has more than a new look & feel as it plans to be the cornerstone to the future of our product and support infrastructure.  But this is just the tip of the iceberg as many new announcements are coming VERY soon!  If you have not been here in a while please check us out.  Here are some of our favorite links:

IBM i Webinars
IBM i Main Page
IBM i Products
IBM i Service Levels
IBM i Customer Success Stories
Zend Studio

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Mike's IBM i PHP blog and more... › More IBM i PHP than ever before!

February 16th, 2014 Comments off

Like voting in Chicago, upgrade early and often!

So the other day Zend announced Zend Server 6.3.  As per their commitment level, they released it for Linux, Windows and IBM i!  Woohoo!  It is nice to be on the same release sequence as the other major products so thank you R&D!

What’s in it for me? 

Zend Server 6.3 has a load of good stuff for IBM i PHP enthusiasts.  This is the first time Zend has announced support for 3 major release levels of PHP, PHP 5.3, 5.4 and brand new PHP 5.5.  In addition, Zend Server for IBM i also supports cross version upgrades.  This means you can update the Zend Server 6 PHP stack from PHP 5.3 to PHP 5.5 with only a PTF.  In previous release this was only supported by uninstalling Zend Server and reinstalling it.  A HUGE time saver but beware of deprecated features as you move from 5.2 to 5.3 to 5.4 to 5.5

Also new in Zend Server 6 is support for the Open Source toolkit as a library.  This feature makes updates virtually painless and you can easily select which toolkit version you want to use by clicking an option on the library screen.  

Many of your favorite PHP extensions are also updated as a result of the new version of PHP.  These and performance improvements can provide tons of reasons why you should consider updating your PHP stack.   

Stay current

The latest PHP version is out called PHP 5.5.  This new release contains support for new features like generators and list function in the foreach clause.  There are 37 bug fixes, performance improvements to the PHP Engine and much more. 

As always, the basic edition of Zend Server is ready and waiting for you to install on IBM i thanks to the great partnership with IBM.

How do I get there?

Downloads are available on the website and installed via the PTF process. Keep in mind that PTF’s can be installed and removed so you have a way out if there is a problem.  Ideally, Zend recommends a separate LPAR for development where these discoveries can be made before finding out the hard way.  

Are you on Zend Server 5? You can install Zend Server 6 side by side with Zend Server 5 and run them simultaneously on the same LPAR.  There is a single conflict in the port definitions of the Java Bridge, but that can be remedied quite quickly  (/usr/local/zendsvr6/etc/conf.d/jbridge.ini ). 

We’ve come a long way since Zend Core and PHP 5.2.  And there is no end in sight!

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Mike's IBM i PHP blog and more... › Who have you Mentored lately?

March 11th, 2013 Comments off

I’ve had a chance to visit customers literally around the world and they all similarly ask the same question as to how to get more people aware of the solutions available on IBM i.  In a phrase, educating the great unwashed.  Yes, the IBM i is a special animal in the world of computing.  High uptime, resilient object and file systems, integrated database and incredible native language for business in RPG is just the beginning of a radically different OS than Linux or Windows.  There is a lot to misunderstand about this platform and therefore education is essential. One customer who had been on the platform for over 20 years actually did not know what COMMON was!  Ouch!!!  By the way, we’ll be at the Annual Conference and Expo at the beginning of April with a booth and sessions and more!

Education of the team is the manager’s responsibility.  Another customer asked me about the kids today learning RPG and why there aren’t that many.  I mentioned Jim Buck’s program at Gateway and also we kicked around a number of anecdotal concepts.  So when we settled in to discuss what projects they were using for PHP they pointed to a very young member of the team who was primarily responsible for the PHP development.  He is a great guy with a good head on his shoulders for business, more on that in a minute.  But what struck me was that they were investing in his education of PHP and this makes perfect sense until I asked the question: “When do you start training him on RPG?”  You see, I thought after the previous discussion about bringing younger folks into the fold of RPG that this customer would have discovered this opportunity themselves.  They were a little shocked when I mentioned that having a younger person learn RPG until I reminded them of the previous discussion.  Once they considered what I had to say they acknowledged that it would make sense to help this young man learn RPG and that it could even make him more valuable as a resource in today’s economy.  

This brings up the primary position of my blog for the month.  What have you done to mentor someone today?  I remember when I was a budding RPG developer and I had two mentors who were essential in my success as an RPG programmer.  Sure I might have learned the same things over time, but not nearly as quickly or effectively.  In this day of “instant gratification” everyone is too busy to stop and help someone along the way like we used to in the 80’s and 90’s.  And certainly the Internet has come along way to make information much more available and easier to absorb.  But to hold someone by the hand and explain exactly why *INZSR is a useful subroutine or the different between packed decimal and an integer data type can effect storage is something I simply do not see that much of these days.  I challenge everyone out there who is responsible for the development team, in any role.  Go find an intern and teach them RPG.  

OK, so it will take time for them to learn RPG.  They may not like RPG once they’ve learned it (silly thought).  It’s not sexy like .Net or Java (so what!).  Then fuel the discussion with some other points like CASH, MOOLAH, DeNiro, COIN, Money, Geidis, scratch, and a myriad of other terms.  Folks, with nearly 8% unemployment (and higher when you consider those who quit looking) I gotta believe there is someone out there who is wiling to learn RPG in today’s shops.  But just as important, they must appreciate business.  Interns at local community colleges can come along with referrals from their college advisers.  Get in touch with the local college adviser and look for an intern who appreciates BUSINESS!  I have, somewhat provocatively, stated at several presentations that RPG programmers are not programmers at all.  They are business analysts who code RPG.  Therefore, it is essential that anyone you interview for a position to learn or work on IBM i that they understand and appreciate business.  That is not to say young developers who want to do cool, sexy things cannot help an IBM i shop.  But they will tend to get frustrated when you ask them the difference between a PO, a payable and a payment!  We are a VERY special breed as RPG developers because of the business influence and therefore we should be looking at this for future IBM i developers.  

One of the anticipated questions I run into is “well why would a younger person be interested in learning RPG?”  The obvious answer is they want a JOB!!!   But do you want to throw them into the deep end of RPG with no hope of leveraging any other technologies?  I think the reality is to get someone on deck who is will to learn RPG, but also leverage what they’ve learned in the college setting like HTML, JavaScript,  Ajax, PHP, etc.  Modernize your applications and leverage the more modern tools available in IBM i at the same time! 

See you soon!   

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Mike's IBM i PHP blog and more... › New Cumulative PTF for Zend Server for IBM i

December 10th, 2012 Comments off


Updates All in One!

Hot off the press, Zend Server Hot Fix 7 is a cumulative update for the Zend Server stack with almost all of the latest and greatest enhancements.  Folks who recently updated their PHP stack for Zend Server were probably getting annoyed at how many PTF's they needed to apply. Now in a single PTF update you can get all the following new enhancements to the PHP stack.

PHP Version 5.3.14

The PHP stack gets updated for PHP 5.3 users and this PTF is ONLY for PHP 5.3.  PHP 5.2 has been deprecated for some time and you'll notice from the download page that we reorganized the PHP 5.2 stuff to another page.  rest assured the 5.2 stuff will be around for a bit but the main download page was getting a tad cluttered.  

Zend Framework 1 & 2 

The Zend Framework stack for version 1 has been updated to 1.12.0 and Zend Framework 2 is now included.  The DB2 adapter is still undergoing some beta work and should be out soon, but for those who want to get going with ZF2 the code is there at 2.0.2.

PHP Toolkit and XML Service

We've updated the toolkit with a fresh copy of XML Service and the PHP code from the YiPs website but another version is coming soon.  Stay tuned. 

The PTF Process

When we introduced Zend Server we moved from an automatic update to a PTF approach as more and more IBM i shops were looking for a controlled environment.  So please get your PTF from the Zend Server download page and have an updated stack.  As always, please get your questions in early and often and feel free to ring up your account manager if your bandwidth is maxed out.  Our services folks would love to help!  Need some training?  Got that too!!!

As this will probably be my last blog of the year, please have a Merry Christmas and a Happy & Healthy New Year!  Wishing you all a Peaceful and Joyous 2013!  

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Mike's IBM i PHP blog and more... › ZendCon 2012 & Product Announcements

November 5th, 2012 Comments off

A funny thing happened on my way to ZendCon, Summit and LUG! 

So I figure a recap of the activities from ZendCon 2012 is in order as there was a lot of information shared especially about new product. 

Zend Server 6

Zend Server 6 was announced to a very enthusiastic crowd.  Some cool new features that were demonstrated include the ability to organize access to Zend Server by role, leverage LDAP authentication and generate statistics on application and web site usage.  The new UI was re-written in a lightweight JavaScript framework which makes it perform extremely well.   Add to that that the architecture that is API driven and now third party vendors will be able to plug into it!  The beta does not include IBM i but i do have an alpha copy loaded on one of my LPARs so it will be along soon.  Here is a video with more info.

Zend Studio

So Studio has some enhancements, as well.  The most prominent piece is the new Wizard that help a customer build an end-to-end mobile application in minutes.  Leveraging the open source PhoneGap library, you can literally build test and deploy in a project in Zend studio to any of the three major handhelds in their specific technologies: iPhone(i/OS), Android and Windows Mobile.  Zend Framework 2 integration has been enhanced along with greater PHP 5.4 support.  Check out the beta here and provide feedback in the Studio 10 forum!

Other happenings

BCD, IBM and Zend hosted a really happening reception where all the IBM i folks gathered on Tuesday evening.  Originally envisioned as a small dinner where the IBM i faithful could gather to network and share ideas (ala CUDS) this reception has evolved into a full blown party with about 45 people joining us from all parts of the community.  Folks had a chance to mingle with the authors of the toolkit, IBM’ers Ryan and Tony, one of the current developers of the BCD tools and many Zenders stopped by on their way to and from various events.  I think this was easily one of the most successful IBM i networking receptions we ever had and a special thanks to the marketing folks at IBM (Elaine and Andrea) for putting up with my badgering and allowing it to happen.  Also, a HUGE thank you for BCD who did a great job participating and sponsoring.  BCD is a great new partner and longtime friend of PHP on IBM i. 

And then there was the LUG

I had the privilege of addressing the IBM Large User Group in Rochester Minnesota the same week as ZendCon.  The crowd was excited as always about the solutions being delivered by Zend and the general direction of PHP.  But what was really telling was the interest in mobile solutions and how important mobile has become to this community. more and more IBM i customers are continuing to adopt PHP and it is always great to chat with these folks all over the world!  Here's to a great 2013 where the road work will be even greater!!!

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Mike's IBM i PHP blog and more... › PLEASE, Let your “Top Concerns” be heard!!!

September 20th, 2012 Comments off
The folks at COMMON in Europe created an interesting survey that asks IBM i folks about what "concerns" them about IBM i.  (By the way, the survey is written in PHP using an open source content management system called Joomla and guess what OS it is running on?)  While I absolutely love this machine there are many things that concern me so I jumped at the chance the let my voice be heard and here's why.

Years ago I became a charter member of the COMMON Americas Advisory Counsel.  This group was created to, essentially, resurrect the old requirements process and provide direct feedback to IBM Rochester to make improvements to IBM i.  This came about as the result of a blanket email that went to all members of COMMON in North America.  In the application the email asked for a charter requirement.  In other words, what would you want IBM to do to IBM i to make it better.  Well, it is probably no big secret that my charter requirement was to ask IBM to either enhance Net.Data or bring a scripting solution like PHP to the platform.  Not only was my application accepted, but so was my requirement. I was thrilled to become part of an influential community within the IBM i community.

Over the next several years as I watched my PHP requirement evolve into the partnership with Zend and THOUSANDS of IBM i people around the world enjoying PHP running natively on IBM i, I also had the chance to provide input and requirements on many other aspects of IBM i.  Some of them include Blades, simplified interfaces, and even a confirmation screen for potentially dangerous commands like PWRDWNSYS and ENDTCP.   As you might have guessed, some requirements were accepted and some were not for various reasons.  However, while sitting in a keynote presentation by Steve Will at the recent OMNI Technical Conference I was commenting to someone sitting next to me about some of the many things IBM has brought to IBM i that were the result of mine and other peoples requirements.  This made me quite proud that our contributions were perceived as valuable and that proved that IBM was listening!

A couple of years ago I left the advisory counsel for a number of reasons, most notable was that my role had evolved from customer to ISV and that I found myself focused on other initiatives.  But this survey gave me what I was looking for in a fast and easy way to communicate some of my recent requirements.  You can always create a requirement at COMMON or by going online.  But when something is easy I just love it! 

It took me a whopping 5 minutes to fill out the Top Concerns survey and I encourage you to do the same.  The designers of the survey are also awarding a prize which you can choose to decline.  All responses are anonymous, unless you would prefer to include your name in the description field.  

This is a great opportunity for a great platform.  Please find some time to cast your opinion.  Even if it is just to say thanks for a wonderful operating system!

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Mike's IBM i PHP blog and more... › PHP Growing Up on IBM i

September 11th, 2012 Comments off
The PHP community around IBM i is growing up and I couldn’t be more impressed.

As I get ready for the fall conference season I see plenty of travel in my future.  This is always a good thing as that means there is demand and sincere interest in PHP on IBM i.  What also seems to be chewing up my free time is our training programs.  Zend has two major IBM i centric initiatives.  First is the PHP I Foundation for IBM i.  This is the class where most IBM i customers begin their journey down the PHP road.  The class is taught online for 2 hours a day, every other day for three weeks by John Valance and occasionally by me.  There was so much demand for the course in the 2nd half of this year and now we are sold out for the rest of 2012. 

Building on the success of the foundations 1 course is our SmartStart which combines the system setup, Foundations I training, and a “Proof-of-Concept” type project for one low price.  One major advantage is that we let the customer decide the project!  These have ranged from iPad applications on a shop floor to Web services to Executive dashboards.  The concept is to compress the head pounding that many IBM i folks endure when learning a new technology from 6 months down to 2 weeks.  At the end of the engagement most customers have a solution they can show off and support!  In today’s “results oriented” society, this provides a big advantage for most IBM i shops.   A CIO can show REAL value for the investment and also make a VERY informed decision about the strategic value of PHP without risking the entire budget.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I would love to say the SmartStart has been a smashing success and in many ways they have all been successful.  But we have learned a lot about the delivery and services around IBM i and are in the prime execution mode of SmartStart.  In addition to delivering training a local company I walk away with new perspectives on businesses using PHP and the day to day issues developers struggle with when working with IBM i.  Some of these issues are self-inflicted like working with RPG II & III skills and code bases while others are still struggling with three environments on a single IBM i.  We at Zend ARE listening and in the next few months you will be hearing about the fruits of our labors.  The R&D group is hard at work on MANY new initiatives and we are working to address a number of the customer concerns raised over the years as we move toward the next major release.  I think that teases it nicely without committing to any details ;-)

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