Sunday, February 16, 2014

More IBM i PHP than ever before!

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 Zend.com 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!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Zend Server 6.1 for IBM i – Woohoo!

Have you looked at Zend Server 6 which was released in April of this year?  Check it out at Zend.com to see the latest in PHP stacks as we now support PHP 5.4.  The first thing you notice about Zend Server 6 is the login screen asks you for a user id and password. That is because we now include role based access to the user interface to Zend Server 6.  This allows companies that have a strict division between developers and administration to set and enforce these roles appropriately.  Enterprise customers can further enhance the experience by tying the admin interface into a LDAP server thus allowing folks to user their normal userid and password to access the interface and a full blown audit trail for changes to configuration files.  Otherwise the ADMIN and DEVELOPER user profiles will work fine.

 



Once logged onto the Zend Server administrative interface, you’ll notice that cleaner and more sleek UI.  The folks in R&D spent a lot of time on usability and focused aggressively on a cleaner interface.  The initial dashboard shows system statistics as well as events that have recently occurred.  And the responsiveness of the screens has tremendously improved over Zend Server 5.




One of the cornerstones to Zend Server 6 is the applications centric environment.  This gives the administrators the ability to fine tune the event monitor rules based upon application and not just at the server level.  One practical example of this is evidenced by an administrator setting up event notification at the application level thus allowing only the production applications to send event email and leaving the more nebulous applications alone.   No need to react of hours cause phpMyAdmin threw a PHP error.




Installation of Zend Server 6 is done in parallel with Zend Server 5.  This gives IBM i shops the ability to set up the environment of before going live.  Once the environment is ready for production all you need to do is flip around a couple of ports.  The default ports administration is placed at 10081 and for web serving is 10080.  These values can be changed in the Apache configuration file when ready.  This separation from UI and Admin brought the IBM i version of Zend Server in line with other platforms and enhances the security by allowing network administrators to block the port from the public.


Zend Server 6.1 is the current version available at Zend .Com and can be downloaded as a complete installable file or as a PTF to Zend server 6.0 which was released back in March of 2013.  Full documentation for Zend Server and the tool kits are available and documentation pages and Zend.Com

Monday, March 11, 2013

Who have you Mentored lately?



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!   

Monday, December 10, 2012

New Cumulative PTF for Zend Server for IBM i

 

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!  
  

Monday, November 5, 2012

ZendCon 2012 & Product Announcements


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!!!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

PLEASE, Let your "Top Concerns" be heard!!!

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!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

PHP Growing Up on IBM i

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 ;-)